First week in Ordinary Time

1 October 2014 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — First week in office for Bishop Edgar da Cunha

You know me, dear readers, I’m a great fan of the Church’s calendar of feasts and seasons. So, for your intellectual pleasure, here is a calendar question worthy of “You bet your life” with Groucho Marx. The question is: “When do Catholics celebrate the First Sunday in Ordinary Time?”

Did you answer, “On the First Sunday in Ordinary Time?” Wrong! The correct answer is “never.” The explanation is quite simple. Ordinary Time begins on the Monday after the first Sunday after January 6 (the feast of the Epiphany). In most years, that Sunday is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. In the United States, however, where the celebration of Epiphany is perpetually transferred to a Sunday, if that Sunday happens to be January 7 or 8, Epiphany is celebrated instead. As feasts of Our Lord, the Baptism of the Lord and Epiphany displaces any Sunday in Ordinary Time. Thus the first Sunday in Ordinary Time (not to be mistaken, dear readers, with the First Sunday in Ordinary Time) is the Sunday that falls after the first week of Ordinary Time, which makes it the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time. I am not making this up. Didn’t I tell you the answer was simple?  Alright, I lied. But isn’t the Church calendar fun nonetheless?

Well, there may never be a First Sunday in Ordinary Time, but there is certainly a first Sunday (and a first week, month, and year for that matter) in the calendar of the Ordinary (diocesan bishop.) Bishop Edgar da Cunha was installed as Ordinary of the Diocese of Fall River one week ago today. I have absolutely no idea what was scheduled on his calendar during this first week in office, but I can make an educated guess. As you well know, dear readers, ignorance of the subject has never before prevented me from writing about it. Have no fear, my confidence continues unabated.

I can base my guesses on a week in the life of any new pastor. This I know, having been a new pastor three times, technically four. The only caveat is that a bishop is a pastor of an entire diocese, so his calendar will be multiplied a hundred fold.  But first, the basics. Before a new bishop begins to fill in his schedule, there are certain requirements. 

An Ordinary must live in his diocese most of the calendar year. He doesn’t have to live in the official bishop’s residence or even in the cathedral rectory. Bishop da Cunha could choose to live in Wareham but he is forbidden by Church law to live in the next town over, Rochester. Wareham is in the Diocese of Fall River. Rochester is in the Archdiocese of Boston. The bishop could live on Nantucket if he chooses to do so, but he has the serious responsibility to be present at his cathedral church during the seasons of Lent and Advent, and on the Solemnities of Easter, Christmas, and the Body and Blood of Christ. Besides, his presence in Fall River would frequently be required. Living on Nantucket would mean the bishop would need a helicopter. 

After deciding where he is going to live, he has to move in and unpack, just like the rest of us. For a bishop and for increasing numbers of priests, the residence is separate from the business offices. 

Once the residence and office spaces are determined, there are things that need to be added to the bishop’s calendar immediately — even five years in advance. Bishop da Cunha must report every five years to officials in Rome along with the other bishops of New England. The meeting is next scheduled for 2016. While there, he must meet with the Holy Father and pray at the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul

For a priest, the calendar includes a week of retreat, time for education and formation, and hopefully a bit of vacation time. To that, a bishop needs to add the joint meetings of the regional bishops, the meetings of the U.S. bishops, membership on a committee or two of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and another retreat with the New England bishops.

Then there are the in-house staff meetings; the meetings of various cooperate entities; the Diocesan Pastoral Council meetings; the Diocesan Finance Council meetings; the meetings of the Presbyteral Council; deanery meetings;  clergy and seminarian convocations; meetings with religious; meetings with the Diocesan Board of Consulters;  meetings of the personnel board;  meetings of various diocesan clubs, societies, apostolates, groups, and services — including graduations, banquets, award presentations, and other ceremonies. Add to this trips to visit the diocesan seminarians in their various places of study. Be sure to leave room in the schedule for the bishop to be at priests’ funerals and, if possible, those of the parents of younger priests. 

We come now to the one-on-one meetings that are so much a part of any priest’s daily routine. Unfortunately, I have reached my allotted word limit. (To be continued.)

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

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