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home : from the bishop : from the bishop November 21, 2017


7/31/2010
Address of Bishop O'Connell on the occasion of his ordination to the episcopacy
Humble Servant - Coadjutor Bishop David M. O'Connell addressed what it means for a bishop to serve in his comments at the conclusion of his episcopal ordination Mass July 30. Craig Pittelli photo
Humble Servant - Coadjutor Bishop David M. O'Connell addressed what it means for a bishop to serve in his comments at the conclusion of his episcopal ordination Mass July 30. Craig Pittelli photo

Following is the complete text of Coadjutor Bishop David M. O'Connell's remarks, as given at the conclusion of his episcopal ordination Mass July 30 in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton.

“I have been thinking a great deal about the role and ministry of bishops in the Church in recent months. You might think, sitting here in the Cathedral today, I had good reason for this. But, while there is real truth to that reaction – at least since the Apostolic Nuncio first met with me on May 24 – I did have other motivations. For the past 12 years, I was president of The Catholic University of America, which is the bishops’ university. And I am grateful to so many of my colleagues and friends who are here today from the university with us.

“Throughout those 12 years, I had many occasions to meet, to get to know bishops from around the country either as university trustees or visitors to campus. And we spoke about many things. We spoke about their dioceses, their experiences, their joys and their challenges. I came to admire the bishops of the United States as good men, good priests and good leaders. Although they all differed from one another in many many ways, they all had one thing in common: they loved their people.

“Today, thanks to the grace and mercy of God and the sacrament of ordination, I join their ranks as successors to the Apostles. Like them, I approached this day filled with joy and gratitude but also with a sense of humility and awe. Like them, I am profoundly aware of my own flaws, faults and limitations, that I am far, far from perfect. And like them, I do not know what the future will hold but I am quite sure that the expectations are as many as there are people here in this cathedral and outside of it.

“When the Apostolic Nuncio spoke with me that morning in late May, he shared much information about the Diocese of Trenton and the process involved in my appointment. But he also said something to me that I will never forget. He said, ‘Father, always remember that there are over 830,000 souls in your diocese. And you will be responsible for every one of them.’ What has been very much on my mind in these weeks leading up to today is this – how will I exercise this responsibility?”

“The other day, someone asked me how long it took for me to come up with my Episcopal motto, Ministrare non Ministrari, 'to serve and not to be served,' to which I responded, ‘about two seconds.’ When I was first ordained a Vincentian priest – and I am so happy on this Feast of St. Justin de Jacobis, another Vincentian who became bishop, I am so happy to see so many of my Vincentian confreres here – when I was ordained, the Gospel at the ordination Mass that day contained those words of Jesus Christ that you heard today in the Gospel, ‘to serve and not to be served.’

“I was so struck with the phrase as being a perfect description of how to be a priest: ‘to serve and not to be served and to give my life as a ransom for the many.’ This was how I wanted to live as a priest. And this is how I want to live out my life as a bishop and how I hope to exercise the responsibility.

“According to the Second Vatican Council, ‘Christ gave the apostles and their successors the mandate and the power to teach all nations and to sanctify and shepherd their people in truth.’

“To teach. To sanctify. To shepherd their people in truth. Christ gave this mandate – Christ gave the mandate – to the successors of the Apostles. And Christ gave the power. And with power like this comes tremendous and awesome responsibility. So please, please pray for me.

“‘To serve and not to be served.’ In my letter to our Holy Father Pope Benedict accepting the appointment he gave me, I wrote to him of my choice of a motto. And In his response to me read here today, he repeated those same words as his challenge to me.

“A bishop serves his people by teaching truth. The truth that comes through the Gospel, the truth that comes through the Church and all its teachings, the truth that lives among us a community of faith, for ‘where two or three are gathered in my name,’ Jesus promised us, ‘there am I in the midst of them.’ This is how a bishop serves, not by being served through compromise or taking the easy way out, not by being served saying only what people want to hear or what makes them comfortable, striving to be popular.

“As Pope John Paul II wrote, the truth that we teach ‘has its origin in God, but people can even run from the truth because they are afraid of its demands.’ Christians cannot run from the truth for this reason. Nor can their bishops. This is how a bishop serves.”

“A bishop also serves by sanctifying his people, by leading them to holiness of heart. And there is only one way to holiness: Jesus Christ and a personal relationship with him, convinced in faith as we must be that he is the way, he is the truth, he is the life. All three – the way, the truth and the life – all three make us holy. Jesus Christ is the Risen Lord. He triumphed over death and every kind suffering and evil.

“The bishop is called, it is said, to be a servant of the empty tomb, not of the status quo. He leads people to holiness by bearing witness to what the empty tomb means and that is joy, hope. When the apostles went in there and saw that Jesus was not there, they remembered his promise, a promise of new life. Today we will remember Jesus’ words… ‘In the world you will have troubles but take courage, I have overcome the world.’ This is the Jesus Christ we believe in. This is the Jesus Christ who is part of our life. This is the Jesus Christ who we have to take with us day in and day out. This is how a bishop serves!

“Finally, a bishop serves by leading, by guiding, by governing, by shepherding his people. This is, perhaps, the most difficult not only for those the bishop governs but also for the bishop himself, marked as he is by human weakness. But lead a bishop must, by word and example. And he has no reason to fear - God gives the grace. And follow we must. And we have no reason to fear. God gives the grace.

“The answers that we may seek from our bishops, the answers that we may want from them may sometimes not be what we seek or what we want. Sometimes the answer is no. And that is a word our culture does not like to hear. But again, ‘The gate is narrow and the road is long that leads to life.’ This is how a bishop serves and this is where service leads: to life.

“To serve and not to be served. To teach. To govern. To sanctify. This is what a bishop does for God’s people. This is what a bishop does with God’s people. Brother bishops, fellow priests, deacons, faithful religious women and men and all the baptized, one community of faith.

“So with a grateful heart I want to thank you, all of you, for being here today, too many to single out, too many to call by name. But you know who you are. Please know that I care deeply for you all. With humble, faithful hearts, let us go forward, together, ‘to serve and not to be served.’”



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