Bishop Malone installed in Portland

PORTLAND — A sunny and brisk day greeted the representatives from Maine’s 135 Catholic parishes, many family and friends from Massachusetts, 250 priests from Portland and Boston and 30 brother bishops as they gathered at Immaculate Conception Cathedral for the installation of the 11th bishop of the diocese, Bishop Richard Malone.

As the assembly entered the cathedral, a splendid choir from the Portland diocese set the prayerful tone for the Mass. The church was filled to overflowing by the people and processions of priests and bishops. Presiding at the rite of installation was Bishop Malone’s former superior, metropolitan Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley. Attending episcopal installations is one of the archbishop’s responsibilities for his suffragan dioceses — those dioceses in his province.

Archbishop O’Malley greeted the assembly, saluted Bishop Malone and thanked outgoing Bishop Joseph Gerry, OSB, for his 15 years of service. In a nod to Bishop Gerry’s well-known desire to return to monastic life at St. Anselm Abbey in New Hampshire, the archbishop told Abbot Matthew Leavy, OSB,“that he could have his monk back.” Then, in an aside, he said, “I hope my provincial will want me back when I am finished.”

The ceremonial reading of the papal letter of appointment by the Holy See’s nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, and the showing of the letter to the diocesan consultors followed. The archbishop and the nuncio then led Bishop Malone to his new chair or “cathedra,” the prominent bishop’s chair from which he leads, guides and teaches the Church in Maine.

Applause from the people greeted the new bishop as he took possession of his diocese. A particularly touching moment was the appearance in the sanctuary of four indigenous American peoples from native tribes in Maine. They sang a welcome in their own language accompanied by native instruments.

In his homily, Bishop Malone drew attention to the primary vocation we all have as evangelizers. Mixing history and humor, wit and wisdom, he asked for a renewed commitment of all in the Portland diocese to their own vocations. “Evangelization requires that we ... are disciples of Jesus Christ ... recognizing that discipleship is about both personal holiness and world transformation.”

He promised to listen and meet with victims of clergy sexual abuse and to do whatever he could to promote the healing and reconciliation of those so affected by this sad chapter in the Church’s life.

Bishop Malone also pointed out that there were many fine people — clergy and lay — who have been hurt by this crisis. In a moment appreciated by the priests of Portland and Boston who had come for the installation he asked those present to thank the assembled priests.

“Dear brothers and sisters, these are good men, like yourselves, not perfect (only Jesus is that) but good men whom God has chosen to serve you. These men represent the 96 percent who are faithful and good servants. Please join me in thanking them and assuring them of our love and prayerful support,” Bishop Malone said.

He lead a sustained applause of appreciation for the priests.

Departing from his prepared text and alluding to the alleged tension between the Franco-American and Irish American populations in the Maine diocese, he related a comment he heard the night before from a diocesan seminarian at the Evening Prayer service at St. Maximillian Kolbe Parish, Scarborough, Maine.

Bishop Malone had forgotten to bring along his zuchetto (purple skull cap). Happily, Maine native and bishop of Norwich, Conn., Bishop Michael Cote came to the rescue with one. Observing to the seminarians how nice it was that the bishops serve one another, the quick-witted seminarian replied “and I guess that the French are still serving the Irish.”

Before getting to work in his new diocese, the bishop went to the Italian Heritage Center in Portland where his guests had assembled for lunch. He stood for a few hours greeting old friends and making new.

“Eager and energetic” was how one couple from Brunswick, Maine, described him. “We’re glad to have him.”