Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"We Are With You" – "In Unsettled Times," US Bench Makes Fresh Call to Immigrants, Refugees

Amid a roiled political environment – and capping off a remarkable across-the-board protest of President Trump's signature policy commitment – the top leadership of the US bishops has used its first meeting of the year in Washington to issue a significant call that "It is necessary to safeguard the United States in a manner that does not cause us to lose our humanity."

As reports around the country indicate a broad spike in arrests and detainments by federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, and with the new administration's ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries stalled in the courts, the statement from the USCCB Administrative Committee' signals a further doubling-down of advocacy for the undocumented and at-risk refugees on the part of the nation's largest religious body, which has spent recent months ramping up numerous local initiatives ranging from very public prayer services in solidarity to programs informing parishioners of their rights and how to respond should they find themselves or their families targeted.

Comprised of all the bench's committee chairs and other prelates representing the US church's 15 regions, the 30-man Administrative meets four times a year, but only twice outside the June and November plenary sessions of the whole 270-member conference. In that light, a statement from the Admin is understood as representing the mind of the entire body of bishops.

Adding to its significance, this week's discussions at the DC Mothership marked the top board's first gathering led by the new conference executive, Houston's Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles (top left), whose historic election as the bench's president and vice-president days after the White House vote was widely seen as a sign of the church's resolve on the immigration front in the face of the campaign season's scorching rhetoric on the issue.

With that context in mind, here's the entire Admin statement – billed as a "pastoral reflection" bearing the title "Living as a People of God in Unsettled Times":
The word of God is truly alive today. "When an alien resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt" (Lev. 19:33-34).

To live as a people of God is to live in the hope of the resurrection. To live in Christ is to draw upon the limitless love of Jesus to fortify us against the temptation of fear. Pray that our engagement in the debate over immigration and refugee issues may bring peace and comfort to those most affected by current and proposed national policy changes.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that behind every policy is the story of a person in search of a better life. They may be an immigrant or refugee family sacrificing so that their children might have a brighter future. As shepherds of a pilgrim Church, we will not tire in saying to families who have the courage to set out from their despair onto the road of hope: "We are with you." They may also be a family seeking security from an increased threat of extremist violence. It is necessary to safeguard the United States in a manner that does not cause us to lose our humanity.

Intense debate is essential to healthy democracy, but the rhetoric of fear does not serve us well. When we look at one another do we see with the heart of Jesus? Within our diverse backgrounds are found common dreams for our children. Hope in the next generation is how the nation will realize its founding motto, "out of many, one." In doing so, we will also realize God's hope for all His children: that we would see each other as valued sisters and brothers regardless of race, religion or national origin.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh (Jn. 1:14), strengthens us to bring our words to life. How might we, as Catholics and in our own small way, bring our words of solidarity for migrants and refugees to life?

1. Pray for an end to the root causes of violent hatred that force mothers and fathers to flee the only home they may have known in search of economic and physical security for their children.

2. Meet with members of your parish who are newcomers, listen to their story and share your own. Hundreds of Catholic parishes across the country have programs for immigrants and refugees both to comfort them and to help them know their rights. It is also important to reach out in loving dialogue to those who may disagree with us. The more we come to understand each other's concerns the better we can serve one another. Together, we are one body in Christ.

3. Call, write or visit your elected representative and ask them to fix our broken immigration system in a way that safeguards both our security and our humanity through a generous opportunity for legal immigration.

As Pope Francis said, "To migrate is the expression of that inherent desire for the happiness proper to every human being, a happiness that is to be sought and pursued. For us Christians, all human life is an itinerant journey towards our heavenly homeland."
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Friday, March 17, 2017

Irish or Not, Happy Indult Day

And on this third Friday of Lent, Top o' the Mornin' and Beannachtai la Fhéile – a blessed feast... at least, across most of the Stateside church.

Given the state of the discourse these days, it shouldn't come as a surprise that some folks have seen fit to scream about a sandwich. By and large, though, this year's edition of The Corned Beef Indult™ brought a record amount of consensus to St Paddy's table, with fully two-thirds of the US' 179 dioceses granting a deviation from Lenten abstinence for today's celebrations of the Apostle of Ireland.

