by Antonina Zielinska
Having served the parish of St. Agatha as pastor for 10 years, Auxiliary Bishop Paul Sanchez returned to the Sunset Park community to confer his first Confirmation upon 67 candidates.
During his homily, the bishop reassured the candidates that like them, he, too, was scared of a new chapter in his life. He said that when he received the call informing him that he was to be named a bishop, he was frightened.
When he retreated into contemplative prayer, he said God led him to St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. In the letter, Paul recounts a conversation he had with Jesus. Paul asked Jesus to relieve him of his physical pain. However, Jesus told him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12)
Bishop Sanchez asked the Confirmation candidates to believe that God’s grace will be enough to receive the Holy Spirit and to guide them in life. But, he said: “We have to do our part. We have to respond.”
Leonides Ruiz, 15, was among the young Catholics confirmed by Bishop Sanchez. She knew him from stories her family told her about him. However, she is too young to have known him when he was pastor.
“To have him confirm me is very special,” she said. “I enjoyed listening to him. I learned that I have to be guided by the Holy Spirit.”
Her mother, Madalyn Ruiz, said seeing her pastor coming back is a great source of inspiration because someone she knew was named a bishop by the pope.
“We all saw in him what the Holy Father saw in him,” said David Reyes of the priest who officiated at his wedding to his wife Rita.
“We love him,” Rita Reyes said. “He lets us love him the way Jesus lets us love Him. With priests like this, we will always be happy.”
“Him coming back is a great blessing for us,” said Altagracia Valdez, parent and parishioner. “He came back with the same humble nature. He did not change his personality when he became a bishop.”
“The bishop has a charisma that brings people in,” said Father Francisco Walker, the current pastor.
Bishop Sanchez said he was overjoyed to come back to St. Agatha on such a special day.
“It’s wonderful to see the families who have been part of my life as a parish priest, and to see their children grow up,” he said.
Gizeth Hernandez, assistant director of religious education, said she felt privileged to prepare children for Confirmation at the hands of a bishop she knew from her youth.
At the end of the Mass, Bishop Sanchez told the newly confirmed that he brings not only his own blessings. He said that when he was in Rome to prepare himself for his new ministry, he and the other new bishops met with the pope. Pope Benedict told them to bring his blessings wherever they go.