July 7, 2005
On the Feast of St. Maria Goretti, July 6, 2004, the great privilege of serving the particular Church of Paterson was entrusted to me as your bishop. Since then, I have discovered many wonderful things about our diocese. The Second Vatican Council taught, “The diocese forms that part of the people of God entrusted to the pastoral care of the bishop with the assistance of the presbyterate. In allegiance to its pastor and by him gathered together in the Holy Spirit through the Gospel and the Eucharist, the diocese stands as a particular Church in which Christ’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church is truly present and at work”(
Christus Dominus, 11). This particular Church is very much alive. It is growing. Especially in this year of the Eucharist, so many of our people are coming to a great awareness of the Eucharist as “the source and the summit of the Christian's life" (
Lumen Gentium, 11). The overwhelming turn-out for our Eucharistic Youth Day in the largest gathering of young people in our history witnesses to their faith and the faith of their parents as well. A Eucharist-centered Church that celebrates the Sacrifice of the Mass and adores the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is a strong Church. What a joy to serve such a Church as “the steward of the grace of the supreme priesthood”(
In my former days across the Passaic River, I had heard so many good things about this particular Church. Now, like Job, I can say, “I knew you then only by hearsay, but now, having seen you with me own eyes…” (Job 42: 5), I rejoice. I already knew about many of the important and positive things that my predecessor, Bishop Rodimer, had accomplished. But some of the things I have learned were wonderful discoveries about the local church that the Holy Father has asked me to serve.
In visiting parishes for Sunday Mass, for Confirmations, for Mass on weekdays and for special celebrations, I see your faith, your goodness, and your love of Christ and his Church. Through my contacts with priests and deacons, especially during my meeting with the deacons and their wives last summer and during the Convocation of Priests this past September, I have seen dedication, commitment, love of Jesus, and zeal for the Church. What a grace to see priests and deacons determined to be the best possible ministers of the Church for the people they serve and for the entire diocese.
Although I came to the diocese with some experience already of the charisms and gifts of religious congregations, my encounters with the religious, both women and men, in our diocese have given me an even greater appreciation of their witness to their founders and their love of the Church. I have seen the work of the diocesan curia (staff). I marvel at how much they accomplish. Our staff is lean. Our budget, cut close to the bone. But the service is abundant, because our diocesan staff is so dedicated.
This is not merely a good diocese. Paterson is a great diocese. During this time, I made an effort to visit as many parishes as possible. Sometimes five on a weekend. I only wish I could have done more. The warm reception by so many people challenged me to work harder to live up to their undeserved praise. In the coming year, I am re-organizing the schedule for Confirmations so that I can be free to visit parishes for Sunday Eucharist. At times, I wish there were more days in a week. As for the pastor of the local parish, so too for the pastor of the local Church, the multiple demands are formidable. I certainly have great respect for the schedule that Bishop Rodimer was able to keep until his last day of service as your bishop. His schedule would have tired out someone 30 years younger!
One special challenge that had to be addressed was the settlements in the horrible and painful situations of those who had been abused by priests. I spent a great amount of time during my first five months consulting widely about these situations. I prayed and I asked all the religious and priests to pray for me that I could make wise and prudent decisions. The healing of those who were harmed was my priority and remains so. I have met with a number of the victims. During the time that a number of the victims were in litigation against the diocese, I could not meet with them for obvious legal reasons. Once the settlements were accepted, then I met with a number of those victims as well. I continue to pray that healing can take place. Despite the sins of her members, the Church is God’s instrument for salvation. As a diocese, we are completely committed to ensuring that no child will ever be abused by any person who works for the Church.
I have listened to many people who have shared their thoughts about the future challenges for the diocese and their hopes for what our local Church might become. As you might suspect, a good number of individuals have not been shy in telling me what I ought to do and what the diocese needs! At the Convocation of Priests last September, I held listening sessions where I asked the priests to speak honestly to me about their hopes and even difficulties. I want the priests to know that they can say anything to me. I needed to hear their thoughts and appreciate their feelings. Our priests have continued to share many things with me as the year has continued. I think by now the priests know I will speak what I think and remain in dialogue with those who may have different opinions. I am grateful for the work of the presbyteral council and the deans. Together, we have been working to express more fully what it means to be a Church united in faith and in practice.
