Sunday, January 25, 2009

Day One in Charleston: "An Instrument of Peace"

It might've been a "Saturday Surprise" -- the first 'round these parts since October 2006 -- but even the weekend timing didn't keep a throng from showing up yesterday morning in Charleston to greet South Carolina's long awaited new arrival, Bishop-elect Robert Guglielmone.

While his predecessor was ordained in a 3,000-seat convention center a decade back, the former rector of Rockville Centre's St Agnes Cathedral has chosen his new seat -- Charleston's venerable St John the Baptist -- for his ordination and installation as the Palmetto State's 13th shepherd on Annunciation Day, 25 March.

For all the rest, here's his Appointment Day statement, in full:
Thank you very much for your warm introduction and welcome! I received a call from Archbishop Sambi, the Papal Nuncio on December 23rd informing me that our Holy Father had appointed me to be the new Bishop of the Diocese of Charleston. I was taking a walk in a local park with my dog and I was reflecting on an excerpt from the writings of Pope Benedict XVI contained in a book of daily meditations I had read earlier in the day: the theme of the meditation was on priestly service and it focused on St. John the Baptist who was presented as the “voice” that carried the “Word” to others. While the voice diminishes, the Word takes root in the heart of the listener. The Holy Father wrote that as this was the case for John the Baptist, that he decrease while Jesus increase, so too is it the case for the priest; this model of priesthood, embodied in John the Baptist was occupying my mind when my cell phone rang. How wonderful to learn of coming to a diocese whose cathedral and patronage bears the name of the one who prepared the way of the Lord.

I am both humbled and grateful that His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI would entrust this awesome ministry to me. I must admit that I am a bit anxious about leaving Long Island where I have spent almost my whole life and certainly all my life as a priest. However, I do trust in the Lord and am very encouraged by the wonderful sense of Southern hospitality I have already experienced. I am so grateful to Msgr. Laughlin who has been absolutely wonderful in his welcome and support. I thank him for the capable ministry of leadership of this diocese these past sixteen months; he has certainly been very generous. In addition, both Archbishop Sambi and Archbishop Gregory have been supportive, affirming and very patient with me with all the questions I have asked of them. Bishop Baker and Bishop Thompson have been most gracious as well.

Since that initial phone call and to this very day, I have had the opportunity to pray and reflect on these actions of the Holy Spirit that will certainly mean many new challenges for me. I have experienced once again a deep sense of gratitude to God for this great gift of priesthood and firmly believe that as He has carried me thus far, He will continue to do so as I come to Charleston. I thank my family for their continued love and support these many years and my bishop, William Murphy for his help, trust and tremendous confidence in me.

To my many friends, former and present parishioners and to all who have been a part of my life, I thank you for helping to form me in priesthood by your friendship, challenge and love. Know that distance may change the way we relate in the future, but the ties of friendship and fellowship will always be present.

I must offer a special word of thanks to my “Scouting Family” both here in the States and abroad with whom I have ministered for the past thirty-five years. They have been and continue to be a very important part of who I am as a priest. I am happy to see Catholic Scouting an important part of the youth ministry of the Diocese of Charleston and I pledge my support of these really fine programs.

In a special way, I greet my brother priests of this wonderful diocese; I pray that we will get to know each other well in the months ahead and that together we can be ever more faithfully and effectively that “voice” which speaks the “Word.”

Greetings as well to all the Deacons and their wives, to the consecrated religious men and women and to all those committed to lay ministry in the diocese. Your witness and your generous sharing of gifts and talents are an inspiration. May I offer a special word of greeting and encouragement to our seminarians. Priestly formation has been a part of my ministry as a priest and I look forward to meeting with all of you and getting to know you. I realize that there are many people of other Christian faiths in South Carolina and those who are not Christian, but worship the same God. I offer my greetings to you and I look forward to our time together.

To all the people of God in the Diocese of Charleston, I am honored to be your Bishop and I am excited to begin our ministry together. The date of my ordination and installation has been set for March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord – what a beautiful day to begin our life together. Let us pray for each other that we may all, in the words of the Prophet Micah “Walk humbly with our God.”

I now invite you to join with me in the simple prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi which has been sort of a roadmap for me these past 30 years and which I hope will continue to be a guide for me as your Bishop:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
when there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand,
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying [to ourselves] that we are born to eternal life.
For more, reports from a local paper along with two from the TV, and another video-brief from Long Island, where the bishop-elect concelebrated at St Agnes this morning in his first appearance there since the appointment.

PHOTO: Tyrone Walker/The Post and Courier