How is it possible that it is the first anniversary of my installation as Archbishop of Baltimore? It seems as though it were 12 weeks ago, not 12 months, when I gathered with so many friends, old and new, in the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen to ask God’s blessings upon this local Church and upon my service to it.
There are many reasons why this past year has gone by so quickly, at least in my perception. For one thing, the older we get the more quickly time seems to pass. For another, it has been a very busy 12 months. And still another reason is the joy I’ve experienced in beginning my service to this Archdiocese, at once venerable and vibrant.
For purposes of this column, I’ll bracket what the aging process does to one’s perception of time, except to say that my first anniversary nearly coincides with the 36th anniversary of my priestly ordination and my 62nd birthday. During this month of May, dedicated in a special way to Mary, the Mother of God, I give thanks for the gift of life and for the gift of my vocation. I ask her prayers that I might place these gifts at the service of the Gospel with renewed dedication. If you think of it, please join me in that prayer.
And it has indeed been a busy 12 months. Much of this time has been spent trying to get to know a new family of faith. So far I’ve celebrated Mass in about half of the parishes of the Archdiocese and plans are underway for me to visit the remaining parishes in the coming months. I have visited universities, seminaries, high schools and elementary schools, not to mention hospitals and Catholic Charities programs. In my travels, I have met old friends and made new friends. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with the priests, deacons, and pastoral life directors of the Archdiocese, along with so many talented and dedicated people who serve the Church’s mission. Yet, in the words of Robert Frost’s poem, “I have many miles to go before I sleep.”
I also think time has passed so quickly because of the joy I’ve experienced during this first year of my ministry among you. It’s not that I’m oblivious to the problems and challenges that face the Church. They are real and will continue to require of me and of us all our real commitment to Christ and to His Gospel. We are, after all, a family of faith. And like all families, we have our ups and downs, our joys and sorrows, our hopes and dreams. What brings our family of faith such hope and joy, however, is the Person of Christ. In His truth, we come to understand ourselves and our relationship with one another. In the Holy Spirit we are bound together, for all our diversity, to bear witness to Christ and His saving love and to spread the Gospel.
From the very start, I was happy at the thought of beginning my ministry here during the Year of Faith, a time when the Church rededicates herself to the New Evangelization. As we open our hearts more widely to Christ, we see the truth, beauty, and goodness of the Church’s faith with greater clarity and we are given the strength and joy to welcome those who no longer practice their faith, those who are alienated, and those seeking a spiritual home.
As I look ahead, nothing matters more and nothing will bring us all more joy than coming together with the sole goal of knowing Christ and bearing witness to His love. May His truth inflame our charity and may our charity bear witness to His truth.
Thank you for your love and for your kindness. You are daily in my prayers!