Ever since God intruded himself into the life of Abraham and sent him from one end of the Fertile Crescent to the other, the life of faith has been clearly recognized as a journey. Sometimes we plan our way through life and events unfold as we thought. Other times we find ourselves surprised by events and reordering the direction we had set. But in the light of faith, we recognize something of divine providence in every moment of our life.
Coming to Paterson as your new bishop is a short trip for me from home, but a journey I make in faith and with great trust in God’s providence. And I gladly come among you as one sent. I have witnessed first hand the many good things God is working among you. Your priests and deacons are dedicated; your religious zealous and the laity alive to the renewal called for by the Second Vatican Council.
When Jesus called the first disciples, they had no idea where their response would lead them. Jesus called them first to be with him, second to follow him and third to go where he sent them. And in so doing he set the pattern for the faith journey of every Christian. None of us knows from the beginning where the Lord will lead us. But we follow the model he set before us in the call of the first disciples. First we respond to the gift of faith by placing our heart, our thoughts, our feelings, all that we are, in the hands of Jesus. Our being Christian is our being with Jesus every moment of our life. Next, we look to his example of obedience to the Father’s will and love for all God’s children and we try in our human weakness to follow him. And third, we listen carefully to his voice to hear where he is sending us to do his work.
In the Holy Father’s call asking me to be your new bishop, I hear the voice of the Good Shepherd asking me to continue his mission of strengthening in faith and love that portion of God’s people that is the Church of Paterson.
As one sent, I come among you. I have always found the commissioning of Peter along the shores of Tiberias at the end of John’s gospel highly instructive. Three times the Risen Lord tells Peter to feed his sheep. And then after giving Peter a new mission, he says two simple words that tell Peter the best way to shepherd God’s people. He says, “Follow me.” These were the initial words that invite to discipleship. These are the only words that explain how a leader in the church can ever accomplish his mission.
It is only in following Jesus that anyone of us can lead others to the Lord. I am truly grateful for the overwhelming welcome that you have given. From the many speculations reported in the media to the announcement by the Holy See, from every corner of the diocese, I have felt such an outpouring of hope and joy that have made easier the new direction of my ministry. By God’s grace, may I be found worthy of the mission given me. Together, in following the Lord may we always be found one with
Every year I have had the custom of taking one week in July to renew my faith journey by making a pilgrimage. For the past 16 years I have gone to the major shrines of our Catholic faith throughout the world. Not knowing that I would be called to serve the Church of Paterson, I had planned along with a group of laypeople to go to Lourdes, and then to other well frequented holy places such as the tombs of Thomas Aquinas, St John Vianney, St. Bernadette, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Know that your new bishop now
has the great joy of bringing you and your families with him in his heart and prayers on this new pilgrimage of faith.
Through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, may all of us be faithful to God’s call in Jesus.