Thirty-five years a priest, 10 years a bishop Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Written by Bishop Robert C. Morlino   
Thursday, Sep. 24, 2009 -- 12:00 AM
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Dear Friends,

2009 is a very special year for me personally, as, on June 1st I celebrated 35 years as a priest and, just this week, on September 21, I celebrate 10 years as a bishop. I was ordained the Bishop of Helena, Montana, in the Cathedral Church of St. Helena on September 21, 1999, the Feast of St. Matthew.

As a Jesuit, we were rigorously formed into the mentality that we would never, in any way, seek being a bishop and, in fact, a time would come when we would take a simple vow to deny any such appointment, where this would be possible. As such, Jesuits generally don’t think about being bishops.

And so, it is ironic that the very famous painting of the Calling of St. Matthew, by Caravaggio, pictures Matthew as surprised when Jesus calls him to be an Apostle and indicating his preference that the call to be an Apostle be offered to someone else. It would not be unusual for that sentiment to come to life in the heart of every bishop, from time-to-time. But, I must say that although I have had many difficult days, involving illness and not without stress, I have honestly never had a day without joy. The grace of being both a priest and a bishop are like a very, very powerful fire within me that drives me onward, when times are good and when times are more difficult. And so it is with any priest or bishop.

A 10th anniversary is not particularly “a big deal,” nor did I choose to treat the occasion as if it were. But, I need to take some time in quiet, realizing once again, with the deepest gratitude, the gifts that the Lord has given me, through the vocation to priesthood and the vocation to Episcopacy.

I have never been bored for a moment. And in the morning, I love the thought of spending time with the Lord and with those whom God will send my way on any particular day. The Lord knows the gratitude which lies deep in my heart.

I am also profoundly grateful to all of you of the Diocese of Madison and, in particular, to the priests. In the present situation within our Church, its not always easy to move forward, but we do in fact move forward, slowly, which is appropriate, through the generosity of our good priests and so many of our faithful people.

At this time, I’m also deeply grateful to the priests and people of the Diocese of Helena, who were my family for not-quite four years. I continue to love the faithful of Helena the way I love you, and God’s grace ensures that it will always be so.

I love, as well, the many students whom I had the joy of teaching over roughly 11 years in the Jesuit system, and I am especially grateful for the formation that I received from fine Jesuits, especially in the novitiate and during Philosophy. The spiritual life and the philosophical awareness that the Lord gave me through the intercession of St. Ignatius are so deeply part of who I am, that no thought or word or writing of mine is ever completely without that context. And so, gratitude is in order and, in a simple way, I have sought to express it here.

I thank the Lord especially for the suffering that has come my way, and always drawn me closer to him.

I am in union with all of those who celebrate anniversaries of marriage during these days, or birthdays, or anniversaries of profession in the religious life or anniversaries of the priesthood or episcopacy. Cumulatively, the abundance that we have received in blessings is, indeed, impossible to imagine.

As I have entered my 11th year as bishop and my 36th as priest, my prayers and celebration of the Eucharist will include all of you each day. In order to go forth as the Church of Christ, we really need each other. As the Psalm says, “the Lord has set everything in its place, and no one can make it otherwise.”

So, let us rejoice in the need that we have for each other and in the blessing that every single one of you is. Let the joy of the Lord always be our strength, yours and mine as well. Thank you for reading this. God bless you all. Please pray for me in the days ahead. Praised be Jesus Christ!