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Welcoming Our New ‘Successors to the Apostles’

August 7, 2014

Welcoming Our New 'Successors to the Apostles'

Monday was a grand day for the archdiocese, as, amidst the crowds of happy people at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, surrounded by visiting and hometown bishops, priests, deacons, family, and friends, I had the joy of ordaining three of our splendid priests as bishops, to serve us all as auxiliary bishops in the archdiocese.

One of the more significant decisions a Pope makes is the appointment of bishops. People are still wondering what kind of priests Pope Francis will choose.

Well, we got the answer Monday: John Jenik, John O’Hara, and Peter Byrne are three of New York’s finest, and certain characteristics about them stand out.

For one, they’re all older. Bishop Jenik is seventy, Bishop O’Hara sixty-eight, and, “the kid,” Bishop Byrne, is sixty-three. One wag conjectured that I was beaming at the ceremony because at sixty-four, I looked young! Apparently, the Holy Father looks for more seasoned, mature priests as bishops.

Two, they are all veteran parish priests. While all three of them have been very generous in apostolates and concerns of the wider church­—Bishop O’Hara, for instance, is our vicar for planning; Bishop Jenik is active in issues of housing; and Bishop Byrne in the pro-life apostolate—all have spent their years as effective, beloved parish priests. Some Popes look for scholars and theologians as bishops; some prefer officials in diocesan government; some seminary professors. Pope Francis chose three parish priests.

Three, all our new bishops are priests of the archdiocese. Sometimes, a Pope appoints a priest from a religious order as a bishop, like our recently retired Bishop Josu Iriondo. Then again, a Pontiff might even appoint a priest from outside the archdiocese. Not here. Pope Francis has selected three homegrown, lifelong locals. This is a tribute to our priests. Believe me, a year-and-a-half ago, when the careful process to recommend names to the Holy Father began, I had a tough time replying with suggestions, not because I could hardly think of the nine nominations requested, but because so many qualified candidates came to mind!

Four, the Holy Father is clearly aware of the wonderful gift our Latino community is to this archdiocese, since both Bishop Jenik and Bishop Byrne speak Spanish well, and are highly appreciated for decades of pastoral labor in Hispanic neighborhoods.

When I was appointed your archbishop five-and-a-half years ago, the papal nuncio at the time, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, told me I needed two or three new auxiliary bishops to supplement the good ministry of Bishop Iriondo (since retired), Bishop Gerald Walsh, and Bishop Dominick Lagonegro. After all, the nuncio observed, there are close to three million Catholics in this expansive archdiocese!

However, Archbishop Sambi wisely commented, it would be better for me to wait awhile before bringing this need to the Holy Father’s attention, so I could get to know my priests, religious women and men, deacons, and people better.

I’m glad I took his advice, because look at the three new ones the Pope chose!

And now, enjoy them! I will “put them to work,” and you’ll see them at your parishes, at events, at confirmations, at meetings, helping me in my sacred task of teaching, serving, and sanctifying these radiant, fertile acres of the Lord’s vineyard. In a couple weeks I’ll let you know in more detail the duties I have in mind for them.

Unite with me in welcoming our three brand new “successors of the apostles.”

Join me in thanking God for the sterling ones we already have: Bishop Walsh and Bishop Lagonegro; and our retired but still active and cherished Cardinal Egan, Bishop Brucato, and Bishop Iriondo.

And be one with me in a “tip of the hat” to Pope Francis for inspired choices!