Good afternoon. As I stand before you as the 10th bishop of Wilmington, I am grateful, I am humbled and I am eager.
I am grateful to our Holy Father, Pope Francis, for the trust he has placed in me in calling me to serve the people of God of Wilmington. And may we together continue to pray for our Holy Father’s ongoing recovery from his recent surgery.
I thank you Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States, for your presence here today and for your dedicated service to the church of the United States. While we have not spoken since our phone conversation in April in which you informed me of the Holy Father’s appointment of me as bishop of Wilmington, you have been and will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.
I thank you, Archbishop Lori, the archbishop of Baltimore, the first diocese of the United States, for your support and guidance in helping me prepare for today and for most especially the gift of the episcopacy which you conferred upon me today. I look forward to the ways that we will continue to work together in our province.
I thank my co-consecrators, Bishop John Barres and Bishop Francis Malooly. As many already know, Bishop Barres was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Wilmington and served here as chancellor until he was appointed bishop of Allentown, Pa. In 2016, he was appointed the bishop of the diocese of Rockville Centre, where I was privileged to assist him first as the cathedral rector and then vicar for clergy and learn from his example and guidance.
Thank you for the way you have prepared me to assume the episcopacy.
In turning to my other co-consecrator, Bishop Malooly, I express my gratitude both personally and on behalf of the Diocese of Wilmington. I thank you personally for your warm welcome back at the end of April when we first spoke over the phone and then met in person. In meeting you for the first time, I felt that I was with a longtime friend. I continue to be grateful for your kindness and generous offer of availability. I will be taking you up on your offer of assistance.
Beyond my personal gratitude, I also express the tremendous gratitude of Diocese of Wilmington for your episcopal leadership over these past 13 years. Your steady, faith-filled leadership has been a tremendous gift to our diocese and for this we are forever grateful.
As I turn to Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington, D.C., and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, words cannot express my thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedules to be here today.
I look forward to working with you Cardinal Gregory and the bishops of the Maryland conference.
And while I am I will no longer be a short train ride from St. Patrick’s, Cardinal Dolan’s cathedral, I am hopeful that Cardinal Dolan will be able to do something in his metropolitan see to clear traffic as I go through NYC en route to visiting family on Long Island.
To those men whom I am privileged to call now my brother bishops I thank you for being here. Your fraternal support and example mean so much to me and our diocese.
I thank Archbishop Christopher Cardone of the Solomon Islands who, like me grew up and has family on Long Island. I thank Archbishop Nelson Perez of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who I first got to know when he was an auxiliary bishop in RVC and whose friendship and physical proximity I greatly appreciate.
I thank the Ukrainian Archeparch of Philadelphia, Boris Gudziak. I thank the bishops of our Province: Bishop Mark Brennan of Wheeling-Charleston, Bishop Michael Burbidge, the ordinary of the Diocese of Arlington and Bishop Paul Loverde, bishop emeritus of Arlington, Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond and the auxiliary bishops of Baltimore — Bruce Lewandowski and Denis Madden. I thank Bishop Edward Cullen, bishop emeritus of Allentown. I thank the bishops of New Jersey, Bishop Dennis Sullivan of Camden, Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen and Bishop Kevin Sweeney, whose ordination and installation as bishop of Patterson I attended a little over a year ago.
I thank Bishop William Murphy, bishop emeritus of Rockville Centre, for his guidance and support over the years that I served under his leadership. I thank those bishops who served as priests with me in Rockville Centre and are now bishops in other dioceses: Bishop Robert Brennan of Columbus Ohio, Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston, S.C., and Bishop Peter Libasci of Manchester, New Hampshire. I thank the bishops of the Archdiocese of New York and Brooklyn: Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, the ordinary of the great Diocese of Brooklyn, the diocese in which I was baptized, and Bishop James Massa, auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn and rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie and Bishop Edmund Whalen of New York with whom I attended the college seminary.
And I thank the auxiliary bishops of RVC with whom I was privileged to serve: Bishop Robert Coyle, Bishop Luis Fernandez, Bishop Richard Henning, Bishop Andrzej Zglejszewski and Bishop John Dunne. I thank the auxiliary bishops of Philadelphia, Bishops Michael Fitzgerald and John Mclntyre. Your presence and prayers today mean so much to me and the church of Wilmington.
Please also know of my gratitude to the two priests who accompanied me into the church today. Msgr. John Martin was my first pastor as a newly ordained priest. His guidance and friendship over these years have been a tremendous blessing. Father Eric Fasano is the vicar general of Rockville Centre and our working together goes back to the early 2000s when he was assigned as a newly ordained to the parish where I was pastor. Father Robert Whelan, who carried in my miter is a classmate and for him and my other nine classmates from Brooklyn and Rockville Centre, most of whom are here today, I am so very grateful. Msgrs. Thomas Harold and Frank Caldwell, who carried in my crozier and episcopal ring, are good friends, great examples of pastoral charity and certainly keep me on my toes.