Updated into this morning as the stragglers roll in, for the convenience of the faithful the full Master List of the dispensed is below. That said, as the overwhelming bulk of permissions come with the stipulation or encouragement that another sacrifice be substituted instead of avoiding meat, those who plan to partake are advised to check their local church's website/social media for the specific conditions that apply.

Again, to one and all, however you celebrate (or not), here's to a day of grace... and to everyone who pitched in on compiling The List, Go raibh míle maith agat – a thousand thanks.
For the commemoration of St Patrick, 17 March 2017, the following local churches are generally dispensed or granted commutation from Lenten abstinence by act of the respective (arch)bishop or the proper solemnity of the diocesan patron – conditions/substitions may vary by jurisdiction:

All dioceses of Wisconsin and Georgia (by common action)

Archdioceses of Anchorage, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dubuque, Galveston-Houston, Hartford, Indianapolis, Kansas City in Kansas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, The Military Services USA, Mobile, Newark, New Orleans, New York, Omaha, Philadelphia, Saint Paul and Minneapolis, San Antonio, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC

Dioceses of Albany, Allentown, Arlington, Austin, Baton Rouge, Beaumont, Belleville, Birmingham, Boise, Bridgeport, Brooklyn, Brownsville, Buffalo, Burlington, Camden, Charleston, Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Corpus Christi, Covington, Dallas, Davenport, Des Moines, Duluth, Erie, Fall River, Fargo, Fort Wayne-South Bend, Fort Worth, Fresno, Gary, Gaylord, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Honolulu, Jackson, Jefferson City, Joliet, Juneau, Kalamazoo, Kansas City-St Joseph, Knoxville, Lafayette (La.), Las Cruces, Las Vegas, Lexington, Manchester, Memphis, Metuchen, Nashville, Norwich, Oakland, Ogdensburg, Owensboro, Palm Beach, Paterson, Peoria, Pensacola-Tallahassee, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland (Maine), Providence, Raleigh, Rochester, Rockford, Rockville Centre, Sacramento, St Augustine, St Cloud, St Petersburg, San Bernardino, San Diego, Scranton, Spokane, Springfield (Mass.), Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Steubenville, Stockton, Syracuse, Toledo, Tucson, Tyler, Venice (Florida), Victoria, Wheeling-Charleston, Wilmington, Winona, Worcester, Yakima, Youngstown
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Thursday, March 16, 2017

For Wyoming, A Border Bishop – In "Rapid" Move, Cheyenne Nabs Its Neighbor

(Updated with press conference video.)

When one senior American prelate recently termed the new Nuncio to Washington "a real Speedy Gonzalez" on the appointments front, he wasn't kidding – even if Archbishop Christophe Pierre's prior assignment ostensibly went forgotten in the moment.

As fresh proof of a striking acceleration on the Stateside files since Pierre's Border-crossing last summer, Roman Noon this Thursday brings quite the "speedy" surprise: after a vacancy of just over five months, the Pope has named Fr Steve Biegler, 58 next week – until now vicar-general of Rapid City and Rector of Western South Dakota's Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help – as the ninth bishop of Cheyenne: Wyoming's statewide diocese of 60,000 members, spread across almost 100,000 square miles.

Once described in the same breath as "low-key [and] super-organized" and elsewhere as "humble with a quick smile," the bishop-elect – one of 13 children born onto his family's ranch – succeeds now-Archbishop Paul Etienne, who earned sky-high marks among the Cowboy State's priests and people before being quickly promoted to Anchorage last October. While Biegler's Indiana-born predecessor famously reveled in the outdoorsman's paradise that came with the Wyoming post, the incoming bishop is quite possibly even better adapted to his new turf given the proximity of the move; located along the far edge of the SoDak's "West River" half, Rapid City is only some 30 miles from the eastern border of the Cheyenne church.

Ordained from the Pontifical North American College in 1993 at age 34 (after several years spent working on the family farm), until becoming the diocese's #2 in 2011, Biegler spent his priesthood in full-time ministry as a pastor and school chaplain with two exceptions: a three-year return to the NAC as its pastoral formation chief (2003-6) and his election from the trenches in 2010 as diocesan administrator of Rapid City – one of the nation's smallest and poorest local churches – amid a yearlong vacancy in the bishop's office.

