My friends I stand before you offering thanks to Almighty God for this opportunity to serve—for his gift of life and for the gift of the wonderful vocation of ordained ministry. I am profoundly grateful to Pope Francis for his trust in me in appointing me the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Dallas.
It is through Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who is here, our apostolic nuncio, who serves as the representative of our Holy Father. Your Excellency, thank you so much for your presence, through you we offer words of gratitude, prayers and fidelity to our Holy Father, Pope Francis.
I would like to say that with a heart filled with gratitude, I welcome back to the Diocese of Dallas, Cardinal Kevin Farrell. Cardinal welcome home! I must tell you that you that you did not toil in this diocese in vain, for I look forward to building on the wonderful foundation that you have established.
I would like to say a word of gratitude to Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the cardinal archbishop of Galveston-Houston and who also serves as the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Your eminence, blessings on all that you do and as you lead our bishops conference. Thank you for your presence.
Your eminence Cardinal Wuerl, thank you for being here. Cardinal Wuerl is the cardinal archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington D.C., former bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, who I have a had the distinct honor and privilege of working with and who has mentored and modeled so many aspects of ordained ministry to me and to so many others. Cardinal Wuerl, also, congratulations on celebrating 50 years of ordination.
Cardinal Wuerl along with Archbishop Roger Schwietz were my co-consecrators when I was ordained a bishop. Unfortunately, Bishop Zubik, who ordained me a bishop, is unable to be present. However, he called me from the Holy Land to assure me of his prayers.
I am grateful to Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, archbishop of San Antonio and metropolitan archbishop. Thank you so much for your fraternal support, for your presence, I look forward to working closely with you.
To Bishop Grahmann, a word of thanks for the many years that you have worked in this Diocese of Dallas. Thank you so much for your presence.
To Bishop Kelly, who up until just a few moments ago, served as the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Dallas; it is so wonderful working with you. Thank you for all that you have done.
To my brother bishops who are here. Thank you for your presence. You absolutely honor me and I look forward to continuing to work with you in the collegiality that we possess as we continue to do the work as the successors of the Apostles.
I want to say also to my brother priests who are here, thank you for your presence. In a special way, my priest friends from the Diocese of Pittsburgh and priests the Diocese of Juneau, Alaska. We have three priests from the Diocese of Juneau and that makes up a third of the presbyterate present here — I am grateful.
To the deacons of the diocese, thank you for being here. I look forward to working closely with you. I have to say, I was absolutely spoiled by working with the wonderful deacons in the Diocese of Juneau.
To the men and women religious, those in consecrated life, thank you so much for your ‘yes’ to God’s call. Thank you for serving as a true image of the Gospel message in our world.
To our seminarians, it is wonderful to see you here. You are, for me and for the entire Church, a sign of hope. We ask that you stay strong and we pledge to you our prayers and we look forward to welcoming more men like you entering into priestly vocations.
To our youth and young adults, I want to say that the church is with you during these times in which there may be confusion between the message of the Gospel and the message of society. I want you to know that the church will always stand with you as you sort out the questions of your own life.
To the ministers of this diocese, to the teachers in our Catholic schools, to the catechists, to all those serving at any capacity in which we bring about the ministries to the people of God, especially serving the poor, I am grateful for your service.
To the interreligious leaders who are here, as well as the ecumenical leaders, I look forward to joining with you as a leader of faith communities as we work together to bring an element of hope to our society.
To our civic leaders, I so welcome the opportunity to work with you as we serve the common good of our community.
I am grateful to my loving family. To my mom, to my brother, to his wife Rose, their children my nephew Steve and my niece Nichole, you know how grateful we are to have had the wonderful blessing of dad and we, of course, remember him in a very special way at this Mass.
To my godparents, Bill and Eileen Shiller who are watching by way of video streaming. They served as a sponsor to me in faith – I am so grateful. And, for forming that faith, I am grateful to the Diocese of Pittsburgh. In the Diocese of Pittsburgh so many helped cultivate my faith and it was there in the Diocese of Pittsburgh that they nurtured my vocation.
And, to the Diocese of Juneau, I am grateful to them for the opportunity, the privilege and honor for serving as their Bishop and ever-grateful that they trained me.
I have to tell you, when I started at the Diocese of Juneau I went into the diocese with a number of questions. So what I did there, and what I desire to do in the Diocese of Dallas, is to get out and meet people, to get to know them and to listen to them.
I asked my staff when I first went into the Diocese of Juneau to line up the parishes for me to go out and visit. And sure enough, they did. I had a trusted staff of Deacon Charles and Robbie and Jim Donohue who established my calendar. I sat down with them to go over the list. I saw that the very first placed that I was scheduled to go as the Bishop of Juneau was St. Francis Chapel at Tenakee Springs, Alaska. Now, Tenakee Springs is a village with a population of 200 people.
