This past week I had the privilege of attending the episcopal ordination of one of my good friends from my college seminary days. On July 16, 2021, Bishop Gregory W. Gordon became the first auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Las Vegas, Nevada. We had studied together at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (Overbrook) in Philadelphia.
At the Mass were eighteen archbishops/bishops and one cardinal of the Catholic Church together with many priests, deacons, religious and laity of the diocese. The Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer was the chosen location for the ceremony since it could hold more people than the smaller Guardian Angel Cathedral.
My life and Bishop Gordon’s life have had some interesting parallels over the years. We were both born in Philadelphia. We are both one of five children, four boys and a girl. Our families both had homes in the Wildwoods, NJ. Both of our fathers sadly died of heart attacks around the same age, in their early sixties. Both of our mothers are approximately the same age. He began his priesthood in the former Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas (now the Diocese of Las Vegas)—THE gambling mecca of the country. Similarly, I am a priest for the Diocese of Camden, which until more recent years, was the only other place with legalized casino gambling (in Atlantic City).
That’s where many of the similarities end. After college he went on to the Pontifical North American College in Rome, while I studied at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD. He has had various diocesan positions including Vicar General, while I spent a majority of my priesthood involved in Catholic education. Notably, if you put us side by side you will notice another significant difference: I stand about a foot taller than him. Unfortunately, even with his episcopal miter on, he does not reach my height. Fortunately, we remained friends over the years and I was happy to have been invited to share this joyful occasion with Bishop Gordon and his family.
One thing that struck me and my brother priests whom I was travelling with, was the warmth and hospitality that both Bishop Gordon and his Ordinary, Bishop George Leo Thomas showed us. In the midst of all that he had to do, Bishop Gordon frequently acted as our chauffer, taking us from location to location in his own car. I referred to him as our episcopal Uber driver. Moreover, Bishop Thomas warmly received us as his guests in his diocesan office and took time to talk with us and make us feel at home. I compliment both of them for their cordiality.
Speaking to Bishop Gordon about a month before his ordination, he called and asked me to pray for him. I wondered what was wrong. Was he sick? “No, I am being made a bishop,” was his reply. Oh! Subsequently, I would ask when his execution date was.
Please pray for Bishop Gordon and all of his brother bishops. When Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, his Metropolitan Archbishop, made some remarks at the end of the Mass, he began with “Congratulations and condolences.” Being a bishop in today’s world will have many joys, but will also involve picking up a cross and following the Lord Jesus daily. St. John Neumann, the fourth bishop of Philadelphia, used to say that for him every day it felt like he was going to the gallows, as he never really wanted to be a bishop.
Bishop Gordon is now one of the Successors of the Apostles. Every day I realize more and more the Catholic Church’s rich tradition encapsulated in the phrase from the Nicene Creed: one, holy, catholic and apostolic.
God bless our episcopal Uber driver!
Fr. Ed Namiotka