The latter instance is especially notable in this case, as Biegler became administrator in the wake of then-Bishop Blase Cupich's departure for Spokane. Now a cardinal-member of the Congregation for Bishops – and, from that seat, the linchpin figure on practically any move in the American West – Cupich would've enjoyed a considerable amount of "steering clout" on the Wyoming nod. Along the same lines, that Etienne was a year ahead of his now-successor at the NAC is likewise something one shouldn't easily discount.

According to the Rapid Chancery, Biegler's ordination and installation in Cheyenne is set for June 5th.

Upon today's move, six Stateside Latin church sees remain vacant, another four led by (arch)bishops serving past the retirement age.

On the broader front, with the recent openings in three million-member dioceses now put to bed, in terms of prominence the current diocesan docket is led by the Pope's impending picks for Indianapolis and Cleveland, both of which are said to be gathering steam and likely to come in relatively short order.

That said, however, given the relatively small number of current diocesan vacancies, the focus and energy-level of the Stateside files is quickly shifting toward resolving the massive backlog of requests for auxiliary bishops from coast to coast, many of which have been piled up for two years or more. With roughly a dozen of the slots already filled over the last several months, it is likely that at least some 20 more assistant hats will be named over the coming year – a development which won't merely have ramifications in their respective dioceses, but above all on the shape of the (voting) membership of the conference of bishops, thus securing Francis' stamp on the church's national leadership and direction for the next decade and beyond.

SVILUPPO: And here, via Cheyenne's diocesan Facebook – in the relaxed style unique to the rural West on occasions like these – this morning's presser introducing the Ninth Bishop to his new charge....



Alas, no tales involving power tools this time.... Then again, given the burden that comes with the call, it could be said that just once was enough.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Pontificatus Nostro Quinto


“And Jesus came into the quarters of Caesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?

But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am?

Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.

And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven.

And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven....
...just so we're clear, did He miss something?

With this stuff, see, it always helps to remember where to start.

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Monday, March 06, 2017

Where's the (Licit) Beef? – Amid St Pat's (Fri)Day, The Indult Desk Is Open

(SVILUPPO: Following its most recent update, the Master List now comprises a record 120-plus US dioceses – fully two-thirds of the nation's Latin-church sees.)

Just because it's Lent doesn't mean there isn't some fun to be had... and in that light, this edition of the 40 Days just so happens to bring a long-awaited return to one of this shop's favorite exercises.

Eleven years ago, among the first splashes made here was a national take on what came to be termed the The Corned Beef Indult – that is, the dispensation granted by a diocesan bishop so the Irish faithful can enjoy the patronal sandwich with a clear conscience when St Patrick's Day falls on a Lenten Friday, thus pitting the feast against the obligatory abstinence from meat.

This year marks the first collision of the two observances since, and in most cases the announcements are just beginning to bubble up, numbering over 40 so far. As history goes, in 2006 the general permission was given by nearly half of the nation's 179 Latin-church jurisdictions.

In any case, this is indeed a thing – if you will, the "Amoris Wars" for the non-chattering class (just without the invective). That the story takes on a life of its own in local media and over dinner tables is a sound testimony to two linchpin realities an "anger first" discourse seems to easily forget: first, that the identity-marker of "Fish Fridays" holds an enduring place among the faithful, with the practice maintained by close to a supermajority of American Catholicism's 70 million souls (per CARA figures)... even more significantly, meanwhile, it just goes to show again that when it comes to widespread fascination with this faith, nothing beats even the relatively minor elements of the Catholic imagination (however much Dan Brown may try).

Before going into this edition's master list of dispensed dioceses, a couple pieces of context bear recalling.

First, in those places where the Apostle of Ireland is the patron of the diocese or of the parish church, within said territory Paddymas ranks as a proper solemnity, thus exempting the obligatory abstinence from meat by the law itself. Among other examples, this is the case in New York, and was clarified as such by Cardinal Timothy Dolan in a late January letter to his priests.

To be fully specific, that general rule only applies where Patrick is patron of the diocese, not diocese-wide where he's patron of the cathedral – unless his diocesan patronal status is likewise formally in place, the cathedral's name-day only ranks as a proper feast and mandatory abstinence remains intact. (In another related instance, as St Joseph's Day and Annunciation are universal solemnities, abstinence is not observed across the Catholic world whenever March 19th or 25th fall on a Friday.)

