Tuesday, July 23, 2024

An Interview with Bishop Senior: A Look Back on His First Year

When he delivered his homily as the Bishop of Harrisburg a year ago, Bishop Timothy Senior called upon the faithful of the Diocese to engage in a “culture of encounter” and “to be Christians in whom Jesus is recognized.”

June 21 marks the first anniversary of his installation as the Twelfth Bishop of Harrisburg. At once, it provides a moment to look back on his first year of shepherding our local Church, to reflect on the encounters he’s had with the people of our Diocese, and to look forward in hope at what’s to come.

To commemorate this anniversary, Bishop Senior sat down with the Diocese’s multi-media production manager, Rachel Troche, for a one-on-one interview for the “Candid Catholic Convos” podcast airing this weekend.

The Witness offers a sneak peak of the interview, which can be heard in its entirety later this weekend on “Candid Catholic Convos” or by searching for the podcast on Spotify.

“Getting out into the communities and the parishes and getting to know the Diocese” has been the highlight of this first year, Bishop Senior remarked.

“People are very, very committed to their parishes, committed to their schools and committed to living their faith very actively and vibrantly,” he said. “Yes, I understand they’re the people that I met because they go to Mass and they’re practicing their faith of course, but they’re very engaging and welcoming and anxious to live their faith in a visible way. I see that everywhere I go in the Diocese.”

Indeed, he’s been to all corners and counties of the Diocese, beginning with Masses in all ten of the Diocese’s deaneries last summer to introduce himself to the faithful and get to know them.

Delivering messages of hope and mercy in Harrisburg, Danville, York, Hanover, Mechanicsburg, Chambersburg, Lebanon, Elysburg, Columbia and Rohrerstown, he was met with enthusiasm at each of the Deanery Masses.

He’s also made visits to the Diocese’s six high schools and a number of its elementary schools, reminding students of the gift of Catholic education they’re receiving, and meeting dedicated teachers and devoted alumni.

“Each Catholic school, to me, is like a jewel that is very special,” Bishop Senior said in the interview.

“One of the things I recognize here in Harrisburg, particularly with the high schools, is a tremendous amount of loyalty to the schools. Alumni are very loyal, very supportive, very generous. That connection with their school is key to the ongoing sustainability of the school, and I’ve been inspired by that,” he said.

He also spoke of the deeply committed teachers and administrators serving in our schools to ensure their mission “to proclaim Jesus Christ, to proclaim the Gospel and to form disciples.”

“Our Catholic schools are more important now than ever because we’re living in the midst of a lot of cultural confusion, and things that were taken for granted as true are now up for grabs, at least in society as a whole,” the bishop remarked. “The Catholic Church, the Catholic faith, carries on a very powerful witness to the truth as it has been revealed by God…and how that has been handed on and interpreted for thousands of years of tradition. Catholic schools become anchors for that.”

Serving at soup kitchens, celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation for hundreds of young people, greeting thousands of parishioners during pastoral visits, and visiting people in healthcare facilities and prisons also filled the bishop’s calendar in his first year.

In the podcast interview, he shared areas where he’d like the Diocese to focus going forward, including the strengthening of its Catholic schools and Catholic campus ministry programs; an increase in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life; and increased advocacy for Catholic social services, especially for those facing mental health challenges or homelessness.

“We can’t do it all; we can’t solve all the problems. But as the bishop of the Diocese, can I amplify these issues and work with other partners – government, elected officials and governmental agencies, people of other faiths – in getting things done and helping for the common good?”

Leading the Diocese in this year of the National Eucharistic Revival has been another highlight of his first year, seeing Catholics demonstrate their love for and belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

He remarked that the Eucharistic Revival has helped the faithful rekindle their faith in the Real Presence and reflect more deeply on the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for us.

“When you think of the risk God takes in being present in the Eucharist, why else would He do that except for the fact that He loves us and He understands our need for Him,” he said. “He puts Himself out there to be rejected, to be mocked, to not be respected.”

Once we come to the realization of God’s love for us, it can be overwhelming, he said.

“We’re never more fully Catholic than when we’re celebrating the Eucharist together,” the bishop said. That witness was evident during the Diocese’s 8 Days of Eucharistic Joy, and will be illustrated again during the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis July 17-21, to which the bishop will lead a contingent of parishioners from the Diocese.

In a message for the people of the Diocese, Bishop Senior echoed the words of his first homily as bishop here – that of encountering people and witnessing to the presence of God in our lives.

“I certainly want to encounter folks and invite them always to find that deeper understanding – no matter where they are along their spiritual journey…,” he said.

“We need to invite people to come in and to rediscover the beauty of the Truth of Jesus Christ and Who He is in our lives. That’s most powerfully done through word and sacrament within the faith that we share.”

(Photos by Chris Heisey and Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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