When the good news reached us that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, had blessed us by calling two good friends, Msgrs. Ray Chappetto and Paul Sanchez, to serve as our newest auxiliary bishops, we could not have been happier. For them and for us! We are grateful that they responded generously to this high, yet humbling office.
In another era, it was customary to speak of a priest as being “elevated” to the episcopacy. It was often perceived as an honorable “step up,” so to speak, in much the same way as a loyal and successful corporate executive might rise to become a CEO or member of the board. No one would argue that our new auxiliaries have served both our diocesan bishops and the clergy and laity of our diocese with honor and distinction over the years. Each of them is well-seasoned through the many ways in which they have ministered as priests over the years, which has sharpened their administrative skills and pastoral sensitivities. If anything, age and experience has drawn them closer to life in the Lord’s vineyard than to the marbled halls of a princely palace or the comforts of an executive suite. These are men of the people.
In offering them our heartfelt congratulations as they are ordained to the fullness of the priesthood on July 11, we also extend our prayerful best wishes that the weight of their new office will be lightened by confidence in the grace the Lord will surely provide them and in our love that goes with them.
In our times, it is not easy to be a bishop. Perhaps it never was. Faithfulness to the teaching and example of Jesus demands that in season and out of season, a bishop upholds in word and example the Lord’s teachings — and the teaching authority of the Church — regardless of how popular or accepted they might be. In bearing witness to the Gospel, they will be subject to taunting and ridicule for refusing to be “owned” by any benefactor, party, political figure or celebrity seeking, with good or ill intent, to appropriate the power of their office for any purpose that falls short of the Truth they must serve. Championing the rights and dignity of the poor, the unborn, the disenfranchised and the marginalized, they will be labelled with any manner of unflattering judgment, called (among other things) naive, behind the times, authoritarian, rigid or even worse. But lead they must, and, with God’s help, our prayer and their own moral courage, they will do us proud.
The Church needs shepherds who are at once principled and compassionate, fair and personable. Whoever has had the pleasure of encountering our Bishops Paul and Ray knows how their deep spirituality radiates kindness, charity and an open attentiveness to anyone in their presence. They each have the gift of making one feel like the only person in the world who matters to them at that moment of contact.
So it is not only with thanksgiving to God but confidence in the response of our good friends to God’s grace that we rejoice and celebrate this great moment for our Diocese — and for them! We wish Bishop Chappetto and Bishop Sanchez many years of faithful, frutiful service as assistants to our beloved Diocesan Bishop and all the people they will continue to serve in their new office.
In the words of the ancient Hebrew Nesiat Kapayim, we say to them: “May the LORD bless you and keep you; may the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26). Ad multos annos!