Second, even as the bulk of the 70 million Stateside faithful will likely get the green light at the diocesan level owing to large-scale Irish populations and simple concern for the welfare of souls, it bears recalling that – in cases where a diocesan indult hasn't been granted – pastors of parishes may dispense their own people from avoiding meat given "just cause" as with any Lenten Friday; this is usually done on an individual basis by request (for example, for a parishioner attending a wedding rehearsal dinner with meat on the menu).

Just to name three, Detroit, Portland (Oregon) and Salt Lake have gone that route this year in lieu of the blanket indult, while the diocese of Trenton and archdiocese of St Louis are only granting the permissions to functions held on church property (for the latter, a notably more restrictive stance than then-Archbishop Raymond Burke took there last time). Elsewhere, keeping with their shared reputation for seeking to bolster an ironclad Catholic identity, the archdiocese of Denver and diocese of Lincoln are the lone US sees to have publicly denied granting a broad dispensation.

Thirdly, to be clear, nobody's getting off scot-free regardless of local policy – in each instance where the indult's been granted, the move is accompanied by a pro forma encouragement (albeit not an order) that abstinence should either be transferred to the prior or following day, or that some other act of penance or charity be substituted for digging into the beef. In any event, those traveling on the 17th itself are bound by the decision of the diocese in which they happen to be, not that of the place where they reside.

All that said, just because you don't see your own local church listed below doesn't mean you're out of luck – if anything, these announcements are usually made with little fanfare, or simply circulated internally to the parishes.

Ergo, as the following was initially compiled from publicly available notices, the list will be kept updated as the day approaches, so wherever a permission has been granted and isn't noted here, please do send it along – you can email it, tweet it... and given the priority on getting word around, even the combox is open. (NB: anything not germane to the topic will not be published.)

And lastly, much as keeping you lot out of Hell (at least, on this count) is its own reward, alas, that alone can't pay the bills – as ever, these pages keep afloat solely by means of your support....

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For the commemoration of St Patrick, 17 March 2017, the following local churches are generally dispensed or granted a commutation from Lenten abstinence by act of the respective (arch)bishop or the proper solemnity of the diocesan patron – conditions/substitions may vary by jurisdiction:

All dioceses of Wisconsin and Georgia

Archdioceses of Anchorage, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dubuque, Galveston-Houston, Hartford, Indianapolis, Kansas City in Kansas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, The Military Services USA, Mobile, Newark, New Orleans, New York, Omaha, Philadelphia, Saint Paul and Minneapolis, San Antonio, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC

Dioceses of Albany, Allentown, Arlington, Austin, Baton Rouge, Beaumont, Belleville, Birmingham, Boise, Bridgeport, Brooklyn, Brownsville, Buffalo, Burlington, Camden, Charleston, Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Corpus Christi, Covington, Dallas, Davenport, Des Moines, Duluth, Erie, Fall River, Fargo, Fort Wayne-South Bend, Fort Worth, Fresno, Gary, Gaylord, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Honolulu, Jackson, Jefferson City, Joliet, Juneau, Kalamazoo, Kansas City-St Joseph, Knoxville, Lafayette (La.), Las Cruces, Las Vegas, Lexington, Manchester, Memphis, Metuchen, Nashville, Norwich, Oakland, Ogdensburg, Owensboro, Palm Beach, Paterson, Pensacola-Tallahassee, Peoria, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland (Maine), Providence, Raleigh, Rochester, Rockford, Rockville Centre, Sacramento, St Augustine, St Cloud, St Petersburg, San Bernardino, San Diego, Scranton, Spokane, Springfield (Mass.), Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Steubenville, Stockton, Syracuse, Toledo, Tucson, Tyler, Venice (Florida), Victoria, Wheeling-Charleston, Wilmington, Winona, Worcester, Yakima, Youngstown
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Wednesday, March 01, 2017

"Repent and Believe" – In Lent, "A Time To Breathe Again"

A journey and grace at least a few of us need even more this time around, to one and all, every blessing and richness of these 40 Days....



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Usually cited as the most-crowded day of the church year across the Anglophone world – a reality most powerfully underscored by the upwards of 60,000 who customarily flock for ashes at St Patrick's Cathedral in New York – this Lent's opening word nonetheless comes from the first Roman Station: the centuries-old practice continued tonight on the Aventine Hill, as the Pope led the penitential procession from the Benedictine mother-house at Sant'Anselmo to the Dominican-run Santa Sabina for Mass (readings).

