In the wake of last week’s appointment as Archbishop of Anchorage, people have some questions. But first, I would simply like to say how much I enjoyed the 48 hour trip to Anchorage. I had a peaceful premonition as the plane was on approach into Anchorage last Monday night: “I am going to be at home here.” I cannot tell you how much that helped to calm my heart.
I cannot thank Archbishop Schwietz, OMI enough for his warm welcome and hospitality. He exudes calm while at the same time reassuring me about the future. I am so grateful he is going to remain in residence now that he is able to step down from his episcopal responsibilities and enjoy once again being a ‘parish priest.’ I look forward to enjoying his fraternity and friendship.
I’m also very grateful for the warmth and hospitality I received from the priests, deacons, religious and parishioners. Before taking me back to the airport on Wednesday evening, Archbishop Schwietz and I walked to a restaurant for dinner. On our walk back, we were crossing a busy street, and someone yelled out of their car: “Hey, there is the ‘new one!'” We had a great laugh with that.
At left is a picture from the Mass I celebrated Wednesday morning at St. Benedict parish with the 7 – 12 grade students from Lumen Christi Jr. / Sr. High. Following Mass, I had a tour and got to visit with the students and faculty. At the end of the tour, I stepped into the gymn where a number of families were gathered with smaller children. A little boy who could not yet speak ran half way across the floor to say ‘hello’ and shake my hand, and then run back to his mom. That was the most spontaneous greeting of my visit, and warmed my heart!
Before all of this excitement, I had scheduled some time to visit my family in southern Indiana. I thought it would be wise to keep that time on the calendar. So, for now, I’m enjoying a bit of a break, trying to catch my breath before returning to Cheyenne.
The installation Mass and ceremonies in Anchorage are now confirmed. I will take possession of Holy Family Cathedral during Evening Prayer on Tuesday evening at 7:00pm. The Mass of installation will be at the co-cathedral, Our Lady of Guadalupe on Wednesday, November 9 at 2:00pm.
Until then, I will spend a very busy three weeks wrapping up in Cheyenne. This weekend I will keep a previously scheduled visit to Our Lady of Fatima parish in Casper. I will celebrate all of the weekend Masses. Please feel free to come by and say ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’ as the case may be. The next two weeks are full of confirmation Masses. My final public farewell Mass will be Friday evening, October 28 at the Cathedral in Cheyenne. You are also welcome to attend. Then, somewhere around November 3 I will depart for my new home in Anchorage.
Many people want to know if I’m happy about this appointment. I can honestly say that I am at peace. Yes, Anchorage is far from family. Yes, this also means saying goodbye to Wyoming, the place I have come to call home over the past seven years. Yes, there is always an element of fear that accompanies most changes in life. But, the Lord and His Church are my home. Wherever I am, the Lord is with me. Someone in the press conference last week asked me how I felt about coming to Alaska. I’m coming to Alaska because this is where the Lord is leading me. That means, to be anywhere else would cause me grief. Wherever He goes, I will follow, and there I will find my home.
I have tried to respond to all of the congratulatory emails, messages, etc, but am sure that I have missed many. Please know of my profound appreciation for your many kind words of encouragement and promises of prayers. I am blessed by each of you. You may all be assured of my prayers in return.