Episcopal Ordination of Bishop William Edward Koenig
Diocese of Wilmington
July 13, 2021
We have gathered, dear friends, in a spirit of praise and thanksgiving to ordain and install the Tenth Bishop of Wilmington, William Edward Koenig.
Before I address you, Bishop-elect Koenig, I would like to add a personal word of deepest gratitude to your soon-to-be predecessor and your co-consecrator, Bishop Fran Malooly.
Bishop Malooly, for these past 13 years, you have guided the Church of Wilmington with the love and care of a true shepherd, leading it through a challenging time, bringing renewed hope and joy to all those who make up this local church. Thank you! May God bless and sustain you in continued joyful service for many years to come.
Next to me also is Bishop John Barres, the Bishop of Rockville Centre, and no stranger to the Diocese of Wilmington, having been its Chancellor. Bishop Barres is a co-consecrator of our new bishop as well as the ‘donor-bishop.’
Bishop-elect Koenig served as Vicar for Clergy for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, and prior to that, as the Rector of St. Agnes Cathedral. Thank you, Bishop Barres for making available to the Church of Wilmington a priest so pivotal in the life of your own diocese.
Archbishop Pierre, please convey our collective gratitude to Pope Francis for appointing this wonderful priest, and in our gratitude, we continue to pray for Pope Francis’ swift and complete recovery.
Bishop William E. Koenig
Dear friends, from near and far, I would like now to share a word of encouragement with our newly elected bishop; as I do so, please keep him in your prayers.
For today, he is consecrated as a bishop to serve the whole Church, and specifically, as the shepherd of this historic local church, founded in 1868, a diocese comprising the State of Delaware and nine counties of Maryland.
So, with the love of a brother bishop, I offer you, Bishop-elect Koenig, a reflection based on the Scripture readings you have chosen for this day of grace and joy.
Isaiah 61:1-3 // 1 Tim. 4:12-16
As Jesus began his public ministry, he placed on his lips the words of Isaiah the prophet, words which we heard in our first reading: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.”
Not long before, Jesus had been baptized in the Jordan River where the Spirit of God overshadowed his human nature which he, the Eternal Word, had assumed in the womb of the Virgin Mary.
Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the mission for which his Heavenly Father had sent him into the world, namely, ‘to proclaim the Good News of Salvation to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to prisoners.’
Merely a glance at the Gospels reveals how Jesus went about preaching, healing, forgiving sin, freeing people from all that had enslaved them their whole life long, and then pouring out his life on the Cross in utter self-giving love . . . for ‘dying to destroy our death and rising to restore our life.’
As you contemplate the image of Jesus in the Nazareth synagogue, let St. Paul in our reading from I Tim. interpret for you what Jesus said and did that day, and how Jesus’ words and actions will be incarnate in you, and in your ministry as bishop.
First, recall that Jesus took the scroll of Isaiah and read it aloud in the synagogue. Just so, St. Paul advised Timothy, and now he advises you, to give pride of place in your ministry to the reading, the proclamation of the Word.
You know from shepherding a large parish and serving as Vicar for Clergy, how easy it is to become absorbed in the heavy demands of church administration. Yet, the basis of your episcopal ministry is an evangelizing catechesis – a bold proclamation of the Person of Christ and his mighty deeds of salvation, a proclamation that comes from listening to and absorbing the Word of God, but also from listening like a shepherd to the needs and aspirations of those you serve, thus engaging them in a personal dialog ‘of charity, conversion, truth and salvation.’
This dialog of love embraces, with missionary zeal, the unchurched and the searching, and even those who seem to have hardened their hearts to Christ and the Church. And, as you know so well, the Church’s evangelizing mission cannot be done alone. Rather, you will recognize the gifts of the Spirit among God People, so as to raise up and sustain evangelizers and teachers – ordained, consecrated and lay.
May you be blessed by an abundance of good co-workers, “cooperators in the truth.”
On this day of your episcopal consecration, St. Paul further advises you ‘not to neglect the gift, [the gift of the Spirit], to be conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands . . . .’
Through the imposition of my hands and the hands of your co-consecrators, through the prayer of the Church, a prayer that embodies the prophetic word, and through the anointing with Sacred Chrism, you will be able to say, as did Jesus, “the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me” . . . the Spirit who consecrates you in the truth of Christ & sends you forth to proclaim it.
Amid the unceasing demands of ministry, it is easy for us to become “Pelagian,” that is to say, to rely too heavily on our natural gifts and talents, our energy and good will.
No matter how ‘richly blessed’ one might be with such gifts, it is the gift of the Spirit who transforms you after the image of Christ the High Priest, and it is his power that will sustain you in good days and in bad, in sickness and in health, enabling you to love and cherish the Church you serve, as a bridegroom loves his bride!
Finally, just as Jesus was the measure of his ministry – for he was the Word he proclaimed and the mercy that he lavished – so too, you now hear St. Paul advising you to “set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, faith, love and purity.”
Neither God nor our people are looking to us for wizardry or showmanship, but rather for fidelity and integrity, and to such good purpose that we will oversee the flock of God more by example than by decree.
Imitate the Good Shepherd, who knows and loves his flock, and then you can say with St. Paul, “Be imitators of me.”
Only one who is conformed to Christ by personal prayer and formed in the Beatitudes can accompany with rod and staff those who pass “through the valley of darkness.”
At the end of the day, when you are tired from your labors, when, as part of Compline or Night Prayer, you examine your conscience, always let the voice of the Good Shepherd resonate in your soul, as I know you do.
Hear him asking you, as once he asked Peter, not once, not twice, but three times, “Do you love me?”
Do you love me enough to ‘walk by faith’ as you feed my flock with sound teaching? Do you love me enough to nourish my flock with my Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, and to lavish upon them the mercy which I lavish upon you? Do you love me so much that you recognize me in the poor and the marginalized and the defenseless?
And loving the Good Shepherd, dear brother, you will love his flock, and loving his flock you will attend, not only to the needs of the local Church, but indeed to the unity and vigor of the whole Church, in union with our fellow bishops, united with Pope Francis, Successor of St. Peter and Chief Pastor of the whole Church.
On this day of grace and joy, the hearts and prayers of all your friends are with you, as are the hearts and prayers of those whom you will serve in the years ahead.
May ‘the Spirit of the Lord God be upon you,’ so that you will be that herald, that servant, that steward, that shepherd for which the whole Church longs . . . and may God bless you and keep you always in his love!