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Hear Cardinal Cupich’s homily
Cardinal Blase Cupich
25th Anniversary of his Episcopal Ordination
September 22, 2023
I want my first words to be of thanks to Bishop Peter for inviting me and having the staff of the past as well as the present be involved in planning of our gathering here today. It’s so wonderful that this could be done in a way that brings people together. I want to assure you Bishop Peter of my prayers for your continued good health as you progress.
And we have, as you know, our good friend Bishop Biegler who really was the one that I left in 2010, we handed off the completion of redoing of this wonderful property of the sisters, and we owe him a great deal of gratitude for his service. So thank you Bishop Biegler for all that you’ve done. Although I have to say that I really don’t know how to take him sometimes. I mentioned to him that the miter that I am using here this evening was the very same one that I had 25 years ago when I was ordained a Bishop, and he said, “I’m surprised it still fits.” We’ll talk later.
You can imagine that there are many memories, fond memories, that are rolling through my mind as I look out and over the congregation here. Those thoughts turn especially to the Benedictine Sisters who were so generous to the diocese and making it possible for this diocese to continue with this property and this holy ground. Not only to have a retreat center but a wonderful school that will educate so many young people. It was because of Sr. Lorrane’s leadership, who read the second reading for us today, we were able to do that. Thanks very much to the Benedictine Sisters for the years of service here in western South Dakota.
And I see a number of priests who are here, the Jesuits as well as the diocesan priests. When I came here 25 years ago Msgr. Woster was the administrator and he said to me, “you know there are only 32 priests.” And so, I looked at him and said, “well now we’re 33.” I’ve always felt very close to the brothers here that serve so well, sometimes in very difficult situations. They are assisted by a wonderful group of deacons and their wives as they carry on the leadership within the Church here in western South Dakota. It really is something. I was so pleased to see so many of them here today.
And then we have, of course, people from the Chancery Office who worked with me over the years who really helped make sure that things were going right beyond whatever lack of talent that I had; that would stepped forward to do things in such a way that made the flow of work and outreach to parishes so very easy.
I see here as well people who have supported the diocese in ways that allow us to have strong Newman centers, that also helped in schools and education, with the building of the Casa Maria — the retirement home, here at Terra Santa as well. All the efforts that went into having this wonderful diocese do so much with so little per capita in a way that people have been generous. It is unparalleled within the church in this country. That’s something that you should all be very proud of.
And of course my own experience with the native people. They have been really dear to my heart and I’m so glad to see a good number of you here today. You have taught me so much about the spiritual life from your own experience as Catholic believers. I tell people all the time, for you, the curtain between time and eternity is much thinner than it is for people in western culture. You help us understand the world, the spirit world, in a way that is I think very enlightening for all of us and something that I will always be indebted to.
So today I look out over this community, this congregation, with great thanks. I know that you would also want me to mention that there are people outside of the diocese here in Rapid City that have helped, and the ones that come to mind so very easy for all of us are those of Catholic Extension. We’re glad to have Fr. Jack Wall here and some of his staff here — who really for more than 100 years — have helped build churches and different chapels and ways in which this diocese has been able to prosper. So, to you Fr. Jack, thank you for your own contribution and the work that you do in Catholic Extension. We’re very grateful.
The readings that we have this evening were the very same ones that we had 25 years ago when I was installed as your bishop. I chose the Gospel in particular because it fit my motto “Peace be with you,” the first words of the Risen Lord. I think it’s important for us, especially in this time in which we experience the leadership of Pope Francis, who is emphasizing how Christ the Risen Lord is present in our midst, to really take those words to heart. That the Lord is present. He’s alive.
I’ve always said that if I had scripted or choreographed the Resurrection, I may have done it differently. I would have had Jesus show up at Herod’s house or pilot’s porch and made the biggest “I told you so” in the history of humanity. But I think that was too much Hollywood for Jesus. Instead, we see in this wonderful text for us this evening from the Gospel of John, that Jesus gives us an understanding of what it means for him to rise from the dead. It’s not just a personal vindication over his enemies, but rather his rising from the dead is to come back to commission us to go into the world and bring about the salvation that God intends in bringing the whole of humanity together. Especially through the forgiveness of sins. And it is that Risen Lord who was present in our time and working in our midst today.
Unfortunately, when we take surveys of people today, especially young people, the sense of who Jesus is, is a passive individual, a great prophet of the past. Something like Aristotle or a great teacher of the past. But what is central to our faith, that we need to recapture in this time in which we want the new evangelization of God’s people, is that Jesus the Risen Lord who is leading us, his spirit who’s given to each of us in our own Baptism.
In a particular way in these years of the Holy Father’s leadership, we have taken on two great initiatives. The first is, of course, the Synod that’s coming up in October. I’ll be leaving on Wednesday to participate in that which will be a month-long process. The Synod is quite simply this, it’s about the Holy Father telling us, as we heard in the second reading today, that each one of us has been gifted with the Holy Spirit for the upbuilding of the Church. What do we need to do in a way that organize ourselves, the way we operate, the way we make decisions, to in fact give people confidence that the Holy Spirit is alive in each one of our hearts and that Christ speaks to the Church through each one of us, and that we need to be attentive to that.
Here in this diocese that has been something I believe has been very present in what I have seen in the 12 years that I was here. People really do believe that the Lord is calling them to take responsibility for the life of the Church. You did that during the years in which the campaign for this wonderful facility took place. People stepped forward and made a real pledge and obligation because they felt responsible. They felt the Lord was calling them. Keep that sense alive because the rest of the Church can learn from what is taking place here as we take up the work of the Synod.
Also, we are taking up in these days a Eucharistic Revival. What is important for us to keep in mind is that Jesus didn’t come back from the dead to make a cameo appearance. The Eucharist is not just popping into our lives at a certain moment during Mass in which we get an audience with Jesus, but rather Jesus comes into our midst to take us to the Cross so that we can take up whatever challenge that we have in life because in fact he has conquered death. We should never be afraid to take whatever challenges are before us, because he leads us in the Eucharist as he is with us — drags us by the hand — so that we can go out in the world and make a difference. And we should always have the courage to do so. That is why I chose the motto, “Peace to be with you,” because I believe that so very deeply. That Jesus is the Risen Lord who is alive who is alive right now, in our midst, who speaks to each one of us. It’s important for us to take that responsibility of bringing about the salvation of the world.
So, I’m very pleased to be with you here this evening. I was telling people in 2002 when we had the Centennial of the Diocese, and we also had the Synod, and we had a campaign going on to help the school, and all sorts of things all in one year, that I was thinking of changing my motto. It was, “Peace be with you.” I was thinking of using that phrase from Paul’s letter to the Galatians, “How could you be so stupid?” But that year taught me that this community of faith here in western South Dakota is so strong and resilient. No matter what challenge comes your way, no matter what obstacles seem to be there (you are) passing on the faith onto the next generation. You’re ready to take up that task. You’re ready to allow the Lord Jesus to lead you forward, because you’re confident that he’s with you every step of the way, and that by his cross he has conquered all death.
So it’s a great pleasure to be here with you today to just recover once again the ministry that I had here that has so enriched my life. I am a better bishop today having served here, as well as Spokane and now in Chicago, because of what you taught me and what I learned here from you and that is why I once again say not only thank you but congratulations to you for these past 25 years because you have contributed so much to my life. Thank you.
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