Before this day ends, I would like to share a few thoughts.
Since Monday evening, the priests of Alaska along with the bishops have gathered here in Anchorage for our annual convocation. I am tremendously impressed with the selfless dedication of these men. These priests serve an area twice the size of Texas, or 16% of the lower 48 states! For example, for a priest in the Archdiocese of Anchorage who covers the parish in Dutch Harbor at the end of the Aleutian Island Chain, it is a three and a half hour plane ride to get there. That round trip plane ticket runs about $1,000.00.
Similar scenarios are likewise the case for the Fairbanks Diocese. Take a hard look at this photo, and realize the small number of priests, the size of the territory they serve, and then think about their dedication. I’m amazed and grateful!
Beyond Alaska, there was another great moment in the Church today, as my successor in Cheyenne was named. I wish to congratulation Bishop-Elect Steven Biegler from Rapid City, South Dakota, the Ninth Bishop of Cheyenne.
Bishop-Elect Biegler was a contemporary of mine in the seminary at the North American College in Rome. He is a humble, prayerful, holy priest, now bishop. Quick with a smile and a delightful laugh, equipped with tremendous administrative skills – and most importantly, a pastor at heart, he will serve the people of Cheyenne generously and well.
(Notice, he already has the “Diocesan Haircut!)
Cheyenne, you will quickly fall in love with your new shepherd, and he will return that love in a very genuine manner. This is a Providential match, and a clear sign that Holy Mother Church is indeed providing shepherds after the heart of Jesus Christ.
I am particularly grateful to our new Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre for the great work he is doing, and his own sensitivity and dedication to fill these episcopal vacancies in a timely fashion.
Finally, I returned home to my apartment this evening after a lovely evening with my brother bishops here in Alaska. I am truly blessed with such great fraternal support. Archbishop Schwietz, the Archbishop Emeritus of Anchorage and Bishop Chad Zielinski of Fairbanks are true gentlemen and generous servants of the People of God, and it is rejuvenating to spend time with them.
Beyond that, Bishop Zielinski is a pretty good cook as well! We enjoyed some great conversation during the dinner preparation and throughout our meal. After dinner, we prayed Evening Prayer together, praying for the people entrusted to our care, for the new Bishop of Cheyenne, and for the Bishop yet-to-be-named for Juneau.
God is good!
My dear friends, please pray for your priests and bishops, and know of our prayers for all of you. Please pray for those whom God is continuing to call to serve the Church as priests and religious. As Jesus said: “The harvest is plenty, but the laborers are few.”