To my family who are with me today physically as well as through television, I am very thankful. While both of my parents are deceased, I know that they are looking down on me today with their supportive and prayerful love. My gratitude goes toward my two brothers, sister-in-law and the members of my family in not only for being with me today but for all the ways that you have been with me over these years. It is also good to know that you are all only a phone call away. Please do not change your phone number.
To my priest friends from Rockville Centre and elsewhere, my friends from my high school and college years and their incredible wives as well as members of those parishes in which I have served – I thank you for your encouragement, your example, your faith and your goodness.
And lastly, I thank those responsible for today’s liturgy. The ordination committee which was headed up by Msgr. Steven Hurley, the vicar general of the diocese and consisted of Fathers Norm Carroll, Glenn Evers, Jim Kirk and Joe McQuaide as well as Michael Connelly, Sheryl Cook, Joseph Corsini, Louis DeAngelo, Kelly Donahue and Bob Krebs. You did an incredible job.
Usually when it comes to sacramental and liturgical celebrations, you take out the notes on how you did it last time and you have a pretty good idea of how you will do it this time. If truth be told, sometimes it seems we only need to change the date on the program and we are good to go. Since, however, there has not been an episcopal ordination in Wilmington in over 100 years, you did not have that option. But it is evident that it did not matter a bit — you covered every detail so, so well and thank you. (And, by the way, once we leave here today, you should take the rest of the day off.)
I am grateful to today’s liturgical ministers: our deacons and masters of ceremony, our readers, servers, ushers and gift bearers. I especially thank our music ministers and ordination choir under the directorship of the very talented David John lfkovits. While St. Augustine tells us that singing is praying twice, I would suggest that the beauty of your music enabled us to pray fourfold. Thank you!
While much of my remarks this afternoon are words of thanks, I also wish to express how humbled and eager I am by this call to serve the people of God of Wilmington.
First, a word on being humbled: One way of understanding the Diocese of Wilmington is through its demographics: it was established as a diocese in 1868, it is comprised of the state of Delaware and the nine counties of Eastern Shore of Maryland, it consists of over 245,000 Catholics. Over the past several months, however, as I have heard and read the stories about the founding of the diocese and learned more about the parishes of the diocese, I have come to know the Diocese of Wilmington that goes far beyond the demographics. I have come to know it as a place of faith, hope and love. I have come to know this through the story of how a parish was founded, or a mission begun by a religious order, or a school to educate and form our young built. I have come to learn this by reading of the ways that the hungry are fed, the stranger welcomed, the Gospel of Life proclaimed.
And whether it was one of those stories or one of countless others, it is this picture of the Diocese of Wilmington that humbles me. For is it is a picture of what the First Letter of Peter says is a spiritual house that is built of living stones. You, the faithful of Wilmington, and those who have gone before us are those living stones.
And I am humbled by and grateful for the call to join you as we together continue to form this spiritual house.
Secondly, a word on being eager: I look at who we are and look eagerly at what we together can do. I look to the presbyterate who make up the Diocese of Wilmington and the ways that you have faithfully served the needs of God’s people in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. As a member now of this presbyterate, I look forward to praying with you, learning from you, working with you and building up God’s Kingdom with you. Please be patient with me as I learn my way around our diocese. And, most importantly, let us together discover the treasures that God has in store for us.
In addition to the presbyterate, I am very conscious of the great gift in the diocese of men and women religious. I thank you for your various ministries and the witness of your very lives in living lives of poverty, chastity and obedience. Your dedication and witness have helped shape who we are today.
On behalf of all of us, I would ask those men and women religious who are here today to please stand so we may recognize you. Thank you and may God continue to bless you.
And lastly, I think of the majority of those who make up the Body of Christ in Wilmington — the over 240,000 men and women, teens and children who are baptized into the life of Jesus Christ and are members of the 56 parishes of our diocese. I am conscious of the great diversity of your gifts and talents, of your generosity and unsung service.
Mindful of who we are as clergy, consecrated religious and faith-filled laity, I eagerly think of what we can do together. Through our baptism into the new life of Jesus Christ, we have been given a common mission — to be messengers of God’s love for all, to bring the Light of Christ to others, to preach the good news in word and deed. And it is toward this that I most eagerly look.
One of the intercessions in the Liturgy of the Hours that we pray at morning prayer on the second Tuesday voices it well. It simply asks of God: “Make our light shine so brightly before others that seeing our good works they may give glory to the Father.” That is my prayer and my hope this day.
As I go forth today as thankful, humbled and eager, I invite us to look to the Blessed Mother, the Model of the Church, as the one who listened most perfectly to God’s word and said yes to God’s will in her life. May we, like her, say in word and deed, “My soul proclaims the greatness of God, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Yes, my dear brothers and sisters, God is great. May you and I, may we together as the church, under the patronage of the Blessed Mother, proclaim the greatness of God. May our light shine so brightly before others that seeing our good works, they may give glory to the Father.
These remarks were delivered by Bishop William E. Koenig at the conclusion of his installation and ordination July 13.