A diocese, according to Church law, must have many consultative bodies. I have learned much from these groups and continue to realize that we must rely on their special expertise even more than has been done in the past. Certainly, the ultimate responsibility for decisions lies with the bishop. But no bishop can function effectively alone.
As I look back over the year, I realize that a key moment for me as the Bishop of Paterson was the
ad limina visit to Rome in September with the bishops of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The purpose of this visit is for the bishop to make a report to the Holy See. What a privilege to meet alone with the Holy Father, then Pope John Paul II. It was such a spiritually uplifting experience to speak alone with the successor of St. Peter.
The Holy Father also met with the bishops as a group. We each received a copy of his address to us. I have reflected and prayed intensely since that time especially on his words to us:
“While the bishop himself remains responsible for the authoritative decisions which he is called to make in the exercise of his pastoral governance, ecclesial communion also ‘presupposes the participation of every category of the faithful, inasmuch as they share responsibility for the good of the particular Church which they themselves form’ (
Pastors Gregis, 44). Within a sound ecclesiology of communion, a commitment to creating better structures of
participation, consultation and shared responsibility should not be misunderstood as a concession to a secular ‘democratic’ model of governance, but as
an intrinsic requirement of the exercise of Episcopal authority and a necessary means of strengthening that authority.”
A bishop must fulfill many roles at the same time. Nonetheless, it is important to identify several goals as the major goals for my ministry. My most important goal is evangelization. In fact, on July 6, 2004, I laid out in principle this direction for the diocese in choosing the Great Commission as the Gospel for the Mass of Installation—“Go, therefore, into the whole world make disciples of all nations…(Mt 28:19). Jesus addresses this mandate to the group. This implies an active practice of collaboration and mutual accountability. Our late Holy Father, John Paul II, reminded us of this.
Each bishop has a diocesan
curia, diocesan offices and agencies, to do the work of Jesus in bringing the Gospel into the lives of our people. Today, I announce 63 different appointments of laypersons, religious, deacons, and priests to make these priorities a reality. (You will find these appointments on Page 9 in this edition of the
Beacon.) Women and religious are being appointed as my representatives in greater numbers than ever. A religious sister will now be my Chancellor and Delegate for Religious. Lay persons have always been part of our diocesan boards, but their percentage will now increase. I have asked a number of priests to join me in new positions, while continuing to serve in their parishes. Many of these priests have never been part of diocesan ministry and served well only in their parish ministry. I will call on other priests in the future to serve both the individual parish and the Church of Paterson. I appreciate the sacrifices that they make by having several demanding responsibilities.
In a number of cases, the Bishop or his Vicar General has been the diocesan representative to various boards and councils. I will now preside over those boards and councils required under Church law. However, these boards and councils will have other individuals, usually from parishes, who will serve as their chairpersons, vice-chairpersons or my representatives. Father Robert Mitchell will be the new chairperson for the College of Deans.
As you may know, I was a Scripture professor at the seminary for the Newark Archdiocese for 25 years. I have a deep love of theology and Scripture. I know how important it is for a bishop to show that he is a teacher of the Good News of Jesus. This past winter, I wrote the first of my teaching letters on the Sacrament of Penance. To be the best possible teacher, I know that I too must collaborate with others who are expert in their fields. Therefore, I am establishing a Theological Commission to help me in my role as teacher of the faith. This Commission will be composed of lay persons, religious, and priests who are expert in their particular disciplines.
I am making some new appointments at the highest level of diocesan administration. Msgr. Herbert Tillyer has given faithful service to diocesan administration for 28 years, first as Chancellor and then as Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, while also being the pastor of two parishes, first St. Paul in Prospect Park, and now St. Peter the Apostle in Parsippany. He was a key adviser to Bishop Rodimer and an able resource for the work of the diocese. I am happy that he will continue to be president of our diocesan low-income housing developments: Martin de Porres Village Corporation, and the Riese Corporation; and director of our Diocesan Cemetery Office.
