Welcome, Archbishop Charles Chaput

   As the noon bells of the Angelus tolled in Saint Peter’s Basilica this past Tuesday (19 July, 6:00am our time), Pope Benedict XVI named the Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput as Philadelphia’s new Archbishop. Archbishop Chaput has served as the archbishop of Denver since 1997. He was previously the bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota. One of America’s most publicly engaged Catholic bishops, he frequently addresses the intersection of religious faith and political life, as he does in his book, Render Unto Caesar.

     Archbishop Chaput is a member of the Capuchin Franciscan order of religious priests and brothers. A registered member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi tribe, he is the second Native American to be ordained bishop in the U.S., and the first Native American archbishop. Raised in a small farming community in central Kansas, Archbishop Chaput felt called to the priesthood from a young age. Except for a childhood interest in growing up to be a film director (or a stunt man; the archbishop is a great movie buff and voracious reader), he has wanted to be a priest for as long as he can remember.

     Archbishop Chaput earned a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from St. Fidelis College Seminary in Herman, Pennsylvania, and studied Psychology at Catholic University in Washington D.C. He holds a Master of Arts in Religious Education from Capuchin College in Washington D.C., and a Master of Arts in Theology from the University of San Francisco.

     I am sure you join me in welcoming our new archbishop. As parishioners of a parish, we are part of a larger experience of the local Church, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Archdiocese is part of the Universal Church, the Body of Christ. The appointment of a new shepherd for our Church comes in the midst of times that are both exciting and challenging. Like it or not, “times are a changin” and the way we are Church will take on new expressions (note the word will, not might). In light of this Sunday’s Gospel (17th Sunday) about the “instructed scribe,” we can say that the bishop “is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”

     Much awaits our new shepherd (you may want to read John Allen’s interview of the Archbishop). Exciting ways to continue sounding the message of Jesus Christ that are both old and new remind us once again that hope springs eternal. Yet these opportunities will require decisions - tough and difficult decisions - that ultimately rest on the shoulders of the bishop and impact all of us. For that reason, we as members of the body of Christ must pray fervently for our Church and our bishop seeking opportunities to be less passive and more educated in matters of the Faith. We must read and listen with critical eyes and ears what the media has to say about our beloved Church realizing that because we are baptized, we all have an obligation to build up Christ’s Body the Church in unity and to continue responding to the Holy Spirit’s work of holiness in how each of us thinks, speaks and acts.

God, eternal shepherd,
You tend Your Church in many ways,
and rule us with love.
Help Your chosen servant Charles as
pastor for Christ, to watch over Your flock.
Help him to be a faithful teacher,
a wise administrator, and a holy priest.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Sacramentary, “Mass for the Bishop”)