Statement by the Bishop: The Most Reverend Steven Lopes
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
At the conclusion of such a beautiful celebration, I invite you to join me in gratitude. We do not pause to thank ourselves, because we know that you and I are not the architects of our worship or our fellowship. Rather we offer thanks and praise to Almighty God, for the privilege of participating in his great work of grace.
We thank God for the communion of the Church, rooted in the communion of the Blessed Trinity Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in which we are bound together by the Spirit’s tether. We thank God for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and for his Spirit-prompted vision of the unity of faith in a diversity of expression which informs the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus. We thank God for our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and for the many ways he is giving this vision concrete expression.
We thank God for men of wisdom and courage like Cardinal William Levada, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, architects of both the Apostolic Constitution and its implementation, and Cardinal Donald Wuerl — America’s catechist — and Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson, who guided the formation of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter in our own country.
We thank God for the men and women of faith, from St. Augustine of Canterbury to our own day, who have helped us respond to the voice of the Lord Jesus, who have enriched the Church with the noble patrimony of English Christianity, who have formed in us a passion for truth, and who have blessed us when that same passion has prompted us to seek the fullness of Catholic communion under the successor of St. Peter the Apostle.
On this night, I give profound thanks to God for the love and support of my family and friends, many of them here tonight. The home is Nazareth, the first school of faith and charity. As I look at the shape of my life and the adventure of my priestly vocation, so much of it comes from the learned faith and boundless love and of my father José, God rest him, and my mother Barbara. Thank God for them.
As this is one of the first times the faithful of our Ordinariate have gathered together from across the United States and Canada in faith and fellowship, we glimpse something of the magnitude of this work. The Spirit of God is indeed stirring hearts, and forging bonds of communion in a world that is too often fractured and divided.
It is indeed a rare privilege for a new bishop to come into a diocese already having a knowledge and rapport with the priests and deacons. Yet, dear brothers, over these years I have, either in person or though my work at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “met” each one of you. Since the announcement of my appointment, journalists, family members and friends have asked me the meaning of my episcopal motto Great are the works of the Lord, and I have resisted telling them because it was something I wanted to share with you first.
Remember several years ago we were together at the clergy assembly in Florida. It was the first time I had the opportunity to meet many of you and put faces to the spiritual autobiographies I had been reading in the dossiers you submitted to Rome. Yours were stories of faith, of courage, of zeal for the Church and for the truth of Sacred Scripture. They were also often stories of sacrifice, suffering, and the anguish of leaving what was familiar and comfortable in order to embark on an unknown and sometimes lonely path towards the fullness of Catholic communion. It was the final Mass of that clergy assembly, and we were sitting together in prayerful silence after Communion. I was looking around the chapel, from face to face, linking those faces to the stories I already knew. Father Lewis, Father Hough, Father Reid, Father Meeks, Father Ousley, and so on. Father Gipson and Father Scharbach weren’t even ordained yet! In that moment, beholding, if you will, that great work of communion manifest in that chapel, I only had one thought. We did not do this. It is the Lord who has accomplished this great work in us, and great are the works of the Lord!
I’ll let the Holy Father have the final word. When I met with Pope Francis to discuss my appointment as your bishop, he was, I must say, very well informed about the Ordinariate. He knew where we had come from, and what we had sacrificed to get here. He was excited not only by the witness of faith and by the vitality we bring to the Church, but he was excited for us since he knows well the great gifts of grace held in store for those who, docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, follow the Lord’s call with conviction. I asked him what message he wanted me to bring back to the faithful and clergy of the Ordinariate and he responded strongly and simply: Avanti! Go forward!
There’s our mandate! Go forward! Preach the Gospel! Show the world that Christian discipleship is indeed joyful and that the communion of the Church is worth committing our lives to! We have a lot of work ahead of us building this Ordinariate and bringing the gifts we have been given to full flower. But we are not afraid, not daunted. For it is the Lord who accomplishes all measure of good in us, and great are the works of the Lord!