Archbishop of Milwaukee Timothy Dolan, whose appointment to become Archbishop of New York was announced on Monday, has commented on his appointment in a letter to the Catholics of Milwaukee and at a New York City press conference. Saying it will be “very tough” to leave Milwaukee, he expressed hopes and sought prayers for his future “full of hope” in New York.
Noting that there had been “a lot of speculation” about his move to New York, Archbishop Dolan in his Monday letter reported he had responded to these rumors by saying “I don’t know anything about it. I want to stay right here in Milwaukee.”
“I was not fibbing,” he explained. “It was only recently that I was told of this appointment. It’s hardly a position one applies for! I was surprised, and still am.”
He said he was not asked if he would accept the position, but simply informed of Pope Benedict XVI’s decision by the Papal Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi.
“Do I want to go? Do I consider myself qualified? Are there much better candidates for the position?” Archbishop Dolan asked rhetorically.
“All of that is really beside the point. The obedience I freely and enthusiastically promised to Jesus Christ, His Church, and His vicar on earth, our Holy Father, is a very liberating act. So, I place my future in the hands of the Lord, whose grace and mercy endure forever, and I go.”
He noted Blessed Mother Teresa’s words, “Let God use you without consulting you.”
“I am honored by this appointment, as I was by my appointment as Archbishop of Milwaukee, deeply grateful for the confidence of Pope Benedict XVI, and filled with hope as I anticipate serving the historic, vibrant Archdiocese of New York.”
However, the archbishop said, he must admit his sadness in leaving Milwaukee Catholics.
“In my brief six-and-a-half years as your pastor, I have come to know, love and appreciate you very much. I am at home here. It will be very tough to leave.”
Saying the “bustling life and promising initiatives” of the “great” Milwaukee archdiocese will go on “as strong as ever,” he emphasized the initiatives will proceed because they depend not on him, but on Jesus Christ and Catholics’ faith in “His promise to remain with us forever.”
Noting that he will continue as Archbishop of Milwaukee throughout Lent, Dolan said he will need Lenten prayer, penance and acts of charity “more than ever as I open myself to the grace and mercy of Christ on the cross.”
After asking for prayers, the archbishop closed his letter with a jest referring to a Fat Tuesday Polish pastry called a “paczki.”
“Tuesday I’m back with you, because I can’t find a Paczki in New York!”
The archbishop also delivered a statement to the Archdiocese of New York at a New York City press conference on Monday.
Expressing his thanks to Cardinal Edward Egan, he thanked members of the media and those hearing or seeing broadcasts of the conference.
“You’ve made me feel at home already,” he said.
“Thank you, most of all, to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who is alive in His Church, without whom nothing is possible, with whom nothing is impossible,” he emphasized.
“Thank you, Pope Benedict XVI, for your trust in naming me archbishop of this historic and vibrant Archdiocese of New York.”
Pledging his love, life and heart to the bishops, priests, vowed religious, seminarians and lay Catholics of New York, he asked for their prayers and support.
“I am so honored, humbled, and happy to serve as your pastor,” the archbishop said.
He gave a special greeting to Latinos and assured other New York City religious leaders of his “continued friendship.” Addressing civic leaders and citizens, he expressed his devotion to “all that is noble” in New York.
“I look forward to knowing and loving you,” he concluded. “I come before you in awe, with some trepidation, knowing I have a lot to learn, -- about you and about this dynamic local church.
“Yet I come so confident in God’s grace and mercy, and so hopeful in the dream that is ours for a ‘future full of hope’ as promised by God. I relish the blessing of spending the rest of my life as your pastor, neighbor, and friend."