Reflections on 10 years as a bishop
September marked my 10th anniversary of ordination to the episcopacy. There were four remarkable aspects to the ordination ceremony, beyond the power of the prayer and the sacrament itself. First of all, it did not take place in the cathedral in Detroit (which would have been the norm) because the cathedral was being renovated. (However, my ordinations to the diaconate and the priesthood also did not take place at the cathedral, but those are other stories.) So there must be some kind of aversion to cathedrals on my part!
Second, Cardinal Maida seemed to have it in his mind that it was necessary to pour an entire jar of sacred chrism on my head for the anointing. It ran over everything. My friends maintain that this is due to the hardness of my head and how much work it takes for the Holy Spirit to break through. Perhaps!
Third, my little twin sisters were both really pregnant at the ceremony (each giving birth to a new nephew in the next month). These sisters are the youngest of us 10 kids and are great joys in my life. Just thinking back to them on that day brings a smile to my heart.
Fourth, nearly all the seminarians from the Josephinum Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, where I had just been rector, showed up and asked for a group blessing at the reception. They, however, were a blessing for me.
Now, looking back upon 10 years of ministry as a bishop (six years in Detroit as an auxiliary bishop and four years as the bishop of Lansing), I note five remarkable aspects of ministry here in our diocese.
First, it is such a pleasure to be with and work and pray with the priests of this diocese. They are a remarkable group of men who give themselves tirelessly to the ministry and get along so well. My aim all along has been to do no harm!
Second, the women and men of the diocesan staff have been great to work with. They are so talented. They also clearly have the mind of the Church. It is not often that they need my second-guessing. They also have contributed well to the diocesan planning, which has been an ongoing project and have embraced it quite well. They are great colleagues.
Third, we are so blessed with so many wonderful people working in our parishes and in other settings: our deacons, who also contribute to hospital, migrant and prison ministries; our consecrated men and women, who, in addition to the ministries they perform, are wonderful signs of Christ among us, especially in their embrace of chastity and virginity; our many parish staff members, who are mostly women; and parish committee members, who give their hearts for love of their parishes. The tears that fell at the closing of some of our parishes in these past years spoke eloquently of that love.
Fourth, it has been a wonderful joy to celebrate confirmation with so many of our young people. Their letters to me requesting the sacrament and their enthusiasm before, during, and after the ceremony, and the clear presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, are all aspects of our faith life that are priceless.
Finally, the seminarians are an incredible blessing. Not only is it a sign of God’s constant favor to us that he calls them to the priesthood, but it is also a sign of the health of our parishes that they produce vocations. Their youth, their enthusiasm and their joy are contagious and that serves as a great renewal, urging me on to many more years of service here in my home of the Diocese of Lansing.
Certainly, there have been trials and troubles. I ask your forgiveness for the ways in which I have failed you. I know for a fact that I am not everything you want or need in a bishop, but your patience and love seem to make up for those lacks. So, as we face the future together, let us promise each other our prayers.
Bishop Earl Boyea is the fifth bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Lansing.