Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Welcoming a New Shepherd

Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan

Dear Parishioners,

In a few hours I will be leaving to participate in the installation Mass of Bishop Dennis Joseph Sullivan at St. Agnes Church in Blackwood, NJ.  Bishop Sullivan is the eighth bishop, serving the Diocese of Camden as its Ordinary (its leader or head).

I can remember the rector of my seminary telling me a long time ago that I would most likely see at least five different bishops as Ordinary of my diocese during my lifetime.  Well, he was certainly right!

Bishop George H. Guilfoyle was the first bishop that I actually met.  He presided at a ceremony dedicating the new St. Ann’s School in Wildwood, where I attended and served as an altar boy.  I remember the bishop blessing the cornerstone of the school while I stood nearby as an altar boy during the ceremony.  Many years later, Bishop Guilfoyle would be the bishop ordaining me a priest to serve our diocese!  (I have the picture of my ordination facing me right now in my office as I write.)

Although he was not the head of our diocese, I was friendly with Bishop James L. Schad, the only auxiliary bishop that Camden ever had.  I would act as the master of ceremonies for some of the bishop’s Confirmation assignments, often driving him to and from the various churches.  During those drives, we had the opportunity to talk about many things and I am grateful for the many insights that the bishop shared with me.  May he rest in peace!

Bishop James T. McHugh. Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio, and Bishop Joseph A. Galante all succeeded Bishop Guilfoyle, making Bishop Sullivan the 5th bishop that I have had as my Ordinary.

Today’s installation comes with anticipation, hope, and enthusiasm and certainly with some important questionsHow will he be received by the priests, religious and laity of the diocese?  What will be his priorities?  What can he do to help build up the diocese after the difficult growing pains of many church and school mergers? Will he be a good and holy shepherd to guide us in the years ahead?

I take this time to thank Bishop Galante for his years of service to the diocese.  It was no easy task that he attempted, trying to prepare our diocese for the future, while experiencing failing health.  (Since you will now be my “full-time” parishioner, I plan to deliver personally your weekly collection envelopes next week.  I can’t wait to see the expression on your face!  I hope you still have a sense of humor!)

Our prayers are with you Bishop Sullivan as you begin your time here with us.  At every Mass, when we pray for Dennis, our bishop, know that you have our prayerful and loving support!  May God grant you good health and the necessary graces to be our spiritual Shepherd.

Surprisingly, for all of us, we will be led by a new pope shortly.  Let us also pray for Pope Benedict XVI and his successor.

The times are certainly changing!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Bishop Sullivan and Bishop Galante

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