Hope 'is central to faith' and needed more than ever amid today's challenges, says Providence, R.I., coadjutor
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (OSV NEWS) -- At the Mass of Reception welcoming him to the Diocese of Providence as coadjutor, Bishop Richard G. Henning began his homily by marveling at the magnificence of Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Providence.
"It's even more beautiful to see it filled with the people of God, offering praise and worship to our Creator and Savior," he said during the Jan. 26 Mass.
He delivered his homily in his signature style, without notes while standing in front of the altar.
He noted that the day also was special for another reason -- Jan. 26 marked the 51st anniversary of the ordination of now-retired Louis E. Gelineau, the sixth bishop of Providence -- and he encouraged a round of applause in his honor.
Bishop Henning recalled the day -- Nov. 12 -- when he first learned that he was to be appointed by Pope Francis as coadjutor bishop to assist Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin.
The news came in the same way as the apostolic nuncio had delivered it to him four years earlier when his appointment to serve as an auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, was made -- by telephone while he was traveling in his car.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre informed Bishop Henning of his new appointment as he was making a brief day trip to Northern Virginia from the annual U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' annual general assembly in Baltimore. He was on his way to visit a cousin and her family when the call came.
Bishop Henning gave thanks to God for the opportunity but wondered why he was chosen for this assignment.
Boarding a hotel elevator later that evening back in Baltimore, he received a not-so-subtle sign that Providence is where God wanted him to be. On the wall was an advertisement from an Ocean State architectural firm that displayed prominently the recently renovated Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, along with the newly installed marble cathedra.
Soon after, he began Googling Rhode Island online to learn as much as he could about the state and its people.
The state flag, with a large anchor owing to its nickname, The Ocean State, and its motto "Hope," reinforced for him that Rhode Island was indeed where God wanted him to be.
To emphasize his point for the many guests attending the Mass from out of state, especially a cadre of his fellow Long Islanders who traveled 200 miles from the Diocese of Rockville Centre, Bishop Henning walked over to the lectern, where a folded state flag on a shelf below was soon unfurled and displayed for all to take in.
"To see on a state flag that ancient Christian symbol, the anchor, the symbol of hope, and not just the symbol, the word is written right there on that flag," he said. "In my prayer I thought, 'I'm going to live in the state of hope.' It will be OK. It was a great comfort to me at a time with a lot of emotions.
"Hope, St. Paul teaches us, is central to the faith. Christ Jesus our hope. And I hope I am a man of hope. I hope we all are Christians who live hope," Bishop Henning said.
He said he is not naive in believing in hope, acknowledging there will be difficulties and challenges ahead.
"But we have to admit there has not been a single age of the church that has not had its challenges," he said. "These are days it seems across our society, and even across the world, there is a kind of rising tide of isolation and despair – the opposite of hope."
Forty bishops were in attendance at the Mass, which was celebrated by Bishop Tobin, with Bishop Henning concelebrating. Among those present were Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley of Boston, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Connecticut, and Archbishop Pierre, the nuncio, who presented the papal decree of his appointment to Bishop Henning.
The coadjutor then brought it to Bishop Tobin and displayed it to the College of Consultors in the presence of Father Timothy Reilly, diocesan chancellor, before processing up and down the outer aisles of the cathedral holding the document aloft for everyone to view.
Archbishop Pierre said Bishop Henning has distinguished himself while serving as an auxiliary bishop for Rockville Centre, a seminary formator, educator and leader, as well as a shepherd with a keen eye toward evangelization.
"His special concern for those who speak Spanish, and his use of the new media are also praiseworthy. In all these capacities, he relates well to the people of God," said the nuncio, who thanked Bishop Tobin for welcoming Bishop Henning, a native of Rockville Centre, and for sharing his ministry with him as he learns more about the life of the local church.
The nuncio also congratulated former Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans on his recent retirement after nearly 50 years of ministry as a priest and bishop in the Diocese of Providence. The pope accepted his resignation Nov. 23, the same day he officially appointed Bishop Henning as coadjutor.
In his remarks, Bishop Tobin said the diocese welcomed its new coadjutor bishop with "open arms and a grateful heart."
"We pledge to you friendship and support and prayers as you begin your new ministry here, in the state of Rhode Island in the Diocese of Providence," he said.
Bishop Tobin also said the diocese is deeply grateful to Pope Francis for this appointment, which shows his sincere affection and pastoral solicitude for the church in the statewide diocese.
On April 1, Bishop Tobin will turn 75, the age when canon law requires bishops to submit their resignation to the pope. Whenever the pope accepts his resignation and he officially retires, Bishop Tobin will be immediately succeeded by Bishop Henning.
Bishop Tobin has served as a bishop for more than 30 years, with 18 of those years as the eighth bishop of Providence. He was bishop of Youngstown, Ohio, from 1995-2005, and before that a Pittsburgh auxiliary for three years.
About 1,000 people attended the Mass of Reception, celebrated on the feast of Sts. Timothy and Titus, two of the Apostle Paul’s closest associates. The congregation included representatives of the Knights of Columbus, the Knights and Ladies of Malta, and the Knights, Dames and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre. Nineteen school groups from across the diocese were present to witness history.
The Gregorian Concert Choir and Festival Orchestra, led by Msgr. Anthony Mancini, cathedral rector, who composed a psalm for the Mass, along with organist Phil Faraone, produced stirring music with crescendos that reverberated throughout the cathedral.
Later in the Mass, Bishop Henning expressed his gratitude to Bishop Tobin and spoke of Bishop Tobin's gifts of governance and leadership and how he has shepherded the diocese over the last 18 years. He also expressed his gratitude at having received such a warm welcome.
"So, I am grateful to have this opportunity to shadow him and to learn from him and hopefully to imitate him in every way possible," Bishop Henning said in publicly thanking Bishop Tobin.
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Rick Snizek is executive editor of the Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Providence.
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BRIEF: PROVIDENCE, R.I. (OSV News) – Bishop Richard G. Henning, Providence's new coadjutor, began his homily Jan. 26 by marveling at the magnificence of Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Providence. "It's even more beautiful to see it filled with the people of God, offering praise and worship to our Creator and Savior," he said during the diocese’s Mass of Reception welcoming him as coadjutor. He will assist Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, who has headed been Providence’s bishop for 18 years. the diocese. In his remarks, Bishop Tobin said the diocese welcomed its new coadjutor bishop with "open arms and a grateful heart." "We pledge to you friendship and support and prayers as you begin your new ministry here, in the state of Rhode Island in the Diocese of Providence," he said. On April 1, Bishop Tobin will turn 75, the age when canon law requires bishops to submit their resignation to the pope. Whenever the pope accepts his resignation and he officially retires, Bishop Tobin will be immediately succeeded by Bishop Henning.