||Bishop William H. Bullock, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Madison, waves during the opening procession of his anniversary Mass August 12. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner)
MADISON -- It was a tribute to the priesthood and the episcopacy, but it was also a day to focus on one particular priest and bishop: Bishop William H. Bullock.
Bishop Bullock, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Madison, was honored for 30 years as a bishop and 58 years as a priest during a celebration hosted by his successor, Bishop Robert C. Morlino.
The celebration took place on August 12, the actual date of Bishop Bullock’s consecration as a bishop in 1980. He was appointed as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis by Pope John Paul II.
A native of Minnesota, Bishop Bullock went on to become the seventh bishop of Des Moines, Iowa, in 1987 and the third bishop of Madison in 1993. He became bishop emeritus in 2003.
The anniversary celebration began with a Mass in the chapel of the Bishop O’Connor Center in Madison with Bishop Bullock as principal celebrant. Concelebrants included Bishop Morlino; Bishop George O. Wirz, former auxiliary bishop of Madison; Bishop Paul J. Swain, bishop of Sioux Falls, S.D., and former vicar general of the Diocese of Madison; Bishop Lee A. Piché, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis; and over 70 priests of the Diocese of Madison.
Deacons of the Mass were Deacon Timothy J. Renz and Deacon Jorge Miramontes, who started their seminary training when Bishop Bullock was bishop. Master of ceremonies was David Johannes, a seminarian of the Diocese of Madison.
Readers were Sr. Joan Wirz, the sister of Bishop Wirz, and Colleen Geary Carter, Bishop Bullock’s niece. Gift bearers were Adelaide Bullock and Elizabeth Bullock, sisters of Bishop Bullock, and Rebecca Geary Ludenia, Bishop Bullock’s niece.
The Madison Diocesan Choir and Saint Raphael Cathedral Choir directed by Patrick Gorman were music ministers. The Knights of Columbus Assembly 1200 of Madison provided a large honor guard.
Share God’s love
In his homily, Bishop Bullock urged people to share the love of God with others. He talked about Susan Boyle, the unassuming Scottish singer who astounded the world with her voice as she sang “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables on a reality television show.
“Her music cued, and this middle-aged woman with the frizzed hair and drab dress opened her lips — and the angels sang,” recalled Bishop Bullock. “Her voice was so powerful, beautiful, moving, and uplifting. It was indeed a special moment.
“May I propose for your consideration that there is a Susan Boyle in each one of us: a God of love who abides in us, who is waiting for us to open our lips and sing of his love so that the whole world can hear.”
Bishop Bullock reminded his listeners that God wants us to become people who listen to and do His Word as vines on the branches.
“We are all called to be people of love and service, deeply rooted in the Church. The image is clear – the vine grower is the Father, the vine is Jesus, and we are the branches. We are his Church and we must love the Church in all its splendor and in spite of all its scandal,” said Bishop Bullock.
“God gives us an empowering love that he expresses in a three-fold way: first through his creation, second through his Word, and third through his body, the Church.”
The beauty of nature
Bishop Bullock recalled that Jesus taught using parables, often drawing on images of nature familiar to us: the sheep and the shepherd, the grape vines or fig trees, the seed and the sower, the lowly sparrow, fish and fishermen, wheat and chaff.
“In the beauty of all that God — from those very small particles scientists study to the fertile mustard seed of the Gospel, from the sweat of honest labor to the sweet voice raised in angelic song, we believe that all in nature and in human life reflects the glory and beauty of God, our Creator, and that he made it all because he loves us.”
In Sacred Scripture, Bishop Bullock pointed out, we see not only the God who made all Creation merely by speaking, but like a shepherd imaged by the prophets as one who feeds the flock, cradles the young lambs, leading the sheep to green pastures and refreshing water.
“In a word, we see a God whose power knows no bounds, who can use us in spite of our weakness and fear and trembling as St. Paul describes in the reading to the Corinthians today.
“We see a just God who hates sin and evil, but who is also a merciful loving Father whom Jesus describes in John’s Gospel as ‘the vine grower’ and Jesus who lifted us up on the Cross to free us from sin and gave us power over death.
“He made us Resurrection People, who ‘rise up,’ as the word itself means, in order that we see in Creation and in his Word and in his Church his steadying hand of love.”
Church: community of faith
Bishop Bullock noted that it is not enough to contemplate God merely through creation, or to read the Scriptures that reveal the breadth of salvation history apart from the community of faith, that is the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.
“Through the holy sacrament of Baptism, he makes us members of his one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church. He does so, as he does everything, simply out of love, and he begs us to love him in return.”
Bishop Bullock continued. “Through those supreme gifts of God’s love in the Church, the sacraments, but especially the Most Holy Eucharist, Jesus calls and creates us to be his body, his holy people, who like Christ must serve the people he came to redeem.
“His Church is indestructible. He has given us his promise; the gates of hell, no matter what is thrown in its path, will never prevail against his Church. His love will win out in the end.”
Dealing with difficult times
Bishop Bullock observed that it is easy to talk of God’s love when life is good, when things flow easily and there is enough money and no trouble in life to worry about. “But you and I know that is not reality,” he said.
“We know all too well that for many millions of people of our own country, and even for billions more in other countries, life is not easy. As we read the daily press, watch TV, or use the Internet, we see thousands of children die of malnutrition, disease, and neglect.
“Every day we see signs of the uncertainty of the economy, homes are foreclosed on, jobs are lost, benefits run out. People are simply drained of hope.”
Yet, Bishop Bullock reminded those gathered, God remains powerful and loving. “Like many of you, I say where will we turn to interpret life in our troubled day? The answer is not that God’s love went away; it’s that we have lost our way of love. We are weak and fearful.
“Jesus teaches us the answer so simply and straightforwardly: ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit because without me you can do nothing.’
“Yes, we are afraid and trembling, but we are never alone as long as we remain as branches on the vine of Christ in the vineyard of the Father.”
Gift of ordination
Bishop Bullock observe that 30 years ago today, “I received an extraordinary gift of God’s love when I was ordained a bishop. I like to think of myself during my 58 years as a priest and 30 as bishop and 83 years of life, not unlike the Susan Boyles of the world, perhaps not so impressive to look at but, with the power of the Holy Spirit on my lips and in my heart, I was able to bring a measure of God’s love to the priests and people I was called to serve.
“So, I stand before you today, grateful to God for the grace, mercy, and peace he has given me and I acknowledge with humble gratitude, the vocation he gave me and in which he has always sustained me.
“Let us take good care of God’s created world. Let us listen to his Word as life giving, and let us always remain as faithful members of his holy Church.
“Grace, Mercy, and Peace,” he concluded with his episcopal motto.
A reception and dinner for invited guests followed the Mass.