My dear Friends in Christ,
I wrote in my first West River Catholic column eight years
ago that I was thrilled to be your bishop. Those sentiments still remain. As I reflected back upon the generosity of God in my life, I wrote about departures being “sweet sorrow” as I took leave from my Davenport community, experiencing the sadness of leaving the “all too familiar” behind — the many friends and loved ones, and the numerous people who have made a great impact in my life and priesthood.
Sorrow is also “sweet” in the sense of the mystery of God’s
immense love and new graces poured out upon us as we respond to his will. I
also wrote that new experiences always bring new graces and new opportunities
to experience the Lord’s love so that we can share his love.
In responding to God’s will, there is both an interior sweetness which deepens our desire for the Lord, and an exterior sweetness or graces which surprise us, supports us, and changes us, drawing us deeper into the mystery of God’s love. So yes, parting is “sweet sorrow” as I now look forward to the many challenges and opportunities awaiting me in the Diocese of Saginaw.
But it is also with a melancholy heart that I share these parting words to all of you. I write them with deep gratitude as I reflect upon these past eight years as the bishop of this diocese. What a tremendous blessing it has been, one which will always remain a part of me!
For any priest or bishop, upon their departure from a parish or diocese, we can always look back upon any assignment with some regrets — things we wish we would have done
differently, but we can’t turn back the hands of time; things we wish we could
have accomplished or completed but were unable to do so because we ran out
time, etc. But I will depart this
beautiful Diocese of Rapid City with very few regrets — only the deepest
gratitude for the many blessings I have received these past eight years. I have
tried to serve with my whole heart, pouring myself into this ministry by living
my motto “No Greater Love” in spite of my human flaws and limitations.
I give thanks and praise to almighty God for allowing me to be a part of your lives in this diocese. What a gift I have received from all of you. My love for you and your support for me has been an expression of God’s love. God often times loves us through the people he places in our lives along our pathway of faith. We are molded by the love, care and concern from others. One of my favorite quotes comes from a French novelist, poet, and journalist. Francois Mauriac wrote, “We are molded and remolded by those who have loved us, and though that love may pass, we remain none the less their work. No love, no friendship can ever cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark upon it forever.”
Thank you for leaving your mark upon me. Thank you for
sharing your lives with me. I have been forever changed. In many tangibles
ways, you (and the Lord) have taught me how to be a bishop and shepherd in my
first episcopal assignment. I will take this formation with me as I begin this
new assignment shepherding the people of the Diocese of Saginaw. But know that
you will not be forgotten. You and the many facets of the Diocese of Rapid City
will always have a place in my heart.
I also hope that I have left my own mark upon you and the Diocese of Rapid City —the love and care of Jesus Christ. I believe that together we have accomplished much these past eight years. We give praise and glory to Christ for all we have been able to do. I leave knowing that the faith of the people of the Diocese of Rapid City is alive and bearing fruit. I leave with much for you to build upon in living the mission of Jesus Christ. Stay
close to Jesus, continuing to seek his will, and he will continue to lead you
to heights beyond your imagination.
I express my sincere thanks and gratitude to our clergy and religious for your vocation and the dedicated service and sacrifices in bringing the presence of Christ, his love and mercy into the world, especially in this challenging time in the church. I have been inspired by your ministry.
The challenges of being a bishop are many and I have tried my best. But I also take leave knowing of my own deficiencies and sinfulness. Love is reflected in seeking and offering forgiveness. If I have offended or hurt any of you in any way, whether knowingly or unknowingly, I am deeply sorry. I apologize and humbly ask your forgiveness.
In conclusion, I thank all of you — the wonderful people of
the Diocese of Rapid City — for your prayers and support over these past eight
years. This departure brings about a big hole in my heart that will remain for a long time. What will also remain though is the great generosity of God experienced in
being your bishop. I cannot thank him enough for “all the great good done for
me. I will raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, (Ps
Allow me to ask one more thing as I take leave. Please continue to pray for me as I will for you. May the Lord send you a new bishop worthy of your love! God bless you all!
Wishing you much peace and love in Christ,