My answer is this: Bishops are the spiritual leaders in our diocese. They are the successors of the first 12 apostles called together by Christ. He told them to preach the Gospel to all people throughout the world. This Gospel was to be the source of all saving truth and moral discipline (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 75).
In keeping with the Lord’s wishes, the Gospel was handed on in two ways: orally by the apostles through their preaching, by their example, and by the institutions they established, and in writing, by the apostles and others associated with the apostles who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Bishops as successors. In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church, the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave bishops “their own position of teaching authority.” This was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession to the end of time.
Bishops preserve and transmit the tradition of the church. The Catechism tells us, “Through Tradition, ‘the Church, in her doctrine, life, and worship perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes.’”
That’s why bishops are so important in the Catholic Church. They continue the work begun by Christ and his apostles. They help all of us learn about the Gospel and follow it in our lives so that we may achieve our ultimate goal of being united with God in heaven.
Bishops in the universal church — from the Holy Father, the bishop of Rome, on down — set the tone for the entire church. They indeed are our spiritual leaders.
Each has gifts. Each bishop has his own style of leadership, his own gifts and talents. The Diocese of Madison has been blessed with four ordinaries (Bishops William P. O’Connor, Cletus F. O’Donnell, William H. Bullock, and now Robert C. Morlino) and two auxiliary bishops (Bishops Jerome J. Hastrich and George O. Wirz).
They have brought and continue to bring the Good News of the Gospel and the traditions of the church alive in our diocese. From all indications from the people of Helena, Mont., Bishop Morlino will indeed enrich our diocese with his love of people, teaching skills, sense of humor, and deep faith.
I encourage all people in the Diocese of Madison to welcome Bishop Morlino with open arms as he continues in the line of successors of Christ and his apostles. Please read the Catholic Herald this week and in the weeks ahead to learn more about our new bishop.
Mary C. Uhler