The Start of a New Relationship
On the December day I was driving to Maine for the announcement of my appointment as the new Bishop of Portland, I passed a sign on the highway that welcomed me, and all those passing by, to the beauty of this state. “Maine. Worth a visit. Worth a lifetime.” It reminded me that I had been to Maine a few times over the years for family events and for vacation, but this time, I was not just here for a visit. This time it would be different. It would be closer to the sign’s invitation to remain a lifetime. I was reminded that I am being sent to serve you, the people of Maine, as bishop and shepherd. And, as our Holy Father, Pope Francis, is fond of telling bishops when he is encouraging them to shepherd well the people entrusted to them, I will have to get to know the smell of the sheep before I can serve you, God’s people in Maine, as well as the Lord calls me to. Inasmuch, therefore, as I am here for a “lifetime,” not just a visit, I look forward to traveling around the state and getting to know you. We will have the opportunity to be together for parish visits, for the sacraments of First Eucharist and Confirmation, for meetings, for conventions, and for celebrations of various kinds. I look forward to these opportunities to meet you.
You, of course, are also interested in getting to know who your new bishop is. For that reason I am grateful to the staff of the Harvest for providing this special issue to coincide with my installation as the Twelfth Bishop of Portland. It will, I am sure, provide you some background and some pictures to give you an introduction to my life and ministry. Over the last few weeks, I understand that even my brothers were interviewed for this publication. I can only imagine what they might have said. It may bring back memories I have, with good reason, forgotten. At any rate, I am happy that this issue of the Harvest will help us to start a new relationship, one which will lay the foundation for us, together, to fulfill the mission of the Church.
As we are getting to know each other, it is good to remind ourselves that we already share some very important things in common. We, as members of the Church, the people of God here in Maine, share a common faith in our conviction that, in Jesus Christ, God has revealed himself to us. What Jesus reveals to us is that God loves and cares for each of us, and asks us to follow him, and, in his footsteps, to care for each other. This is the core teaching of the Gospel, and it is a message which we receive with great joy. As your shepherd and bishop, it will be my privilege and responsibility to continue to keep that hopeful message of joy before our eyes. Given the world we live in, with its difficulties and problems, it can easily happen that we lose sight of the real meaning of our lives. God has created us out of love and asks us to proclaim his love in our world. It is not always an easy task. One way, therefore, in which we help each other is to pray for each other, that each of us might be faithful to the mission that God has entrusted to us.
There is nowhere that we do that in a more important or grace-filled manner than when we celebrate Eucharist and particularly when we gather for Mass in our parish communities on Sunday. It is there, gathered around the Word and the Altar, Jesus Christ in our midst, that we become Church and remind ourselves that it is God’s work we do in all the ways in which we bring God’s love to others. We are passing on what we have received, the love of God incarnate in Jesus Christ. These brief words of introduction give me the opportunity to remind you of the central importance of the weekly celebration of Mass and to encourage you to make it a part of your own schedule, as well as that of your family.
I know, from my brief time among you, that this wonderful diocese, the Catholic Church in Maine, has been serving the people of God for 160 years. It has been proclaiming God’s love in Jesus Christ through all those years, well served by bishops, priests, religious and laity. It carries out this task in parishes, schools, social service agencies, hospitals and colleges. It is, for me, a grace and privilege to be sent here to serve you as, together, we continue with this mission that I now share with you as your shepherd and bishop, to proclaim the Gospel message of joy, with our words and our lives.
Most Rev. Robert P. Deeley, J.C.D.