Here, the official translation of Francis' homily:
“Return to me with all your heart… return to the Lord” (Jl 2:12, 13). The prophet Joel makes this plea to the people in the Lord’s name. No one should feel excluded: “Assemble the aged, gather the children, even infants at the breast, the bridegroom… and the bride” (v. 16). All the faithful people are summoned to come and worship their God, “for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (v. 13).

We too want to take up this appeal; we want to return to the merciful heart of the Father. In this season of grace that begins today, we once again turn our eyes to his mercy. Lent is a path: it leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God’s children. Lent is the road leading from slavery to freedom, from suffering to joy, from death to life. The mark of the ashes with which we set out reminds us of our origin: we were taken from the earth, we are made of dust. True, yet we are dust in the loving hands of God, who has breathed his spirit of life upon each one of us, and still wants to do so. He wants to keep giving us that breath of life that saves us from every other type of breath: the stifling asphyxia brought on by our selfishness, the stifling asphyxia generated by petty ambition and silent indifference – an asphyxia that smothers the spirit, narrows our horizons and slows the beating of our hearts. The breath of God’s life saves us from this asphyxia that dampens our faith, cools our charity and strangles every hope. To experience Lent is to yearn for this breath of life that our Father unceasingly offers us amid the mire of our history.

The breath of God’s life sets us free from the asphyxia that so often we fail to notice, or become so used to that it seems normal, even when its effects are felt. We think it is normal because we have grown so accustomed to breathing air in which hope has dissipated, the air of glumness and resignation, the stifling air of panic and hostility.

Lent is the time for saying no. No to the spiritual asphyxia born of the pollution caused by indifference, by thinking that other people’s lives are not my concern, and by every attempt to trivialize life, especially the lives of those whose flesh is burdened by so much superficiality. Lent means saying no to the toxic pollution of empty and meaningless words, of harsh and hasty criticism, of simplistic analyses that fail to grasp the complexity of problems, especially the problems of those who suffer the most. Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia of a prayer that soothes our conscience, of an almsgiving that leaves us self-satisfied, of a fasting that makes us feel good. Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia born of relationships that exclude, that try to find God while avoiding the wounds of Christ present in the wounds of his brothers and sisters: in a word, all those forms of spirituality that reduce the faith to a ghetto culture, a culture of exclusion.

Lent is a time for remembering. It is the time to reflect and ask ourselves what we would be if God had closed his doors to us. What would we be without his mercy that never tires of forgiving us and always gives us the chance to begin anew? Lent is the time to ask ourselves where we would be without the help of so many people who in a thousand quiet ways have stretched out their hands and in very concrete ways given us hope and enabled us to make a new beginning.

Lent is the time to start breathing again. It is the time to open our hearts to the breath of the One capable of turning our dust into humanity. It is not the time to rend our garments before the evil all around us, but instead to make room in our life for all the good we are able to do. It is a time to set aside everything that isolates us, encloses us and paralyzes us. Lent is a time of compassion, when, with the Psalmist, we can say: “Restore to us the joy of your salvation, sustain in us a willing spirit”, so that by our lives we may declare your praise (cf. Ps 51:12.15), and our dust – by the power of your breath of life - may become a “dust of love”.
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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Amid Prayers For "Teddy Bear," Nashville Is Impeded

Eleven years ago this week, at his ordination to the helm of his hometown church, these pages dubbed the Eleventh Bishop of Nashville a "mitred teddy bear."

On getting to know Bishop Dave Choby after the fact, the line just became more true – at his behest, it's admittedly the only thing this scribe has called him ever since. Yet now, the wonderfully sweet, soft-spoken prelate is in need of prayers far beyond Opryland.

After years of health struggles stemming from a septuple (read: 7-artery) heart bypass surgery in 2010, weeks following his 70th birthday, a major fall at home in early February has seen Choby invoke an extraordinary provision of canon law, declaring Central Tennessee's 80,000-member, 38-county diocese "impeded" and entrusting its governance to his lead vicar-general, Fr David Perkin.

According to the norms of law, a see is impeded when "by reason of captivity, banishment, exile, or incapacity a diocesan bishop is clearly prevented from fulfilling his pastoral function in the diocese, so that he is not able to communicate with those in his diocese even by letter." Given the bishop's ability to designate a caretaker – a task required of each ordinary at the outset of his tenure, lest an emergency arise – the canons stipulate that, once the arrangement is invoked, said delegate "is bound by the obligations and possesses the power in the exercise of the pastoral care of the diocese which a diocesan administrator has by law," creating the scenario of a de facto vacant see.

