Installation Day in Joliet
The installation of the Memphis-born, Sant'Anselmo-trained sacramentalist, who had served six years as bishop of Little Rock, as head of the 625,000-member suburban Chicago diocese took place earlier today. Succeeding the retiring Bishop Joseph Imesch, Sartain was appointed 16 May, a provision overshadowed by Donald Wuerl's unveiling as archbishop of Washington.
The Chitown Tribune ran an interview with Bishop Sartain at the weekend.
"These kind of transitions are challenging because you really come to love the people you serve no matter where they are," Sartain said in an interview last weekend at the St. Charles Borromeo Pastoral Center in Romeoville. "It's also an exciting time because I enjoy meeting people and new circumstances. "Then I have those moments of anxiety, and what I have to do is take some deep breaths and ask God to guide me."
Last month Pope Benedict XVI named Sartain, 54, as the fourth bishop of Joliet and the successor to retired Bishop Joseph Imesch, whose legacy has been tainted by the way he handled sexual abuse allegations against diocese priests. Sartain will be installed Tuesday afternoon in a ceremony in the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus in Joliet. The Joliet diocese serves seven counties: DuPage, Will, Kendall, Kankakee, Grundy, Ford and Iroquois.
Since his appointment, Sartain said, his emotions have been in overdrive. A farewell mass last week in Little Rock, Ark., where he served as bishop since 2000, was filled with his favorite Southern foods, some laughter and many tears. He arrived in Joliet quietly Friday afternoon and spent much of the weekend privately in prayer.
In the interview Saturday morning, Sartain exuded the humor, warmth and honesty that have become legendary among the parishioners of Memphis and Little Rock where he has served.
When asked about how he would handle the lingering sexual abuse scandal in Joliet, Sartain said matter-of-factly that he would need time.
"The first thing that I have to do is come to understand the situation here ... to understand the concerns of everyone, so that I have a handle on things. But it's going to be a process for me, because I'm not familiar with the circumstances here.
"All I can do is approach it as I think God asks me to," he said.
Brother Chris Englert, headmaster at Christian Brothers High School in Memphis, said he envied the people in the Joliet diocese for getting Sartain as their leader.
"They are so lucky," said Englert, who was traveling from Memphis for the installation. "He is so good with people and such a wonderful homilist. They loved him so much that people cried when he left Memphis. And people cried again when he left Little Rock.
"Bishop Sartain is the real deal, and I hope you take care of him," Englert said.
PHOTO: AP/Nam Y. Huh