LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CNS) – Nearly 3,000 people in the Archdiocese of Louisville, including hundreds of clergy and religious, welcomed their new Shepherd, Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre, as he became the 10th bishop and fifth archbishop to lead the Central Kentucky Historic Region on March 30.
Archbishop Fabre, the first black prelate to lead the archdiocese, succeeds retired Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, 75, who served as Archbishop of Louisville from 2007 until February, when Pope Francis accepted his resignation and then appointed Bishop Fabre his successor.
The Installation Mass, celebrated at the Kentucky International Convention Center in downtown Louisville, began with a reading of the Apostolic Mandate by the Apostolic Nuncio, Bishop Christophe Pierre.
The ambassador-like nuncio made the ceremony laugh by noting the difficulty of pronouncing “Louisville” correctly, as well as other areas where Archbishop Fabre served – New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Houma-Thibodaux, who are all in Louisiana.
More seriously, he told the congregation and those watching the live stream, “A new era is beginning.”
He expressed his gratitude for the service of Bishop Kurtz, for his time as Bishop of Knoxville, Tennessee, his service in the Archdiocese of Louisville and as national leader of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, including as the 2013-2016 conference chair.
“Thank you for decades of dedicated service,” Bishop Pierre told him.
To Bishop Fabre, he said: “You have big shoes to fill.
He encouraged the new archbishop to be close to the people of God and went on to quote part of Pope Francis’ opening address at the February 17 International Conference on the Priesthood.
“Closeness to the people of God, a closeness which, enriched by these other forms of closeness, invites and even demands that we imitate the Lord’s own ‘style’,” the nuncio quoted.
“This style is one of closeness, compassion and tenderness, in which we act not as judges, but as good Samaritans who recognize the wounds of our people, their silent sufferings, the abnegation and the sacrifices made by so many fathers and mothers to support their families, who also recognize the effects of violence, corruption and indifference which, in their wake, seek to stifle all hope”, continued Archbishop Pierre, always quoting the pope.
“A style of closeness that allows to put balm on the wounds and to proclaim a year of favor from the Lord. It is imperative to remember that God’s people hope to find Jesus-style shepherds.
Bishop Pierre concluded by invoking the intercession of Saint Joseph and Mary.
After his address, the nuncio presented the mandate to Bishop Fabre, who showed it to the priests, bishops and cardinals on the platform which served as a sanctuary, then descended into the congregation to share it with the assembly.
His official installation ended when Archbishop Kurtz and the nuncio guided him to the bishop’s seat – the cathedra – where he received his crosier, a polished wooden staff.
During his homily, Bishop Fabre took up the nuncio’s joke and pronounced Louisville as “Lou-ah-vul” while laughing: “I practiced and I understood! …that all problems are so easily solved.
He went on to emphasize a theme he had also emphasized the night before Vespers: unity in Jesus Christ.
He asked the congregation to keep “our eyes fixed on him; focused on the things that unite us rather than the things that divide us.
He was answered with applause.
He added that the Archdiocese of Louisville is “rich in cultural diversity” and asked that people stick together “because we are in this together.”
His message was reflected in the prayer and music of the day, which spanned cultures, languages and times. The languages included were Vietnamese, French Creole, Tagalog, Korean, German, Malayalam (a language spoken in southwestern India), Swahili and Spanish.
After the mass, hundreds of people lined up to welcome the new archbishop. He received supporters for about two hours in the lobby of the convention center.
Author Marnie McAllister is editor of The Record, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville.
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