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Archbishop Column - DECEMBER 17, 2004

December 17, 2004

Ordination of William Dendinger as Bishop of Grand Island

The following is the ordination instruction given to Bishop Dendinger by Archbishop Curtiss on Dec. 13 in Grand Island.

It is an awesome experience to participate in the ordination of a bishop. This is the church gathered together to continue the mission of Jesus in the world through his apostles. We celebrate in this liturgy today the continuity of the apostolic office in the church through the succession of bishops, an unbroken line back to the first apostles. This is a powerful sign of the continuity of the church through the apostles and their successors – a powerful sign of the unity of the church through her bishops who form the Apostolic College of Bishops under the leadership of Peter, our Pope.

The dogmatic constitution on the church, "Lumen Gentium" from the Second Vatican Council, has this to say about the ordination of bishops:

"The Order of Bishops succeeds the College of the Apostles in teaching authority and pastoral rule; indeed in the Order of Bishops the apostolic body continues to perdure. Therefore, bishops 'as successors of the apostles,' receive from the Lord, who was given all power in heaven and earth, the mission to teach all nations and to preach the Gospel to every creature, so that by faith, baptism, and obedience to the commandments (cf. Matthew 28:18) all people may attain salvation. The College of Bishops, gathered under one head, the Roman Pontiff, successor of Peter, experience the unity, diversity, and universality of the flock of Christ."

"Lumen Gentium" goes on to say that the individual bishop who is placed in charge of a local church, of a diocese, exercises pastoral governance over the People of God entrusted to his care. He is the visible principle and foundation for the unity in his diocese which is formed according to the image of the universal church. It is in the Office of the Bishop united with the bishops of the world under the leadership of the pope that the Catholic Church has her existence.

Primary Minister of Word and Sacrament

Among the principal duties of a bishop, preaching the Gospel is preeminent, for he is the herald of the faith who leads new disciples to Christ. He must be an authentic teacher of the faith, which has come from the apostles, so that he is able to proclaim to the people entrusted to him the Catholic faith in its entirety, the faith that is to be believed by them and that is to direct the conduct of their lives.

And through the sacraments, the bishop sanctifies the faithful. He regulates the conferral of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist; he is the originating minister of Confirmation; he is the dispenser of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Every celebration of the Eucharist in his diocese takes place under his jurisdiction because it stands out as a symbol of the unity and charity of the Mystical Body of Christ, of his church.

Ordination of Bishop Dendinger

This afternoon we celebrate the ordination of a new bishop for the Diocese of Grand Island. It is an awesome experience to participate in the ordination of a bishop for the church of Jesus Christ, at any time in our long history and at any place in the world. Our Holy Father has chosen as the bishop of this diocese, at this time in your history, a priest who has distinguished himself as a leader and pastor. Msgr. William Dendinger comes to you with many years of experience as a United States Air Force Chaplain who ended his military career as Chaplain General of the service. He has most recently served as pastor of the most populous parish in Omaha. But we need to recall that he was born and raised in a rural area of this state, in Coleridge, and that he has never lost his love for rural Nebraska and rural people. He will do well as Bishop of Western Nebraska.

After all, his predecessor Bishop Lawrence McNamara was anything but a rural pastor when he came to Grand Island 26 years ago. Chicago and Kansas City, Missouri and Washington D.C. – these urban experiences hardly recommended him for rural Nebraska. But he became an amazing rural bishop who fell in love with Western Nebraska. Let me take this opportunity to thank Bishop McNamara for all these years that he has served so faithfully as Bishop of Grand Island.

Bishop Dendinger, you heard the words of Jesus to his disciples in the Gospel reading today from St. Matthew (9:36): "The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the Master of the Harvest to send new laborers for his harvest."

You have answered the call of Jesus to come and labor in the Diocese of Grand Island. Now it will be your responsibility to ask the Master of the Harvest to send laborers to help you with the Harvest. One of your most important ministries in this diocese will be to encourage your priests and people to promote in serious and consistent ways vocations to priesthood and consecrated life.

Priority of Vocation Ministry and Evangelization

There are vocations everywhere across this land, young people and some not so young, being called by the Lord to serve his people as priests and deacons and consecrated women and men. These vocations need to be identified and encouraged by all your priests and people. And until you have enough native vocations, you will have to bring in priests and religious from outside the diocese to care for the pastoral needs of your people. The Archdiocese of Omaha stands ready to support your efforts to make vocation ministry a priority here in Western Nebraska.

And as bishop, you will have to be a evangelizer who will help your people reach out to Catholics who are no longer practicing their faith, and to non-churched people who need Jesus and the church in their lives. You must be willing to model what it means to be an active evangelizer in the communities of this diocese, using whatever means you can to reach people and speak with people and encourage people to come see what the church has to offer them in the Eucharist and her life of prayer and her service to others.

A time for rejoicing; a sign of hope for the future

This is a wonderful time for you to be ordained bishop for this diocese. You have had many years of experience – in fact at age 65 many people are thinking about retirement, but instead you are beginning a new and exciting ministry as Bishop of Western Nebraska. With your discipline of prayer and exercise, you will have at least a decade of vibrant leadership ahead of you. You have good priests to support you in ministry, with many faithful Catholics spread throughout the diocese. You have no diocesan debt and no lawsuits pending. You have no public scandals caused by sexual abuse. You have inherited a blessed diocese.

So rejoice today with the priests, religious and lay people of this diocese whom the Holy Spirit has appointed you to serve and love and lead into the new millennium. Be a Father to your people in the name of the Father whose image you represent; and in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, whose office of teacher, priest, and shepherd you will now discharge; and in the name of the Holy Spirit who gives life to the church and whose power strengthens us in our weakness.

I welcome you William Dendinger to the College of Bishops – all of us here welcome you as the seventh Bishop of the Diocese of Grand Island.

The Catholic Voice

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