By Fr. George Welzbacher
July 22, 2007
Three weeks ago, on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29th), our new Archbishop Coadjutor, John Nienstedt, was formally installed in an impressive ceremony at the St. Paul Cathedral. Archbishop Flynn was the chief celebrant of the Mass, with two cardinals and some thirty bishops in attendance, together with about three hundred priests and a large number of deacons. Members of the laity, both from our own archdiocese and from the Diocese of New Ulm, filled the Cathedral almost to overflowing. Archbishop Nienstedt gave a stirring homily in which he declared that any differences between his own and Archbishop Flynn's personal style were not important but that what was important was continuity from one administration to the next in serving the mission of the Church as the Church defines that mission. Substance is what counts, rather than style.
I thought that you might want to read select passages from Archbishop Nienstedt's rather lengthy homily. I reprint some of his salient comments here.
* * * * *.... Much ink has been spilled in the press over speculation about how this new coadjutor will differ from the present archbishop. But frankly, I believe such speculation is misplaced. Leadership in Christ's Church should not be about our differences in personality or administrative style, but rather about our commitment to the message and mission of the Lord Jesus. Are we both in union with Christ and his Church? Are we both wholeheartedly intent on preaching His Word? Are we both passionately committed to serving his mission? It seems to me that these should be the questions every knowledgeable, faith-filled Catholic ought to be asking.
In 1994, Archbishop John Roach said that any differences between him and his successor would be "in style rather than substance." I believe the same will be said about Archbishop Harry Flynn and myself, that "each in his chosen way gathered into unity the one family of Christ."....
Seen clearly from all four Gospels, Jesus convoked a community of disciples around himself to share not only in proclaiming his message and promoting his mission, but he also called them into that very intimate and deeply personal union which He himself shares with the Father: "That they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me." (John 17:21) From this perspective, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council chose as the two main themes of the Constitution, Lumen Gentium, "communion" and "mission" - which is to say that all Catholics are called into communion so as to be sent forth on mission into the world.
This communio [communion) is shared in the first place between the bishop and his priests, with whom the bishop shares the threefold munera [tasks] of preaching the Word, celebrating the Sacraments and shepherding the faithful according to the mind of Christ and the teachings of Christ's Body, the Church. In Pastores Dabo Vobis, the late beloved Pope John Paul II said that the bishop must be father, brother and friend to his priests. This will be a number one priority for me as Archbishop, and in turn I trust it will likewise be a priority for every member of the presbyterate. This is far more than a question of personalities or personal preferences. It is, indeed, a question of faith, a mutual believing in the providential love of the Lord who leads us. At the same time, deacons join in our communio as special ministers of Word, worship and charity, giving support to us in grace-filled fraternal bonds.
Bishops, priests and deacons are also challenged to live their communio more effectively by the witness of the consecrated men and women who have vowed to live a communal religious life in poverty, chastity and obedience. Such witness from our religious men and women is of enormous benefit for the whole Church community, but in a very special way for us in diocesan ministry.
Within this same context, emphasis must be given to lay ministry within today's Church, both such as the Council called for in having the laity serve as a leaven within society as well as [in soliciting ] the participation of lay ecelesial ministers who share by competence of their training in the very mission of the Church. This latter category is perhaps one of the most theologically undefined yet exciting areas being explored in today's ecclesial context, and I am, indeed, committed to fostering and clarifying its progress.
The Church cannot afford, however, to stand still until every eccliesial question is resolved before planning for the future. Therefore, the ongoing work of encouraging, calling and guiding young (and not so young) men to the priesthood, young men and women to the religious life, and young people to lay ministry must remain a number one priority for every member of the People of God. I am so encouraged by the presence of some 224 seminarians in our two fine seminaries here in St. Paul, seventy-two of whom are studying for this Archdiocese. I wish to thank Fr. Tom Wilson, Diocesan Vocation Director, for his strong leadership in this effort. The day after my announcement, I celebrated daily Mass for both seminary communities to assure them of my prayerful support and personal encouragement. I reiterate that promise to them again today in your presence.
Equal emphasis must be given in our local Church to building up married couples and their family life into communions of life, love and truth. Strong, faith-filled families make for a strong, faith-filled Church. Dear spouses and parents, your success in witnessing to married love is essential for the life and vitality of our Church. But, I do believe that we must redouble our efforts to offer both young people getting married and adults who are already married the authentic and full experience of the truths contained in our Catholic faith. To this end, I promise my support for our Catholic schools, our religious education programs, our youth and young adult ministry as well as our adult faith formation. Five years ago I began a prayer group for high school students seeking a deeper relationship with Christ through the Scriptures. Some of them are here today, and I ask them to stand to be acknowledged. Truly, they are my pride and joy!
Last, but not least, the Church as a communio finds at the heart of her union a place for single Catholics. Here, in particular, I think of those individuals who have devoted their lives to a particular service such as my own sister, Mary Beth, who has provided such selfless devotedness to our parents in their senior years. I think, too, of the homebound, the aged, the infirm who provide such a powerful support through their prayer in the offering of their suffering and pain for the promotion of the Church.
It was the late beloved Pope John Paul II who reminded us that, "Communion gives rise to mission and mission is accomplished in communion." Therefore, the Church must always be more than a social club of like-minded believers reinforcing one another. Rather the purpose of our union is that "the world might know" that Jesus was sent from the Father. This is the true nature of love - not to turn in on itself but to give love away, even in self-immolation...
As Pope Benedict XVI has said so beautifully in his encyclical, Deus Caritas Est:
"I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to Him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, His own. Communion draws me out of myself towards Him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians .... Love of God and love of neighbor are now truly united: God incarnate draws us all to Himself." (no. 14)
Here again we see the logic of Pope John Paul II's insightful teaching that... "Communion gives rise to mission and mission is accomplished in communion." These two provide the back and forth rhythm of the disciple's life. One without the other lacks true Catholic identity. The Gospel of Truth demands both the vertical and the horizontal if it is to be faithful to the Master ......