So, as many of you know, you can’t drive to Juneau. There are no roads in and out of Juneau, you can only get there by air or water. And, in Tenakee Springs, there’s no runway. I have to go down to the dock to climb into a float plane to fly out to Tenakee Springs.
What the people of Tenakee Springs know is that on that plane will be either the priest or the bishop who’s coming to celebrate Mass.
Well I asked the staff one of my questions, ‘When does Mass start?’
Well, they looked at me like I was crazy. They said, ‘Bishop, it starts when you get there.’ See, in Alaska, travel is never guaranteed.
What the people of Tenakee Springs knew is that when they hear the plane coming to the village, and many of them lived along the water so they would see the plane land right on the water in front of their homes, they knew when that plane landed that Mass would begin 20 minutes later.
So everybody from the village would gather at the chapel 20 minutes after the plane landed. So the plane became like the modern day church bell calling people to the chapel. It was absolutely beautiful. You can imagine how glorious the scene was.
Well, I have to tell you, if I went into a small diocese like Juneau with a ton of questions, you can only imagine the number of questions I am going to have coming into the Diocese of Dallas.
I must also tell you, it is here that I am beginning to learn a lot. In preparation of this installation we have excellent staff in the diocese who have already taught me so much. And in your liturgical aid you see photos of various people and in preparation for the photograph of me, it was taken here in the Cathedral.
I was expressing my gratitude to Annette Gonzales Taylor, the Director of Communications, I said, ‘Annette, thank you so much for all you are taking care of.’ And she said to me, ‘Bishop, as we say here in Texas, this isn’t my first rodeo.’
Well, I have to tell you, I cannot stand here and say that this isn’t my first rodeo. I come here from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by way of Juneau, Alaska. My friends, I’ve never been to a rodeo, let alone be in one.
So trust me, I am going to have many questions. And I look forward to working with everyone as I learn more about this diocese.
What I am convinced of is that I am going to do the best I can as your shepherd. I am going to lead this community as we evaluate what we do in asking the most important questions:
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you? When did we see you thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you homeless and give you shelter? When did we see you naked and give you clothing? When did we see you sick and in prison and visit you? And Lord, when did we see you a stranger and welcome you?’
We will wait for that response and the Lord will say, ‘When you did it for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it for me. ’
We start with this installation, another chapter in the history of this diocese.
Today, we received the Papal bull and it was Archbishop Pierre, our apostolic nuncio, who said to me, ‘This papal document is for you. You take it to the people; you show the people and you take the time to make sure that they see it.’
You know, I have to say, that there was a day that I would receive a note from my mother in order to show it to the teacher; well, today, I had a note from the pope that I had to show my mother.
My friends, that document, the word comes from the Latin word bullous, which means seal. It is our Holy Father’s seal. That document sat on our Holy Father’s desk; it possesses his signature. That document is now here with us in Dallas. And, my friends, it is because of that document that I am here in Dallas.
It comes from the successor of St. Peter. St Peter, to whom Jesus said, Peter, ‘You are rock and on this rock I will build my church and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it.’
My friends, we will forever follow Peter. We will forever bind ourselves close to the universal shepherd, for it is through him that we bind ourselves close to Jesus Christ. I pledge that by God’s grace, I will do my best in shepherding this local church.
I ask that we continue to invite people to gather with us in the celebration of word and sacraments. And how do we invite them? Whether it’s by floatplane, church bells, texting or tweeting; whether it’s through the parish bulletin, we want to invite them to be with us because Christ calls us to be one body—a community of believers.
We find in today’s Gospel, Peter was asked by Christ to cast the net. And, what does Peter say in today’s Gospel, ‘But Lord, we have been hard at it all night long.’
Whenever I speak to priests I say, that is the example of the first priest who complained.
But Peter, what does he do? Sort of like priests when they receive yet another envelope from the Pastoral Center that they have to open up.
But what we find Peter do is surrender himself to God’s will. He surrenders himself and he pulls in a wonderful catch.
We’re called to exhaust ourselves for Jesus Christ. We’re called to truly be his disciples in this world. Notice he never missed any words with what was going to be asked of us, the hardships as well as the sacrifices.
And so, my friends, as your shepherd, it is my goal to be with you, to work with you side-by-side as we advance the mission of the church and the Gospel message. I am humbled to be your shepherd. With you I hope we ask all the right questions, in how we can serve our brothers and sisters.
Secondly, we will always stay close to our Holy Father, Pope Francis, the successor of St. Peter. Thirdly, we will exhaust ourselves for Jesus Christ.
To do all of this we strengthen our hearts, our minds, our very lives in the celebration of the word and share in our nourishment with the Eucharist.
What we will do is turn to the church for the sacraments, which sustain us as disciples. And we will pray with confidence through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe that the Lord will bless our endeavors and give the success to the work of our hands.