Msgr. John Hart, our present Chancellor, will become the Chairman of our Presbyteral Council and our new Theological Commission. Monsignor Hart has served in diocesan ministries since 1990 as a member of our Diocesan Tribunal, priest-secretary to Bishop Rodimer, and since 1998 as Chancellor. During this time, he was also the pastor of St. Cecilia Parish and the administrator of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, both in Rockaway.
Both Msgr. Tillyer and Msgr. Hart served during an especially difficult time over the past several years in working with the many aspects of clerical sexual abuse of children. Few will ever know the full extent of their work and their great concern for all the victims as well as the rights of those accused.
I have appointed Msgr. James Mahoney as the new Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, while continuing as the pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in Chatham Township. I have also appointed Sister of Christian Charity Mary Edward Spohrer as both Chancellor and Delegate for Religious. She is the Provincial Superior of the Sisters of Christian Charity. The respect with which she is already held and her own experience of leadership in her religious congregation will make her a wonderful Chancellor and Delegate for Religious. The position of Chancellor is the highest position in diocesan leadership open to women. This is an important recognition of both the role of women in the Church and the special dedication and service of our religious. I am also appointing two Vice Chancellors to assist at this level of diocesan service. They are Father David Long and Father Marc Mancini. They will also continue in their present parish assignments. I am appointing Lori Hricik-Del Guercio to serve as Chair of our Diocesan Finance Council.
I am most grateful for the many years of service Father Paul Manning has given as Vocation Director. He will be moving into a new ministry. I am, therefore, appointing Father Hernan Arias as our new Vocation Director. His work and his zeal for vocations have already brought us good, strong vocations. To assist in this important work, I am appointing Father Kevin Corcoran as Assistant Vocation Director. As you know from my visits, vocations are a priority for this bishop. Priesthood is essential to the Church. Holy priests, a necessity.
I have been concerned about a lack of unity between diocesan ministries and parish ministries. Therefore, I am appointing three Vicars who will act with the authority of the bishop in particular areas of diocesan life. Father Paul Manning will be the Vicar for Education, while continuing as president/chaplain of Morris Catholic High School, Denville. Father Martin Glynn will be the Vicar for Evangelization, while continuing as the pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Franklin. Msgr. William Stober will be the Vicar for Pastoral Administration, while continuing as pastor of Our Lady, Queen of Peace Parish in Branchville. To highlight the importance of evangelization, the Secretariat for Parish Life will be renamed the Secretariat for Evangelization.
A special responsibility of the Vicar General, Chancellor, and the three new vicars will be to promote the priority of collaboration and mutual accountability. Lip service to these priorities is not enough. The people of our diocese need to see and experience that we are united in our mission. As our Holy Father Benedict XVI said on May 13, 2005, “It is precisely this unique mission [as Church] which calls each person to a deep communion whose center is Jesus Christ; it requires a daily openness to collaboration on the part of all. In this way, each person joyfully fulfils the duty entrusted to him or her for the good of the entire diocesan community.”
Generally, most of the diocesan personnel will continue with their positions. Any changes or realignments that have been made were designed to improve the overall ministry that we give to our parishes and to improve our processes of collaboration. In some cases, such as our work with vocations to the priesthood and religious life, those involved will report directly to me.
The priority of mutual accountability will be supported by the establishment of a Human Resources Department for the diocesan curia. I have named Father Thomas Fallone as Director of this new department. He will also continue in his present assignment in Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha in Sparta. Given Father Fallone’s work as a lawyer prior to entering the seminary, this new office will be a great assistance in the areas of performance evaluation, merit increases, and personnel practices.
I recognize the awesome trust given me, each time I read the words of the Second Vatican Council. “Sent as he is by the Father to govern his family, a bishop should keep before his eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who came not to be waited upon but to serve (cf. Mt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45) and to lay down his life for his sheep (cf. Jn. 10:11)… As to the faithful, they should cling to the bishop as the Church clings to Jesus Christ, and as Jesus Christ clings to the Father, so that through such unity there may be harmony in everything and so that everything may conspire to the glory of God”(
Lumen Gentium, 27). Please pray for me and, with me, for the entire Church of Paterson.
Through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, may we all be faithful to the Lord Jesus and to his Church.