Bishop's Column

Thank you for the lessons - I take them with me

Nearly four and a half years ago, on the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on a bright Colorado spring day in May, I was ordained and consecrated a bishop at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

During the rite of ordination, a bishop-elect solemnly promises to proclaim the Gospel, to care for the poor, to teach the truth, and to be a good shepherd. In these past years here in Denver, I’ve learned how to keep these promises. Archbishop Charles Chaput, Archbishop Samuel Aquila, and each of you—priests, deacons and the lay faithful—have been my teachers. You have shaped me and formed me as a bishop. And for this, I will be eternally grateful.

There is one promise, in particular, that has been on my mind lately. During the rite, a bishop promises that he will use his office, his talents and his gifts to build up the body of Christ.

A bishop cannot build up the body of Christ all by himself. He can do so only with the collaboration—the creativity, energy and commitment—of all the members of the Church.

In the past four-plus years I have had the privilege of building up the body of Christ with you.

The Archdiocese of Denver is a unique place. The Church here is very much alive—animated by the good work of new movements and apostolates, of faithful and devout Catholic families, of strong and informed youth and young adults—and of holy, dedicated and hardworking priests. As many of you know, people come from all over the country to serve the Church in Denver—to experience its vitality and its fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church.

Next Tuesday, I will do my civic duty and vote in the morning—and then I will drive from Denver to Lincoln, Neb., where the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI has asked me to serve as the ninth bishop of Lincoln. Lincoln is also a young, dynamic and faithful diocese. But I know that I will take with me the lessons I have learned here in the Archdiocese of Denver—the witness that each of you has given me as laborers together in the Lord’s vineyard.

The richness of the Church in Denver has left its mark on me as a bishop. The fidelity of the Church here has helped me to know and to serve Jesus Christ more faithfully. The friendships I have made have helped make service to Jesus Christ a great joy. I will miss you.

But the Lord has now called me to serve him in a new way in a different portion of his vineyard.

The Lord is asking me to leave the comforts of a familiar place; a place and a people I have come to know and love, and to cast out into deeper waters. To undertake a new ministry where everything, and everyone, is unfamiliar.

Each of us is called to that mission, particularly during this special Year of Faith. We all have a role to play in the new evangelization.

The Lord has called each one of us to the task of building up the body of Christ. Last month the Holy Father challenged us that during this special Year of Faith, every Catholic should go into the “desert of the world” to make disciples, taking only the Gospels. Although this vocation looks different in every life, nonetheless all of us share in the vocation to be a missionary for Christ—every one of us is called to build up the body of Christ.

My confidence and my hope for my ministry is in Jesus Christ—the one who is faithful in all things, and in all places. Each of us should place our confidence in Jesus Christ and seek earnestly to do his will.

For some, the task of the Year of Faith is found in a priestly or religious vocation. For others, it is found in the apostolate of family life. For others, like me, the Lord’s call is to become a teacher, an evangelist and a shepherd in a new place, among a new people. We can know the Lord’s plan for our life if we remain close to him and place our confidence in him through, of course, the powerful intercession of his blessed Mother Mary, the Star of the New Evangelization.

Thank you for the lessons you have given me in the past four years. Thank you for revealing Jesus Christ to me—in your parishes, in your families, in your work and in our friendships. Thank you for seeking the Lord’s will and following it faithfully. Let us remember each other in our prayers and let us commit always to build up the body of Christ together.

Cor ad cor loquitur!

Bishop Conley

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