Bishop Sullivan’s installation homily

Following is the text of the homily Bishop Dennis Sullivan gave at the installation Mass celebrated at St. Agnes Church, Blackwood, on Feb. 12.

I thought I would begin by establishing some Jersey credentials. It goes like this – I am the third of the Bronx born Sullivan brothers to move to New Jersey. When Jack, the oldest, the first who moved across the Hudson, my Irish mother declared, “Well, we won’t be seeing much of him anymore.” “Mom, they’re only moving to New Jersey.” “It’s the bridge,” said she, “It’s the bridge.” Mother had crossed the Atlantic Ocean 3,000 miles, two weeks on a steamer as they were called in those days, yet for her the Hudson River was a greater challenge. With Charley, the second brother to make the move, it was, “Mother of God, another one gone far away.” This time when questioned about her reaction to the move her mantra was “it’s the tunnel, it’s the tunnel.” I can only wonder what she would have to say about my move. I suspect it would be, “It’s the turnpike.” Most of my nieces and my nephew were born in the Garden State and even some of my grandnieces and grandnephews. So, a foreigner to the Garden State, I’m not.

Today Tuesday, February 12th the second day of the Lunar New Year – The Year of the Snake – is Mardi Gras, Carnevale, Fat Tuesday. “Roulez les bon temps” That is not my Episcopal motto. How could I not make reference to the final day before the discipline of Lent begins? Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday followed by those 40 days. Lent can be a time of great grace and spiritual opportunities for all of us to grow in Christ. May that happen. And, my prayer is that as your eighth bishop my ministry will be an instrument of the grace of Jesus Christ every day that I am privileged to serve you. May there be many spiritual opportunities for this local church in the years ahead to grow in Christ.

Today, we bid farewell to the Alleluia. The association of alleluia with Easter led to the custom of omitting it from the liturgy during the season of Lent, a kind of verbal or musical fast. We do not use it. So that when it reappears at Easter, we may hear it afresh – repeating it again and again. Alleluia – It needs no translation. It’s everybody’s language. Rituals of farewell were created for the final intoning before the Lenten time. Alleluia banners were even placed in caskets to be buried until Holy Saturday night when the faithful would once again intone the hymn of praise, of victory, Alleluia.

We won’t be having a burial ceremony lest I be accused of sending some cryptic message as my ministry begins but it is appropriate as we stand at the threshold of Lent 2013 and at the threshold of my pastoring this local church to have a final fling – to let the Alleluia Ring out.

So here it is folks:

Alleluia to the Diocese of Camden – celebrating its 75th anniversary. The diamond anniversary. The Catholic Church of Camden sparkling throughout the six counties of Southern New Jersey since its establishment as a diocese in 1938.

Alleluia to the faithful, the People of God – who form the church and who are the church, who build up the church in our parishes and institutions.

Alleluia to our priests now my brothers and principal cooperators in ministry I walk in your footprints.

Alleluia to our bishop emeritus Joseph Galante for your eight years and nine months of service and love and sacrifice. “Well done good and faithful servant.” In the words of the poet “Not farewell but fare forward” and with my gratitude for your fraternal welcome of me and with the gratitude of the clergy, religious and faithful of the diocese.

Alleluia to our God whom today’s Scripture the book of Genesis presents as Creator of the beauty in the world. Creator of the Goodness in Creation, Creator of Man and Woman – the pinnacle of the Creator’s work; a pair made in the image of the Creator – Human life as Sacred as God is Sacred.

Alleluia to our Saviour Jesus Christ who in today’s Gospel teaches that true religion is not found in rules and regulations but in the heart.

Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah to respond to the Pharisees who confront Him and His followers about not keeping the purity laws. God does not look at appearances says the prophet Isaiah but rather at what is in the heart of each believer. Jesus quotes Isaiah to criticize external show without internal conviction in the practice of religion.

Alleluia to our Catholic Church which observes a Year of Faith. An invitation from our Holy Father to understand better the truths and teachings of our faith; to seek fresh ways of spreading the Gospel; to be excited about the Good News, to live the Gospel and share its light with all; to be joy filled witnesses to Jesus Christ.

Alleluia to our Deacons, our women and men Religious, our Seminarians, our Health Care Facilities, our Catholic Schools, Catholic Charities, our Parish Religious Education Programs. Alleluia to all whose ministry in Camden proclaims the Kingdom of God.

And, not to be selfish, but, Alleluia to me – Praise God that I will faithfully teach and sanctify and pastor this local community according to the way of Jesus Christ the teacher, the priest and the shepherd.

Yes. As we get ready for Lent and for new beginnings that my ministry in Camden will effect. Let the Alleluias echo around this place and around the six counties of this local church.
Christ tells us in today’s Gospel that God looks into the heart. May ours be seen as loving. Loving beauty in the creation – beauty in the human person; beauty in the variety of peoples – languages and cultures that constitute the Church in Camden.

Saludos cariñosos a mis hermanos/hermanas de la comunidad hispana. Ustedes han venido de diferentes países a los Estados Unidos buscando una mejor vida para sus familias. Ustedes traen una tradición fuerte de nuestra fe y de práctica.

La Iglesia es su madre. Ustedes son sus hijos. Somos familia. Necesitamos su presencia, su participación en nuestra familia diocesana. Sigan contribuyendo sus talentos a sus parroquias. Su presencia es una bendición. Desde el comienzo de mi vida sacerdotal he trabajado y he luchado con los hispanos. Aunque no tengo ni una gotita de sangre hispana en mi cuerpo, si tengo un Corazón muy hispano, que los ama y los quiere mucho. Yo cuento con ustedes en la vida pastoral de esta diócesis de Camden. Cuento con su fidelidad a la Iglesia Católica en la que caminamos juntos y servimos al modo de Cristo. Tengo ganas de llegarles a conocer y visitar nuestras parroquias donde forman comunidades de fe.

Pray that my heart continues to be shaped by Christ and joined to His Sacred Heart as I walk among you, my brothers and sisters in the diocese of Camden.

I may not have been born in New Jersey but, better than that I have been born in the Waters of Baptism and through that sacred bath made me a fellow citizen of the Saints and from today I can proudly say a member of this household of God in Camden, New Jersey. For which I say once again Alleluia.

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