Editorial – The archbishop’s pastoral care

Marnie McAllister
Marnie McAllister

Unlike this week’s unseasonably cool weather, Aug. 15, 2007, was sweltering. The temperature broke 100 degrees as the Archdiocese of Louisville received its new archbishop at The Gardens in downtown Louisville.

It was a day that stands out in memory, not just because of the extraordinary heat and the momentous occasion, but also because of the immense crowd — 5,000 people formed the congregation.

The joyful installation ceremony was held on the feast of the Assumption. And it was the late Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly’s 30th anniversary as a bishop, a fact that Archbishop Kurtz was quick to note and recognize.

A diverse group of Catholics participated in the celebration. The new archbishop was greeted by a variety of the faithful during the ceremony — a family, members of religious communities and those representing various cultures present here in the Archdiocese of Louisville. In fact, the new archbishop offered some comments in Spanish.

He was joined at the altar by 189 priests, 85 deacons, 37 bishops and a cardinal. A choir of 140 voices, representing 50 parishes in the archdiocese, provided the musical backdrop for the day.

After the ceremony, Archbishop Kurtz greeted the thousands of well-wishers in Founders Square Park, a small outdoor space across the street from his new residence at the Cathedral of the Assumption. Despite the great heat, the archbishop remained in the park to greet every person who stayed to meet him.

More than likely, he greeted many of those well-wishers by name. As Jessica Able notes in a story on page one this week, Archbishop Kurtz is known for his ability to remember faces and names. It’s a pastoral gift that has served him well in his priesthood.

Father Shayne Duvall, who was a new seminarian back in 2007, told Able that he was amazed when the archbishop thanked him by name during the installation ceremony.

Father Duvall had just handed the archbishop his miter.

Father Duvall, administrator of St. Raphael Church, noted that this gift of the archbishop’s relates to the sacrament of baptism.

“At baptism, we ask ‘What name do you give this child?’ Our names are very important,” he noted.

This gift translates, for those of us in the pew, as a message that Archbishop Kurtz cares for us. He knows us, he is concerned about us. He is a pastor, a shepherd, first and foremost in his ministry. And even those who disagree with aspects of his leadership seem to recognize his extraordinary pastoral care.

This pastoral care is also evident in Archbishop Kurtz’ pastoral letter issued in January, “Your Parish: The Body of Christ Alive in Our Midst.”

In the letter, he writes that one of his “great joys” has been to visit the 110 parishes that form the Archdiocese of Louisville.

“Even in the midst of well-documented challenges to the life of faith today, including the number of those who have grown distant from Christ and His Church, I have witnessed your lively faith,” he writes. “I have seen firsthand your goodness, your commitment, and the vibrancy of your parish. Indeed, parish life is at the heart of where and how we grow as the Body of Christ.”

The archbishop goes on to announce a new effort to renew and grow parish vitality — a process of discernment that each parish is invited to experience. The effort is voluntary, but already more than 75 parishes have signed up.

Parishes that take part — and the parishioners who enter into the discernment process — begin a journey into the unknown with an openness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray along with the archbishop, as he writes in his letter, “that we will be enthusiastic and engaged coworkers with Christ who trust that, if we do our part, sharing generously all the gifts we have received from God’s abundance, the world will recognize us for who we are: the Body of Christ.”


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