By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
In one of his last homilies in the Archdiocese of Louisville, Bishop-elect J. Mark Spalding shared with the hundreds who’d filled the Cathedral of the Assumption the evening of Jan. 11 that “God is always calling us to a great destiny.”
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz celebrated the Mass of Thanksgiving for Bishop-elect Spalding who was appointed the 12th bishop of Nashville, Tenn., in November. His consecration and installation will take place Feb. 2 in Nashville.
Among those who gathered to give thanks for Bishop-elect Spalding were his family, his parishioners, dozens of members of the clergy and his good friends Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis and Bishop William Medley of Owensboro.
During his homily, the bishop-elect shared that people are always curious about the “call” that first lead him to the priesthood and the “call” that would later lead him to be the next bishop of Nashville.
People always ask “what was it like, how did you feel and after you responded what did you believe was going to happen?” said Bishop-elect Spalding. It was the summer between his junior and senior year of high school when the calling to be a priest heightened, he said. “ ‘What was I going to do with this haunting feeling that God somehow was calling me?’ ” he asked. “I need to respond to this feeling, this whispering voice that keeps telling me ‘you need to look at priesthood.’ ” He knew the feeling wouldn’t go away until he decided to discern, he said. He enrolled at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology and never looked back.
The very first night there, he prayed “God you got me into this. Help me,” said Bishop-elect Spalding.
He prayed for God’s help throughout his journey as a priest, he said. One thing is for certain, Bishop-elect Spalding said to the congregation, “God has been alongside me every step of the way.”
The day he received the call from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States — telling him of his appointment as bishop — he made a pilgrimage to the three places that “was significant for my call as a priest,” said Bishop-elect Spalding.
He went to his mother’s grave, to Holy Trinity Church in Fredericktown, Ky., where he grew up and to Calvary Cemetery’s priest’s section. There he prayed “Pray for me, intercede for me make me a bishop that will have the love of Jesus in my heart,” said Bishop-elect Spalding.
Life, he said to his listeners is “all about the call and responding. God is always calling us to a great destiny through and in his son Jesus Christ,” said Bishop-elect Spalding.
That calling, however, should always be about “service to others,” said the bishop-elect. “When we turn in ourselves we’ve turned the wrong way.” Turning out towards others and responding to “the love God has placed in our hearts is when we respond to the most intimate call” which is to love like Christ, said Bishop-elect Spalding.
The message of the calling to love and serve like Christ is the “gift” he will take with him to Nashville, he said.
“I love to preach that God has loved us so much that he gave us the greatest gift of his son Jesus Christ and he still calls us together in the spirit so we’re reminded of that calling through Jesus Christ,” said Bishop-elect Spalding. “Once we have it we go out into the world and make it a better place.”
The call from the nuncio changed his life said, Bishop-elect Spalding. “It started with a call and a simple response of yes.”