Yesterday afternoon, newly-installed Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, preached one of the best homilies I have ever heard. It was on the New Evangelization, although he never used those words. It was masterfully crafted and yet informal, humorous and yet personally and pastorally challenging. It was perfectly suited to his new diocese in Vermont, yet applicable to the Church universal. Better than just about anything else I have read or heard, it sets forth the current state of life and ministry in the Church, especially in the United States, and offers a plan for how to minister in today’s context. It was rooted in the teachings and vision of Pope Francis for a Church founded on missionary discipleship. The bottom line – joy, love, and going out to the people. All set in the context of an inscription found on a bell – “To the bath and the table, to the prayers and the Word, I call every seeking soul.” (As a side note, the source of that inscription is the liturgical theology writings of Gordon Lathrop, whose wife, Gail Ramshaw, was my mentor and professor at La Salle University in Philadelphia.)
Everyone should read the homily, and then ponder and reflect on how it speaks to your own life and situation. Here’s one link to the text: http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/2015/01/i-call-every-seeking-soul-vermonts-new.html
I was grateful to witness Bishop Coyne’s installation along with a group of my brother priests from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. We had been given privileged places at the beginning of the procession and seats in the front pews of St. Joseph Co-Cathedral. When Bishop Coyne came to the front of the church, he came directly to us and thanked us each personally and individually for allowing him to be part of our presbyterate in Indianapolis for the past four years. It was a moving and heart-felt exchange, genuine and sincere. He then took his seat next to our pews, for the last time sitting with the priests of Indianapolis before becoming shepherd of the people of the Diocese of Burlington. It was a reminder of both our common bonds within a local church and the bonds of unity across boundaries throughout the Church universal. And as we stood in the midst of the faithful and clergy of Vermont, with bishops from Indiana and Wyoming and Kentucky and Illinois and New England, from both the Roman Rite and Eastern Catholic Rites, family and friends from near and far, we were all united by a single faith, around a common table, unified by the waters of a common baptism, listening to the same Word, and uniting our voices in prayer. We wish our brother, Christopher, well in his new ministry, knowing that we all share in the same ministry in service of the same God.