Hope in the Lord —
My joy after 50 years
of priestly ministry

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz

As the month of March begins, and we prepare to welcome our new Archbishop Shelton Fabre, my heart is filled with gratitude. I write this final column for The Record before my retirement and ask our loving and faithful God to bless all of you, the faithful of the Archdiocese of Louisville. It has been such a privilege to serve for almost 15 years as your archbishop and to live and serve within the Province of Louisville for over 22 years. The precious memories of parish visitations, Masses of Confirmation, Chrism and Ordination all flood my heart, as do the many friendships in the Lord that I have been privileged to have. Join me in prayer for Archbishop-designate Shelton Fabre, who will be installed as our new Archbishop on March 30. He will be a wonderful servant leader, and the Church of Louisville will be blessed!

These final days of my pastoral service have been rich and especially full of treasured memories. Every time I receive a letter from someone with whom I have served over the years, I am given the grace of a “gratitude of memories.” As I write to you, I celebrate the wonderful gift of serving the Church of Louisville and befriending so many of you. I thank each of you. What a beautiful privilege has been mine these past years! Thank you for that goodness.

Golden Anniversary on March 18

This month is a fitting time for me to celebrate my priestly vocation with joy. Two Fridays from now on March 18, I will celebrate my 50th anniversary of priestly ordination. I will celebrate this regularly scheduled noon Mass at our Cathedral of the Assumption with brother priests, deacons, religious and lay leaders as well as the faithful who gather for that Friday Mass in Lent. As I do so, please accept my thanks for your prayerful support of me as your archbishop and join me in prayers of gratitude for the gift of my priestly vocation and for the gift of all vocations within the Church.

Urgent Prayers for and Solidarity with the Ukrainian People

Our hearts are with the people of Ukraine amid the suffering and loss of life caused by the invasion. So many have asked how we can support the humanitarian needs. Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, and I joined with Father Martin Linebach and so many faithful in praying the Rosary to ask our Blessed Mother to intercede. We also are providing an opportunity to join in offering humanitarian support for those suffering. If you have not had the opportunity to donate to a parish collection, here is the link, support.crs.org/Ukraine.

With a heavy heart, I recall my pastoral visit to Ukraine in June of 2015. As President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I visited Ukraine along with Cardinal Blase Cupich, who was then chair of the USCCB Committee for the Collection to Aid the Church in Central and Eastern Europe. In six days, we visited Kyiv, Kharkiv and Lviv. The nation was still reeling from the unrest and fighting from 2014, and our Church was seeking both solidarity with the Church leaders of Ukraine and humanitarian efforts. I recall vividly both times of prayer as well as visits to war victims in hospitals, helping a wounded soldier to be united with his family in the USA and a dialogue with a group of persons who had been displaced from Crimea. Perhaps the most touching experience was a visit to a refugee camp in Kharkiv filled with families displaced from the violence in Ukraine the year before. As I read about the current devastation, especially in the city of Kharkiv, just 20 miles from the border with Russia, I recall the highlight of my visit to this refugee camp. I made mention of it when I delivered my presidential address to the Bishops of the United States as I completed my three-year term in November 2016. Here is an excerpt that I hope captured the pastoral experience:

“In June of last year, I was part of a whirlwind five days in war-torn and economically ravaged Ukraine. We met with church and civic leaders, the U.S. ambassador and so many others. But the event that sticks in my mind was a visit with a refugee family in their small two-room home. There was a mother with three children, one of whom was a young child of eight who was born with Down Syndrome. … Well, I entered that small home and to my surprise when I bent down to shake the hand of the little boy with Down Syndrome, he instinctively jumped into my arms, gave me a big smile and said in a language that my heart understood: ‘I love you.’

That encounter, though brief, kept coming back to me as I reflected on the pastoral visit to Ukraine. The lesson is obvious: We bishops and all who serve the Lord need also to open our hearts to the joy that others will give to us. Joy and love are not only to be given but also to be received. Jumping into my arms was a trusting child of God deserving a chance. So many youths in our nation need a chance — an opportunity.”

(To read the entire speech, click here.)

Hope in the Lord

Our Loving God walks with us in our joys and sufferings. Please continue to pray for me daily as we seek to follow the Lord and reach out to others in His name in joyful and faithful service. My motto as a bishop, “Hope in the Lord,” comes from the last verse of Psalm 31: “Be strong and have courage, all you who hope in the Lord.” My deepest wish is that you will never lose the great gift to hope in the Lord.

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