The lives and spirituality of the Redemptorists were woven into the ordination Mass for Bishop Bruce A. Lewandowski, C.Ss.R., a member of the international religious order whose founder told his confrères they should resist honors and any higher episcopal roles.
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore referred to St. Alphonsus Liguori, founder of the order, who was surprised and distressed when Pope Clement XIII named him a bishop in 1762.
“I know that you shared St. Alphonsus’ surprise and hesitancy on being named by Pope Francis as auxiliary bishop of Baltimore,” the archbishop said in his homily just before he laid hands on and ordained Bishop Lewandowski. “I, however, had no hesitancy in recommending you to Pope Francis, for I have seen firsthand that you are a true son of St. Alphonsus Liguori in your missionary zeal and your practical pastoral love for those you serve.”
In the Mass Aug. 18 at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Homeland, the archbishop also recalled St. John Neumann, another Redemptorist, who was ordained to the episcopate a few miles south of the cathedral at St. Alphonsus Church in Baltimore.
After the ordination rite, Archbishop Lori led the new bishop to a chair in the sanctuary that had been used for Bishop Neumann’s ordination in 1852 when he became bishop of Philadelphia.
The archbishop focused on the three-fold role of a bishop to teach, sanctify and shepherd, “a ministry you will share with me and my brother bishops and priests and indeed the whole local church.”
He noted that Bishop Lewandowski will be sent to God’s people as a bishop and teacher.
“Like St. Alphonsus or St. John Neumann, whose mission fields constantly expanded, you will bring the Gospel not only to the spiritual family of your parishes, but indeed to the highways and byways of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and beyond.
“Your preaching will be addressed to everyone without exception, but will resonate in a special way among immigrants struggling to make their way, among those who mourn over their separation from family members and loved ones, among those in economic distress and those who are especially susceptible to illness, among those who are victims of xenophobia and racism,” the archbishop said. “As a Redemptorist, you will awaken in us a newfound love of Jesus, our Redeemer, and call us to a way of life that befits anyone who would be a true missionary disciple.”
Archbishop Lori said a bishop’s responsibility for sanctifying is closely tied to the Eucharist, devotion to which St. John Neumann promoted. He said that as bishop of Philadelphia the future saint “was described as ‘a human dynamo’ – a description that many would say applies to you, Bishop Bruce, as much as to him.”
As shepherds, both St. Alphonsus and St. John Neumann brought the mind and heart of Christ to new believers and drawing people back to the faith and had a special love for the poor.
“It is this kind of shepherding, Bishop Bruce, which is so necessary in our times,” the archbishop said. “That is why Pope Francis urges bishops and priests not to remain in our comfort zone but also to be on the move, encountering and accompanying the people we serve, uniting them to the Lord’s one flock and leading them to the church’s eucharistic heart.”
The archbishop encouraged Bishop Lewandowski to entrust his ministry to the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, an icon of which was entrusted to the Redemptorists in 1866 by Pope Pius IX, who encouraged the order to make her known throughout the world. An icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help was present for the Mass in front of the ambo from which the Scripture was proclaimed.
The choir sang an invocation of the Holy Spirit to begin the rite of ordination.
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Monsignor József Forró represented Pope Francis on behalf of the pope’s representative to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre the apostolic nuncio. In remarks before presenting the mandate of the episcopal appointment from the pope, he said, “Father Bruce has distinguished himself as a priest and a member of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, exercising his pastoral ministry with a shepherd’s heart, especially among immigrants, both in Philadelphia and more recently here in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.”
He recalled that Pope St. John Paul II described St. Alphonsus as a model to be imitated, as a close friend of the people, as a missionary, a bishop and a writer.
The pope said that as a missionary, St. Alphonsus went in search of “the most abandoned souls of the countryside and the rural villages.” … He spoke to the simple in such a way that everyone could understand.
As a bishop, he surrounded himself with the humble and simple.
“The Holy Father has called you to be this type of bishop, assisting Archbishop Lori in his mission, and has every confidence that you will be a true friend to the people of Baltimore, especially to the growing Hispanic community, and that the Holy Spirit, who guided the apostolic ministry of St. Alphonsus, will be the driving force of your ministry,” Monsignor Forró said, before reading the official mandate from Pope Francis.
In the mandate naming Bishop Lewandowski as titular bishop of Croae and auxiliary of Baltimore, the pope said that the church continually looks for suitable shepherds for the flock and that he granted with pleasure the request by Archbishop Lori for another auxiliary bishop to address the pastoral needs of his flock.
“Accordingly, you, Beloved Son, in our judgment are very suitable for undertaking this ministry, inasmuch as you are clearly endowed with the requisite priestly virtues and experience and, thus far, have shown great pastoral zeal,” Pope Francis said in the mandate.
