Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Episcopal Ordination of Mgr Serge Poitras - Remembering the Holy Bishop, St. John Neumann

The Episcopal Ordination of Serge Patrick Poitras
Feast of St. John the Evangelist—December 27, 2012
St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral, Timmins, ON

[Texts: Isaiah 61:1-3a, 6a, 8b-9; [Psalm 96] 1 John 1.1-4; John 20.2-8]

Dearly beloved,
Consider carefully the particular rank in the Church to which our brother is about to be raised. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was sent by the Father to redeem the human race, himself sent twelve Apostles into the world. They were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel and to sanctify and govern all the peoples gathered into one flock. Moreover, that this office might remain to the end of time, the Apostles chose helpers for themselves.

One of these helpers was John, the Evangelist, whom tradition associates with the disciple Jesus loved, for whose ministry the Church gives praise to God this day. John is described in today's gospel reading as “the one who reposed on the Lord’s bosom at the Last Supper”.

In the Gospel we heard read a few moments ago, the evangelist John tells us that Peter and the Beloved Disciple both ran to the tomb when Mary Magdalene told them that the tomb of Jesus had been discovered empty on Easter mom and they went to see for themselves what had been reported. The disciple Jesus loved outran Peter but deferred to him (as we bishops regularly demur to the presence of the Holy Father, the successor of St. Peter). Then we have the remarkable testimony that the Beloved Disciple saw and believed: the first to come to faith in the Resurrection of Our Lord.

At a critical moment later on, several disciples returned to their favoured pastime of fishing. This was in Galilee and it was there that they encountered the Risen Lord for the third time, amidst their ordinary, every-day lives. On this occasion, too, it was the Beloved Disciple who was the first to recognize the Risen Lord.

We note that the words confessed by the disciple whom Jesus loved on that occasion, “It is the Lord” are akin to those Mgr Poitras has chosen for this episcopal ministry: his motto “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Dominus Jesus Christus) is taken from the closing words of Paul’s beautiful hymn to the incarnate and risen Lord in the epistle to the Philippians. As a bishop, he is called to cling to this foundational expression of our faith—as he did formerly when he taught theology—and continue to live them out in union with Pope Benedict XVI, and united in this confession of faith with all the priests, deacons, pastoral workers and catechists who strive to serve God's people. We pray that our brother who has been called to the office of bishop may prove to be in the Diocese of Timmins a witness to the Risen Lord for the good of the people of God in this northern community.

Through the laying on of hands, by which the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders is conferred, the apostles handed on to their successors the gift of the Holy Spirit, which they had received, from Christ. The tradition handed down from the beginning through the unbroken succession of Bishops is preserved from generation to generation, and the work of the Saviour continues and grows even to our own times. In the Bishop, our Lord Jesus Christ himself, having become High Priest forever, is present among you. For, through the ministry of the Bishop, Christ himself never ceases to proclaim the Gospel and to administer the sacraments of faith to those who believe.

Through the Bishop's exercise of his duty as father, it is Christ who adds new members to his body. Through the Bishop's wisdom and prudence, it is Christ who leads you in your earthly pilgrimage toward eternal happiness. Gladly and gratefully, therefore, welcome our brother whom we, the Bishops, admit into our college by the laying on of hands.

Revere him as a minister of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God. He has been entrusted with the task of bearing witness to the truth of the Gospel, and with the ministry of the Spirit and the ministry of justice. Remember the words Christ spoke to the Apostles: “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the One who sent me”.

And now, dear brother Serge, who have been chosen by the Lord, consider that you are chosen from among men and appointed on their behalf for those things that pertain to God. The title of Bishop is one of service, not of honour, and therefore a Bishop should strive to benefit others rather than lord it over them. Such is the precept of the Master: the greater should behave as the least and the ruler as the servant.

Your call, Mgr Serge, is to take up as Jesus did the mission announced by Isaiah “to herald the good news to the poor”, fulfilling, as Christ himself did, God's mission. It is the mission entrusted to God's servant and described by Isaiah, “to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and release to prisoners, to proclaim the Lord's year of comfort all who give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit”.

The “poor” include all the “little ones”—those of no account—who live on the margins of Church and society, such as the Native peoples; the urban and rural indigent folk; prisoners; the mentally ill; and the homebound infirm and elderly. And so, dear brother, preach the word in season and out of season; reprove with all patience and sound teaching.

As you pray and offer sacrifice for the people committed to your care, devote yourself wholeheartedly to seeking every kind of grace for them from the fullness of Christ's holiness. In the Church be a faithful steward, moderator, and guardian of the mysteries of Christ. As one chosen by the Father to rule over his family, be mindful always of the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep and is known by them, and who did not hesitate to lay down his life for them. Exhort the faithful to work with you in your apostolic labour; do not refuse to listen willingly to them.

