First day in Ordinary Time

24 September 2014 — Cathedral Church, Fall River — Installation of the Bishop

Gaudeamus, Dioecesis Riverormensis (Latin for: “Rejoice, Diocese of Fall River!”)! Once again we have an Ordinary.

I personally remember several previous Ordinaries of the Diocese: Bishops James Connolly, Daniel Cronin, Sean O’Malley, and, of course, George Coleman. All I remember of Bishop James Cassidy was the event of his death. I remember the doors of my parish church draped in black bunting. I was five years old. They told me the bishop had died. “What’s a bishop?” I asked. Good question. We’ll come back to it.

I didn’t know Bishops William Stang (1904-1907) or Daniel Feehan (1907-1934). Six out of eight over 110 years — not bad. I also remember Bishop James Gerrard, but he was an auxiliary or assistant bishop of the diocese, not the Ordinary.

 “Ordinary” is the technical term for a bishop entrusted with the oversight of the pastoral care of souls, usually those in a particular geographical area. Bishop Edgar da Cunha, S.D.V., is now responsible for all souls in the cities of Fall River, New Bedford, Taunton, Attleboro and beyond; on Cape Cod and on the Islands. He has this day ceremoniously presented his papal letter of appointment and formally assumed the bishop’s chair in St. Mary’s Cathedral, Fall River. I know because I was there in the crowd today. 

A diocesan Ordinary has power and jurisdiction in the area to which he has been assigned: “This power, which they exercise personally in the name of Christ, is proper, ordinary, and immediate (#27, “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church”). You know me, dear readers, I’m persnickety about the use of words. I find nothing “ordinary” about the office of an Ordinary. The office of diocesan bishop actually requires someone quite extraordinary. Pope Francis (by the grace of God) prayerfully and thoughtfully discerned that the man for us is Bishop da Cunha. 

Bishop da Cunha has now accepted three main responsibilities:

1. To teach: He has become the principal teacher and preacher in our diocese. He must ensure that those delegated to teach and preach in his name (priests, deacons, schoolteachers, catechists, etc.) speak the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth. 

2. To govern: Bishop da Cunha must do his best to meet the material, social, personal and Spiritual needs of our diocese. He is ultimately responsible for recruiting, training, and supplying clergy for our 80 parishes; for the finances of the diocese; and for all other Church patrimony. He has the power to make and enforce Church law relating to worship, preaching, Religious Formation, the administration of the Sacraments, and the safeguarding of faith and morals.

3. To sanctify: Bishop de Cunha is responsible for ensuring that the Sacraments are made available to the faithful, especially Holy Mass on Sundays, solemnities, and major feasts. He is the Ordinary Minister of the Sacrament of Confirmation and as such will visit the parishes of our diocese to administer Confirmation. He also has the authority to ordain priests. Bishop de Cunha belongs to a religious order dedicated to encouraging vocations to the priesthood. After a bishop ordains a priest, he becomes responsible for that priest’s well-being, support, and formation. It is he who shepherds the shepherds. 

 (To be continued…)

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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