The bishop-designate stood before Archbishop Lori to promise his faithfulness and his resolution to uphold the faith.
He then lay prostrate on the floor of the sanctuary as the choir sang a litany of supplication.
The archbishop and the co-consecrators – Bishop Adam J. Parker, auxiliary of Baltimore, and Bishop John J. McIntyre, auxiliary of Philadelphia – each laid their hands upon Bishop Lewandowski’s head. They then prayed the solemn prayer of consecration as two deacons held open the book of Gospels over his head.
The archbishop anointed Bishop Lewandowski’s head with sacred chrism to signify the final outpouring of the Holy Spirit during the ordination rite.
The bishop then received the Book of the Gospels and the other insignia of his office – a ring, a crosier and a miter.
The archbishop and the dozen bishops present – including Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, archbishop of Newark, N.J., a Redemptorist – then greeted the new bishop with a hug, each one wearing a face mask.
The Mass included elements in English, Spanish and Portuguese, to represent the bishop’s facility in language and ministry. One of the readings was in Spanish, and many of the songs sung by the choir were in both English and Spanish. A hymn after Communion – “Perfieto é Quem te Criou” (“The One Who Made You is Perfect”) – was sung in Portuguese by Mauro Bonifacio, from the Portuguese community in Philadelphia, where Bishop Lewandowski ministered before coming to Baltimore.
About 30 members of the bishop’s family came from Ohio and elsewhere for the Mass, including his older sister, Felician Sister Mary Francis Lewandowski, who read the second reading. His parents and his brother and sister also attended.
Due to coronavirus restrictions, attendance was limited to invited guests only, with about 200 people all told, in a cathedral that would normally have been filled with 1,400 people. All wore face masks and pews were blocked throughout the church to provide appropriate social distance.
The Mass was livestreamed on various platforms in English and Spanish so that those who could not attend in person could participate.
After Communion, Bishop Lewandowski took up his crosier, a simple, gold pastoral staff that was a gift from the Redemptorist Baltimore Province of which he is a member. Wearing his miter and carrying the staff, he processed through the aisles of the cathedral giving his first blessings as a bishop.
He began his remarks after the blessings in Portuguese, and spoke also in English and Spanish.
Referring to the vestments of a bishop, he said he stood there in old clothes, old not in years but in centuries.
“I know that some look to these clothes, these vestments with pride, just as some others do with pain or disdain. I know the clothing, these vestments, open doors and can also cause them to be slammed shut,” the bishop said.
The miter is not meant to be a crown, but to point to heaven or to represent the tongues of fire of the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost. He said the ring was not “bling” but a sign of commitment. The pastoral staff is not a scepter or a gavel.
“I realized today that the pastoral staff is just as much for the pastor as it is for the sheep. It helps to keep balance and to keep us from stumbling and offers us direction, so we don’t stray and get lost,” Bishop Lewandowski said.
He said he got a lot of advice in the last month about how to be a bishop, and much of it could be summed up as, “Just be Bruce.”
Recalling Archbishop Lori’s comment in the homily about St. John Neumann, he said that some of the Redemptorist priests with whom he has served might be able to tell the archbishop “what it’s like to live with a dynamo. It’s not always easy.”
The bishop said that underneath all of the new vestments, “It’s just Bruce.”
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He said under the vestments was a Redemptorist habit “of one who’s more comfortable with poor people than anyone else, the collar of a priest who loves the Eucharist and the sacramental life of the church. …”
“Underneath all of this is a stubborn, strong-willed man who sometimes likes his own ideas too much. And a Polish heart that has a Latin beat,” and a stomach that loves Polish specialties just as much as rice and beans.
“Underneath all this is one who stands with those who suffer and who can’t stand to let anyone suffer alone and one who’s willing to make the struggles of others his own,” Bishop Lewandowski said, getting emotional, as he did during his homily for vespers the night before. “Underneath all this is someone who loves Jesus and would do anything and everything to get others to love him also.
“And so I’m just Bruce, standing here now, a bishop in centuries-old clothes, and we have yet to discover what these clothes on me will mean and do,” he said.
He said he felt humbled to sit in the chair in which Bishop Neumann had sat. Turning to Archbishop Lori, the new bishop said, “You probably didn’t know that I was going to say this, but my one hope is this: To quote the words penned by St. John Neumann on the eve of his own ordination. ‘Dear God, give me holiness.’ And wearing all this, ‘dear God, make me a saint.’”
He thanked his parents, siblings, family and Redemptorist family.
“I don’t know what God will do with my life,” he said in closing. “But I give myself completely and totally to the service of God and God’s people. God, do with me what you will.”
Email Christopher Gunty at editor@CatholicReview.org
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