In a recent conversation with a brother bishop, he said that just before Easter, someone fires a gun, and we (bishops) are on a mad dash from then until the end of June with all of the activities that fill the calendar this time of year.  That is a very good analogy!

On Thursday before Memorial Day, I departed Anchorage for a very full schedule of stops and visits.  The first stop was a visit with family for the very special occasion of my niece’s wedding.  McKenzie was married to David Greenwood on the Saturday, May 27 in Evansville, Indiana.

As with most family liturgies, my two brothers (priests) and I tend to ‘tag team’ the liturgies, and since David is Baptist, his pastor was also present for the ceremony.  With all the rites observed, and the prayers of the People of God invoked, we entrust this newly married couple into the love of the Father who brought them together, trusting that by the Lord’s bountiful grace of Holy Matrimony, they will weather the storms of life, be embraced by the love of family and friends, be a blessing to those in need, and ever grow stronger in their love for one another and for God’s Church.

This was also my first visit home since dad moved from Tell City to Evansville, and since mom has finally gotten somewhat ‘settled’ into her new nursing home surroundings.  I’m glad to report that things are calming down on the home front.  To top off the visit, my sister Angie also got engaged that same weekend.

Congratulations to the newlyweds, and to the newly engaged!

From Evansville, I flew to New Orleans. The Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Mobile, and friend from seminary days in Rome, Msgr. Michael Farmer, picked me up and we eventually made our way to Manresa Retreat Center in Convent, Louisiana, where I would over the next few days guide the priests of the Archdiocese of Mobile on their annual retreat.

Though the days were quite full giving two talks and a homily each day, and visiting individually with others, the days were very rewarding.

Having spent the weekend pondering the beauty and challenges of Holy Matrimony, this week gave me an opportunity to share with the priests of Mobile my deep love for the priesthood, and renew my own appreciation and gratitude to God for the gift of Holy Orders.

I also enjoy the opportunity to not only encourage priests in their ministry, reminding them of the fundamentals and the mysterious ways God works in and through us, but to also associate with them, and to hear their own stories.

Quite simply, priests are ordained for serving God’s People; teaching the faith, celebrating the Sacraments, and bring a ‘holy order’ to the world.  This is done primarily by each priest becoming more like Christ day-by-day.  We are simply a humble vessel for the Father to further extend his life-giving love and grace, through his Son, Jesus Christ, through the Church, by the working of the Holy Spirit.  It is a demanding life, but one that is incredibly rewarding.

Please pray with me that those whom God is continuing to call to share in this wonderful and necessary ministry may have the grace to hear and answer his call!

From Louisiana, I travelled to Cheyenne, Wyoming for the ordination and installation of my successor, now Bishop Steven Biegler.  Bishop Steven, as he wishes to be called, was a priest from Rapid City, South Dakota.  He is one of thirteen children from a ranching family.  He and I came to know each other during our days in the seminary in Rome.  Bishop Steven and I are about the same age, and he was ordained a priest the year after me. He is a truly humble man, a gifted administrator, ever growing in holiness.  The fact that he is from the Rocky Mountain West will certainly help him quickly adjust to his new assignment, but time alone can fully prepare any bishop for the new role and responsibilities.

The days in Cheyenne provided some time to not only visit with former colleagues and friends, but to somewhat catch my breath.  This stop too, was a bit of a ‘home-coming’ for me, and I am so very happy that the People of the Diocese of Cheyenne not only have a new bishop, but that the new bishop is such a good man.  I made sure to thank our Nuncio, Archbishop Pierre for both the timely appointment, as well as the quality of the man chosen.

Yesterday was a long day.  Arising in Cheyenne around 2:30am, Alaska Time, I made my way to the Denver airport and the five hour flight from their back to Anchorage.  Quickly upon my arrival, I joined the Alaska Youth Conference which is in full swing here in Anchorage.  I heard various numbers of those in attendance from the three Alaska Dioceses, but I think we have around 180 youth in town for the four day event.

Yesterday afternoon included a vocation talk for both young men and young women, Mass, Dinner, some entertainment, and then a Q & A with the bishops (and Fr. Pat Travers, Administrator for Juneau.). It was delightful to be with our youth, to share in their energy, and to hear what sort of things are on their minds.  We had a very nice exchange for about an hour last night, ending around 9:00pm.

The session ended with a blessing extended to the youth by all the bishops and then a group photo.  You can guess where I headed when it concluded!

Now, I’m headed out for our first, and hopefully will become an annual, Archbishop’s Golf Tournament to raise funds for our Seminary Education Endowment.

A priest friend asked me shortly after I was named a bishop how I was now going to stay out of the chancery.  I think we have our answer!