Never relax your concern for those not yet gathered into the one fold of Christ; they too are entrusted to you in the Lord. As one who has studied and taught theology strive to understand the culture of our day so as to be able to present the gospel in a credible and effective way to the people of our time and place, especially here in Northern Ontario. Never forget that you are joined to the College of Bishops in the Catholic Church made one by the bond of charity.

Therefore you should have a constant concern for all the Churches and gladly come to the support of Churches in need. And so, keep watch over the whole flock, in which the Holy Spirit appoints you to govern the Church of God: in the name of the Father, whose image you represent in the Church; and in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, whose office of Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd you will discharge; and in the name of the Holy Spirit, who gives life to the Church of Christ and by his power strengthens us in our weakness.

[Photos: courtesy of Mr. Len Gillis, editor, Timmins Times,

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Saintly Archbishop of Philadelphia

Today in the United States, the memorial of St. John Neumann is observed.

On the occasion of St. John Neumann`s canonization (June 19, 1977), Pope Paul VI spoke of his significance as follows:

At the time of John Neumann, America represented new values and new hopes. Bishop Neumann saw these in their relationship to the ultimate, supreme possession to which humanity is destined. With Saint Paul he could testify that “all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3, 22). And with Augustine he knew that our hearts are restless, until they rest in the Lord (S. Augustini, Confessiones, 1, 1).

His love for people was authentic brotherly love. It was real charity: missionary and pastoral charity. It meant that he gave himself to others. Like Jesus the Good Shepherd, he lay down his life for the sheep, for Christ’s flock: to provide for their needs, to lead them to salvation. And today, with the Evangelist, we solemnly proclaim : “There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Io. 15, 13).

John Neumann’s pastoral zeal was manifested in many ways. Through faithful and persevering service, he brought to completion the generosity of his initial act of missionary dedication. He helped children to satisfy their need for truth, their need for Christian doctrine, for the teaching of Jesus in their lives. He did this both by catechetical instruction and by promoting, with relentless energy, the Catholic school system in the United States. And we still remember the words of our late Apostolic Delegate in Washington, the beloved Cardinal Amleto Cicognani: “You Americans”, he said, “possess two great treasures: the Catholic school and the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. Guard them like the apple of your eye” (Cfr. Epistola 2 iunii 1963).

And who can fail to admire all the loving concern that John Neumann showed for God’s people, through his priestly ministry and his pastoral visitations as a Bishop? He deeply loved the Sacramental of Reconciliation: and like a worthy son of Saint Alphonsus he transmitted the pardon and the healing power of the Redeemer into the lives of innumerable sons and daughters of the Church. He was close to the sick; he was at home with the poor; he was a friend to sinners. And today he is the honor of all immigrants, and from the viewpoint of the Beatitudes the symbol of Christian success.

John Neumann bore the image of Christ. He experienced, in his innermost being, the need to proclaim by word and example the wisdom and power of God, and to preach the crucified Christ. And in the Passion of the Lord he found strength and the inspiration of his ministry: Passio Christi conforta me!

The Eucharistic Sacrifice was the center of his life, and constituted for him what the Second Vatican Council would later call “the source and summit of all evangelization” (Presbiterorum Ordinis, 5). With great effectiveness, through the Forty Hours Devotion he helped his parishes become communities of faith and service.

But to accomplish his task, love was necessary. And love meant giving; love meant effort; love meant sacrifice. And in his sacrifice, Bishop Neumann’s service was complete. He led his people along the paths of holiness. He was indeed an effective witness, in his generation, to God’s love for his Church and the world.

There are many who have lived and are still living the divine command of generous love. For love still means giving oneself for others, because Love has come down to humanity; and from humanity love goes back to its divine source! How many men and women make this plan of God the program of their lives!

Our praise goes to the clergy, religious and Catholic laity of America who, in following the Gospel, live according to this plan of sacrifice and service. Saint John Neumann is a true example for all of us in this regard. It is not enough to acquire the good things of the earth, for these can even be dangerous, if they stop or impede our love from rising to its source and reaching its goal. Let us always remember that the greatest and the first commandment is this: “You shall love the Lord your God” (Matth. 22, 36).

True humanism in Christianity. True Christianity--we repeat--is the sacrifice of self for others, because of Christ, because of God. It is shown by signs; it is manifested in deeds. Christianity is sensitive to the suffering and oppression and sorrow of others, to poverty, to all human needs, the first of which is truth.

Our ceremony today is indeed the celebration of holiness. At the same time, it is a prophetic anticipation-for the Church, for the United States, for the world-of a renewal in love: love for God, love for neighbor.

And in this vital charity, beloved sons and daughters, let us go forward together, to build up a real civilization of love.

Saint John Neumann, by the living power of your example and by the intercession of your prayers, help us today and for ever.

* * * * * *

O God, who called the Bishop Saint John Neumann, renowned for his charity and pastoral service, to shepherd your people in America, grant by his intercession that, as we foster the Christian education of youth and are strengthened by the witness of brotherly love, we may constantly increase the family of your Church. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

1 comment:

  1. This is a testament to what it means to become a minister. Thank you for sharing these wonderful insights.