Announced in a letter read at this weekend's Masses, the declared impediment of a diocese is without any recent precedent in the US church. Himself a Rome-trained canonist – and Nashville's elected administrator at its last vacancy – while Choby's letter cited "more than a handful of occasions where this has happened" domestically, the two Stateside instances the bishop recalled to aides from his sickbed in preparing the note never actually took place.

In any case, the gravity of the situation – both canonically and in terms of Choby's health – was further underscored this week by a bedside visit from the metropolitan, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, and reported consultation with the Nuncio to Washington, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, before Choby moved to trigger the impeded see.

Though the Tennessee fold formally numbers some 80,000 Catholics in the state's middle third, its reality is considerably larger. According to local ops, a massive flood of Hispanic migration (and its lack of legal or ecclesial documentation) unofficially comprises a silent membership of some 200,000 more – a circumstance especially common to every diocese in the American South, and all the more pronounced given the region's relatively small numbers on the books.

That aspect helps explain the principal act of Choby's tenure: the Nashville church's recent acquisition of the compound of the onetime Two Rivers Evangelical mega-church as the diocesan pastoral center, anchored by the move-in of the Chancery and the dedication of its 3,500-seat sanctuary as Sagrado Corazon (Sacred Heart) the city's parish-hub for its booming Latino flock, with further space on the property to accommodate the anticipated future growth.

Along the way, despite his own rough health, the bishop trekked to San Antonio at the last minute in late 2014 to ordain one of his seminarians, William Carmona, to the priesthood on his deathbed (above) in the face of terminal cancer. A Colombia-born late vocation in studies at Assumption Seminary, Fr William passed two days later at age 50.

All that said, even for the reporting to be had in the moment, this scribe's first concern remains for a beloved brother and friend, and likewise for all the wonderful folks who've given their bishop such selfless care and support, thus making possible his wish to keep on, even for the considerable burden it's placed on him through these years.

In that light, again, please keep our "Teddy Bear" and all the Nashville crew in your prayers over these days ahead... and at this point, a special word is owed to Deacon Jim McKenzie, whose dual experience in nursing and ministry, and moving dedication of both to his pastor-boss at home and on the road, has been a priceless blessing all around.

With a difficult hint at a farewell in its close, here's Choby's letter announcing the handover of governance, dated Saturday, 25 February:
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I write to share with you my current health condition and its impact on the governance of the diocese.

As many of you know, over the past four years I have sustained two falls. The first resulted in a broken arm from which I was able to recover while continuing my ministry and duties as your bishop. This second and most recent fall has caused damage to my spinal column including fractures of the vertebrae which are the supporting structures of the spinal cord. During the course of treatment, I developed an infection in the bloodstream. This complication has been the cause of my stay in the intensive care unit. The antibiotics have done their job in stabilizing my vital signs but recent tests have shown that bacteria has begun to grow in my heart. The next steps of my care are still being evaluated, and I continue to need your prayers and support.

My current health condition prevents me from fulfilling all of my pastoral functions within the diocese. Church law addresses and makes provision for such circumstances. There has been more than a handful of occasions where this has happened in other dioceses around the country. In fact, every bishop is required to designate in advance, the priest he wishes to exercise diocesan governance, should the need to invoke this provision arise.

By virtue of my incapacity, the Diocese of Nashville is impeded. I remain your bishop, but the governance of the diocese during this period of impediment is to be assumed by one of my vicars general, Very Reverend David R. Perkin, effective, February 25, 2017. He has graciously accepted this responsibility and I am sincerely grateful to him for his kind and generous willingness to serve. I am confident he will provide able leadership for the wellbeing of our diocese. In this position, as described in Church law, he is bound by the obligations and possesses the authority which belong to a diocesan administrator. I am comforted in knowing you will support him in this new role.

I express my thanks to all the people who have sent their prayers and words of support during this hospitalization. I want all of you to know it has been the happiest and most rewarding years of my life serving you, the Church, and almighty God as your bishop. You remain in my prayers and thoughts.

Wishing you every blessing, I am

Sincerely in Christ,


Most Reverend David R. Choby
Bishop of Nashville
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