"For all of your goodness...Thank you"
Anniversaries as well as birthdays always provide us with a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon our lives and God's many blessings. As I celebrate my 10th anniversary as the bishop of Raleigh, I find myself engaging in such a reflection. One of my most fond memories is having both of my parents present at my installation Mass. Though they have both passed away since then, I continue to rely on their prayers for me and our diocese. I have also looked back at the press conference ten years ago when I was first introduced as the new bishop. I am so happy that I have not aged one bit ---- if only that was true!
Prior to sharing some personal thoughts, I wish to explain briefly the process of being named a bishop in the Catholic Church. First of all, one never applies or volunteers to be a bishop nor interviews for the position. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is the Church who discerns through a vast consultation involving other bishops, priests, religious and laity. Through it all, the candidate is not even aware he is being considered. Thus, when the apostolic nuncio, the pope’s personal representative in a given country, informs an individual he has been named a bishop the decision has already been made by the Holy Father. Obviously, one can only accept the call with profound humility and well-aware of the need for God’s amazing graces.
I was first named an auxiliary bishop in my home diocese and served in that capacity for four years. Ten years ago, I was informed that I had been appointed the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh. At that point, I knew my life would change significantly. I was leaving the only archdiocese in which I lived and served and for the first time distance would separate me from my parents and family. I was going to unfamiliar territory of which I had little knowledge and also assuming a new role of leadership. Quite honestly, I was somewhat anxious and was not quite sure what the Lord was doing with me. Yet, with God's grace, I trusted in His divine plan and His promise to provide the strength needed to accomplish whatever is asked of us.
Today, I remain in awe of the goodness of God in allowing me to serve in such a vibrant diocese comprised of so many wonderful people. I thank God daily for this great privilege and for the special people he has placed in my life. I am ever grateful for the support and prayers of my brother priests, our deacons, consecrated religious, seminarians, colleagues and the lay faithful throughout our diocese. I am deeply inspired in witnessing the love for the Lord and His Church that I see in every visit I make to our parishes, schools, campuses and various communities. The sense of community is so strong in our diocese and the spirit of hospitality and generosity is incredible.
With the help of the Lord and the goodness of so many people, we continue to do our very best in responding to the pastoral and spiritual needs of our local Church. We also know there is much work to be done as we seek to proclaim the Gospel of Life; serve the most needy in our midst; and assist our parishes, missions and schools in the essential ministries of evangelization and faith formation. In this Year of Mercy and always, we have to find new and creative ways of welcoming back to our Church those who have grown lukewarm in the faith or wandered from it. Also, and with the direction provided by Pope Francis, we have to renew our efforts to support married couples and to strengthen family life, such precious gifts in the Church. Together, may we also build a prayerful culture of vocations so that more in our diocese will generously respond to the God's call to priesthood and consecrated life. May we also bring to completion the building of the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral and may all that we do always be for His honor and glory.
It would be overwhelming if we tried to move forward with ambitious diocesan goals and thought it depended on any one person. All that we seek to do must be carried out with the strength that God supplies and with the gift of His Holy Spirit. May we also continue to encourage and support one another and rely always on the help of Our Blessed Mother under the title of the Immaculate Conception, the patroness of our diocese.
Dear friends in Christ, thank you so much for all of your goodness to me throughout these ten years. Know of my gratitude, love and prayers. May we always pray for each other and together walk humbly with our God.