Today I greet you with a new title — Apostolic Administrator — for the Archdiocese of Louisville and with a heart full of joy at the announcement of our new Archbishop, the Most Reverend Shelton Joseph Fabre.
The week of the announcement, I wrote to our priests about Archbishop Fabre, my plans and an opportunity to help the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, and it occurred to me to share this same information with you. Below is my letter to the priests of the Archdiocese.
My Dear Brother Priests,
Let us rejoice and be glad! How grateful I am that our Holy Father has appointed Bishop Shelton Joseph Fabre as our 10th bishop and 5th archbishop. I was overjoyed with the response of so many priests who were able to come yesterday to the special prayer and dialogue that Archbishop Shelton requested with his priests of the Archdiocese. It was short notice, and I am sure not all of you were able to come, but each one of you surely will hear again his message of faith in Jesus Christ, his love of his brother priests, and his desire to come to know and to serve you.
I also wanted you to know that our Holy Father has appointed me to serve as the apostolic administrator to provide care for the Archdiocese until Archbishop Shelton’s installation on March 30. It will be my joy to provide this service.
As I am reflecting upon your goodness and the privilege that has been mine to serve as your Archbishop for almost 15 years, my heart swells in gratitude for you! I ordained 30 of you brother priests, presided at the Mass of Christian Burial for many of our brothers who have gone to the Lord, joined with you at annual priest assemblies, parish visitations, regional dialogues, Priests’ Council meetings and, most importantly, individual meetings in which we have come to know and love each other.
I was especially privileged to preside at the Chrism Mass each year, during which I received the renewal of your priestly promises, pledged my support and asked the faithful to pray for me as well as you.
This time of transition into my retirement is one that so many of you senior priests have already experienced and so you know that it is bittersweet. While I rejoice with all my heart in Archbishop Shelton’s presence and leadership among us and pledge my support for him and my desire to do all in my ability to serve with him, I also embrace the Lord’s call for me to open a new chapter in the book of my life.
As Archbishop Kelly did almost 15 years ago when I became the Archbishop, I will take time away from the Archdiocese for a few months in order to give Archbishop Shelton full opportunity to become the Archbishop and to set his own pace. I will be living in Wilmington, North Carolina, not too far from the Duke Cancer Institute at which I continue to receive cancer monitoring.
I hope to return for the Chrism Mass so that I might join with you in renewing priestly vows and in praying for Archbishop Shelton as our new Archbishop. I also hope there will be an opportunity for me to join in the summer Priests’ Assembly banquet in early June and, if possible, to concelebrate the Mass of priestly ordination for Deacon Dustin Hungerford in May.
After a few months living out of town, I will enjoy the hospitality of Father Jeff Shooner who welcomed me to join with Father Quan Nguyen and Father Tony Smith in the rectory at St. Patrick, where I might be of some help to Archbishop Shelton in sharing Confirmations as he desires. I also plan to spend a good bit of my time in Wilmington, North Carolina. Please continue to pray for me that I might continue to serve Jesus Christ as his holy priest and be assured that each day, I will be praying for you.
Archbishop Shelton made mention of the terrible devastation that occurred in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux as a result of Hurricane Ida, and I would like to invite you to join me in a donation from the Archdiocese of Louisville to the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux for church and humanitarian relief.
This gift will be presented to Archbishop Shelton during the time in which he continues to serve as the administrator of Houma-Thibodaux, which he has so beautifully served for the last eight years. In the next day or so, you will receive a letter noting the amount of the gift from the Archdiocese and inviting you to consider whether your parish might be able to add to that gift. Because we have had so many recent collections, I am not asking you to take up a special collection but simply to join as the circumstances in your parish allow.
Please continue to pray for me as I pray for you. Feel free to call me if I can help in any way during these last days as we prepare for the wonderful installation Mass on March 30, 2022.
God love you!