The Diocese of Rockville Centre has been blessed this week with two new auxiliary bishops. One, Robert Brennan, is a native son of Long Island, growing up in Lindenhurst, attending OLPH School, St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School, St. John’s University and being ordained to the priesthood by Bishop McGann after his formation at our Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington. The other, Nelson Perez, was born in Miami of parents who left Cuba less than a year before. He grew up with his family in Northern New Jersey, taught in a Catholic school in Puerto Rico and from there went to St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia to be ordained a priest for that Archdiocese.
Both men are good and holy parish priests. Each has his own gifts and talents. One is 50 and the other 51. They both love their priesthood and the people they have been called to serve as priests. They both will be blessings for our diocese. For me they will be precious colleagues assisting me in the pastoral care of our diocese. I pray they will be as good as bishops as they have been as priests and that they will be good shepherds according to the heart of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
As the principal ordaining bishop, mine is the task of “giving an instruction” to the candidates who were chosen and appointed by the Holy Father who in a very real sense is the one who “sends” them to our local Church, the Diocese of Rockville Centre. In that instruction I am guided by the Word of God for the Feast of St. James the Apostle, the brother of St. John the Evangelist. Their mother’s request to Jesus that her two sons “sit on his right hand and his left in his kingdom” opened up the opportunity for Jesus to instruct His first apostles that they would be called not to seats of honor but to share the cup of His life and death by offering themselves not as Lords but as servants, sent, as was He, not to be served but to serve as He offered His life for our salvation.
The Church expects, and I have full confidence, that these two men are entering wholeheartedly into the episcopacy with that desire in their hearts and that prayer on their lips. They will be good and faithful servants. They will teach what they believe in union with the Holy Father and with all the bishops in communion with him. They will pray for the people and sanctify them through the sacraments and especially through the Eucharist. They will share with me in my pastoral governance of this great Diocese of Rockville Centre where we are one in the Lord. They will be instruments of the Lord to build up the unity of the Church and to help guide us all to belong more deeply to the Lord, His Church and one another. They will enable us to be better witnesses of God’s love that the world so badly needs today, a love that alone can heal even the hearts of those who think they do not need Him.
On your part, you and I are called to welcome them as shepherds and teachers, as bishops with a charge from God expressed through the choice of Pope Benedict XVI who is the universal father of the Church. Pope Benedict and all the bishops in communion with him make up the College of Bishops which is the visible guarantor of the unity and the charity that must be the hallmark of this community of communion. This is a solemn duty incumbent on each and every member of the Body of Christ.
It is the Lord himself who reminded the first apostles, and thus you and me, of their real role given not by men but by the Lord himself. For Jesus is the one who said to them Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me and whoever rejects me rejects the One who sent me.
St. Ignatius of Antioch, who died in the year 107, was the first successor of St. Peter as Bishop of Antioch. Condemned to death, he was sent to Rome, where he would become a martyr, eaten alive by lions in the Coliseum, making himself “pure bread offered to God as an oblation.” As he was transported from his beloved Church in Syria to Rome, he wrote letters to the Churches who sent representatives to support him or with whom he had a special affection. His instructions to those Churches constitutes a precious treasury of the richness of the Church’s life and belief. He was very clear in his description of the local bishop and what the faithful owed to their bishop. I would ask you to make his words to the Asian Church of Magnesia the measure of your response to these two new bishops who come to serve you as successors of the apostles.
As I go about in chains I pray for corporate and spiritual unity of the Churches … It was my privilege to have a glimpse of you in the person of your saintly bishop Damas … and his deacon Zotion who is as deferential to his bishop as he is to the grace of God … For your part the becoming thing for you to do is to take no advantage of your bishop’s lack of years but to show him every possible respect, having regard for the power God has conferred upon him.
Allow nothing whatever to exist among you that could give rise to any divisions; maintain absolute unity with your bishop and leaders as an example to others and a lesson in the avoidance of corruption.
In the same way the Lord was wholly one with the Father, and never acted independently of him,…so you yourselves must never act independently of your bishop and clergy. On no account persuade yourselves that it is right and proper to follow your own private judgment; have a single service of prayer that everyone attends; one united supplication, one mind, one hope in love and innocent joyfulness.
Do your utmost to stand firm in the precepts of the Lord and the Apostles so that everything you do may go prosperously in the Son and the Father and the Spirit … Be submissive to the bishop and to one another as Jesus Christ was to his Father and as the apostles were to Christ and the Father, so that there may be complete unity in the flesh as well as in the Spirit.