As a child I was taught to make a good morning offering each day as I got out of bed, a simple prayer consecrating the day to Jesus through Mary.
Part of that daily ritual, which I still perform fifty-six years later, is a sincere litany of thanksgiving, praising God for His blessings to me.
For the last three years, since my appointment as Archbishop of New York you have been part of that prayer of gratitude, you bishops, priests, deacons, sisters, brothers, and wonderful people of this community.
And near to the top of that litany is my predecessor, Cardinal Edward Egan.
“Happy the one who can praise his predecessor and successor,” the old saying goes. I can only hope Cardinal Egan can do the latter; I can enthusiastically do the first!
Simply put, with the help of all of you, he left me a growing archdiocese in sterling shape.
When I speak with some of my brother bishops, I often hear them describe dioceses in rough waters: lengthy lists of parishes closing; a school system very shaky; census of Catholics in decline; finances insolvent; cutbacks and retreat; the negative seeming to outweigh the positive that is always present in the life of the Church.
Not here in the Archdiocese of New York. To be sure, we have problems – - as Cardinal Egan himself readily admitted to me when I got here three years ago. I’ve never met a church, corporation, organization, or family without them. But, this archdiocese is in good health, grateful for its heritage of 204 years, vibrant in the present, and confident about the future.
And, along with, primarily, God’s grace and mercy, and the loyal commitment of our clergy, religious, and laity, that’s due, I propose, to nine years of shepherding by the man who turns eighty today, Edward Michael Cardinal Egan.
I admit I’m biased. See, he was chairman of the board of the North American College in Rome twenty years ago, then the Bishop of Bridgeport, when I was appointed rector of that seminary. It was his support and encouragement that guided me those seven happy years, so I’ve been a fan of his for two decades.
As I hear so many people compliment Cardinal Egan, they usually begin noting his accomplishments in the temporal, administrative area: he put the archdiocese on sound financial footing, led a successful capital campaign, and bolstered our parishes, schools, program and charities.
True enough. Am I ever glad he did!
But I hail as well his many achievements in the pastoral, spiritual, and apostolic areas:
– Our Catholic schools, under him, remained acclaimed, numerous, and
healthy, with our inner-city Catholic schools the envy of all;
– Our religious education programs were expanded and strengthened;
– New religious orders of priests and sisters arrived, at his invitation, to minister in our parishes, schools, and apostolates;
– Our renowned Catholic Charities was further professionalized, renewed and extended;
– Communications were boosted with The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM satellite radio;
–The promising project to unify the seminaries of the archdiocese, the diocese of Brooklyn, and the diocese of Rockville Centre – - now a reality – - began;
–The project of repairing, renewing, and restoring our historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral started;
–A first-rate, prestigious, Archdiocesan Finance Council and board for Catholic Charities were launched;
– Partnership with interreligious, ecumenical, civic, and community leaders was respected;
– Pope Benedict himself, along with all the bishops of the country, were
welcomed for our bicentennial;
– Archcare – - the now up–and–running promising health apostolate of the
Archdiocese – was initiated.
I could go on and on . . .
His pastoral work does, in fact, go on and on, thank God, as he remains active here in the archdiocese, a big help to me, not only in his wisdom and counsel, but in his presence and his ministry.
His health is good, his mind more perceptive than ever, his laugh still deep, his friends many, his activities abundant, his preaching still inspirational, the invitations many.
Retired he may be in name; retiring he is not! Thank God for that, for we cherish his presence, and are grateful that this archdiocese has its first “archbishop emeritus” in our history.
And today he turns eighty. So, my litany of praise in my morning offering earlier today was a bit longer and more fervent, as I thanked God for the gift he was and is.
Happy birthday, Cardinal Egan!