Speaking to the people of the Diocese during a prayer service on the eve of his installation, Bishop Timothy Senior appealed to the faithful to follow the Gospel mandate of sharing the Good News and our faith in Jesus Christ.
“While we may be tempted to want to hunker down, the challenge of the Gospel requires us to be willing to go out, to engage a culture which is so often hostile to Christianity,” he said in a homily during Solemn Vespers on June 20 at Holy Name of Jesus Church in Harrisburg.
Bishop Ronald Gainer, Bishop Emeritus, presided over the prayer service, which included a number of hymns and antiphons led by the Diocesan Schola Cantorum, Scripture readings, and intercessions to pray for Bishop Senior as he prepared to take office as the Twelfth Bishop of Harrisburg the following afternoon.
The Votive Vespers of St. Patrick offered an opportunity for Bishop Senior to speak of how the patron saint of the Diocese is a model for us today. St. Patrick, captured in Britain and enslaved in Ireland, escaped his enslavement and remarkably returned to Ireland in order to evangelize its people.
“He is a model for all of us in these challenging times when, as we know, hostility toward the Church is becoming more normal or accepted. We must not give up. As Catholic Christians, we must not hide,” Bishop Senior urged. “And as St. Paul challenges Timothy, my patron saint, we must never, ever be ashamed of our faith in Jesus Christ.”
He went on to say that although it may be tempting to keep our faith to ourselves, Pope Francis provides us guidance for engaging others, as shared in his homily to open the Synod in October of 2021. “We are called to first encounter and then listen and then discern where the Spirit is calling us, how the Holy Spirit is prompting us, and then to act accordingly,” Bishop Senior remarked. “In this, we do not act in isolation; we journey together.”
To the congregation of clergy, seminarians, religious and lay faithful of all ages in attendance from throughout the Diocese, the bishop said his first priority in Harrisburg is to be a good pastor.
“It’s all I’ve wanted to be in my life,” he said. “I realize I’m not a pastor of a parish, I’m a pastor of this wonderful Diocese. As pastor, my priority is to announce the Gospel and always to proclaim Jesus Christ.”
“Jesus is the vine, we are the branches. Only in Him and with Him can we bear fruit. Without Him, we can do nothing,” he said.
He concluded his homily with an excerpt from St. Patrick’s Breastplate, which is credited to the saint and, Bishop Senior said, “which expresses what surely must have been his complete surrender and trust in Jesus, and invites us all to renew our friendship with Him.”
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.
The prayer service was open to the public, and offered the people of the Diocese an opportunity to pray with and meet their new bishop.
Among those in attendance was a group of nearly 20 young people from Voyage, one of the many young adult groups in the Diocese.
Member Mary Rettinger, a parishioner at St. Catherine Labouré in Harrisburg, said she attended Solemn Vespers for “the opportunity to see how we as the Catholic Church are united together as one, and how important it is for us to pray for our bishop as he begins his leadership in our local Church.”
“I really like how he speaks to the congregation,” she said of Bishop Senior. “I can see the love he has for people when he speaks to them, so I think he’ll do a great job as bishop here.”
Angele Mbassi, coordinator of the Diocese’s Black Catholic Apostolate, met Bishop Senior last year during a multicultural event in Philadelphia, and said she is delighted that he has been appointed to Harrisburg.
“I’m so happy to have Bishop Senior with us, and I’m also thankful for all the collaboration we’ve had with Bishop Gainer. I respect him, I love him and I wish him the very best in his retirement,” she said. “For Bishop Senior, I’m delighted to have him as our new bishop and look forward to his advancement of the mission here in the Diocese of Harrisburg.”
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness