This afternoon in southern Colorado, Fr. Fernando Isern was ordained Bishop of the Diocese of Pueblo. In his homily at the ordination, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver used the example of St. Augustine to emphasize that a bishop should love his people as a father loves his children.
The ordination, which took place in the Massari Arena at Colorado State University's Pueblo campus, was presided over by Denver's Archbishop Charles Chaput, who was also the principal consecrater. The co-consecrating bishops were Archbishop John C. Favalora, Archbishop of Miami and Arthur N. Tafoya, Bishop of Pueblo. Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles was also in attendance.
Seats were set aside for members of the Ute Indian Tribe, whose reservation makes up a part of the Diocese of Pueblo.
The homily for the ordination Mass was preached by Archbishop Chaput, who began by acknowledging the presence of the Pope's delegate to the U.S., the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Pietro Sambi. The nuncio's presence is a reminder of the universality of the Church, said Archbishop Chaput.
Despite the frigid December weather, Archbishop Chaput observed that the second week of Advent is a great time to be ordained a bishop, since there are so many saints whose feasts are celebrated this week, including St. Ambrose -the mentor of St. Augustine, Pope St. Damasus, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and St. Juan Diego. “I know that Bishop Isern already treasures these last two feasts in a special way, trusting in Mary who is always our mother, and seeking to be holy and simple in his service to the Gospel, as Juan Diego was,” he said.
Before focusing his homily on the example of St. Augustine, Archbishop Chaput touched on the day's Scripture readings, which he said tell us three things: “They tell us who we are. They tell us who God is. And they tell us what we need to do with the life we've been given.”
Giving the example of a married man, who “never fully knows who he is, until he's loved by a wife and children,” the archbishop broadened the analogy to include every human person. “Every person needs to love and be loved. In loving another person, we prove that the other person is worth loving. And likewise, those who love us show us the good in ourselves that we can't see, and so often don't believe.”
But we aren't just defined by human love, Chaput said. We are defined by the love of God. “It's his love that made us. It’s his love that sustains us... and with the tenderness of a father, He selects each one of us to be uniquely his own.” This radical love also defines who God is, Chaput continued. “God invites us to love as radically and unselfishly as He does, and through that love, to help him remake the world.” He noted, “the irony is that in giving ourselves to God, we find ourselves in him.”
This fatherly love takes on a special meaning in the role of the bishop as exhibited in the case of St. Augustine. A 1,600 year old example of the 'prodigal son' story, St. Augustine converted from paganism with his son, who died in his teens.
St. Augustine was “a brilliant scholar, and a tireless writer, preacher and defender of the Catholic faith against its enemies. But he became one of the greatest bishops in Christian history because he lived first and foremost as a father, moved by a father's love,” Chaput preached.
“In his ministry as a bishop, Augustine never forgot the lessons of a father's love,” he added. “He never forgot that his first task was not to be a brilliant intellect, or a marvelous preacher, or a great administrator, or a good fund-raiser – although each of these things has a proper place in the life of a bishop. His first task was to love God as a son, and to love the people of God in his care as a father, with a father's heart.”
This kind of love, said the archbishop, “is tireless. It's all-consuming. And without the grace of God in a man's life, it's overwhelming. Only when a man puts himself entirely in the arms of God; only when he abandons himself and his pride completely to God – only then, but truly then, the ministry of bishop is a joy and a liberation.”
Archbishop Chaput told those at the Mass that “the purpose of a bishop is to be a father to his people, a brother to his priests and deacons, and a witness of Jesus Christ to world.” He also encouraged the faithful of the Diocese of Pueblo to pray for and support their new bishop because “there is no greater joy in the life of any bishop than to love and be loved by God's people.”
Turning his attention to then Bishop-elect Isern, Archbishop Chaput advised, “have confidence in the God who calls you to this altar, because He will give you the serenity and strength to do his will.” Bishop Isern has taken “ Caritas Christi urget nos” (The love of Christ compels us) as his motto. He replaces Bishop Arthur Tafoya, who was bishop of Pueblo for 30 years.