Bishop Murphy’s homily at the ordination of Bishops Nelson Perez and Robert Brennan, July 25, 2012 at St. Agnes Cathedral.
Brothers and sisters gathered here and those participating thanks to Telecare: With deep gratitude have we received the notification that our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has designated these two priests to serve in our Diocese of Rockville Centre as assistant bishops to me your pastor. Our gratitude extends as well to the Holy Father’s representative, Archbishop Viganò, whose presence honors us all and whose words open up the deep meaning of the mystery of God’s plan for the Church we all treasure. What a grace is ours, priests and bishops called to serve this Church in imitation of Christ, the High Priest and true Head of the Church. My two new brothers and I are especially appreciative that the Holy Father has commended us to the special protection of St. Agnes, our celestial patron.
The Diocese of Rockville Centre has been blessed this week with two new auxiliary bishops. One, Robert Brennan, is a native son of Long Island, growing up in Lindenhurst, attending OLPH School, St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School, St. John’s University and being ordained to the priesthood by Bishop McGann after his formation at our Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington. The other, Nelson Perez, was born in Miami of parents who left Cuba less than a year before. He grew up with his family in Northern New Jersey, taught in a Catholic school in Puerto Rico and from there went to St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia to be ordained a priest for that Archdiocese.
Both men are good and holy parish priests. Each has his own gifts and talents. One is 50 and the other 51. They both love their priesthood and the people they have been called to serve as priests. They both will be blessings for our diocese. For me they will be precious colleagues assisting me in the pastoral care of our diocese. I pray they will be as good as bishops as they have been as priests and that they will be good shepherds according to the heart of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
On June 29, Pope Benedict celebrated the Solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul and conferred the pallium on 44 bishops who had been named archbishops during the past year. The pallium is a strip of white wool marked with black crosses given to archbishops as a special sign of their bond to the Holy Father as archbishops who pastor their flocks in union with the Vicar of Christ who is the visible sign of the unity of the whole Church throughout the world.
In his homily the Holy Father spoke of the fraternal bond between the two founders of Rome, St. Peter and St. Paul. At times they experienced tensions but they always resolved them in a fraternal way with fidelity to the message of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The pope spoke of other relationships in the Bible, including that of the two brothers Cain and Abel whose enmity led to murder.
That, however, is never acceptable within the Body of Christ, His Church. That day in St. Peter’s, all of us present saw the whole Church represented from every continent and culture gathered around the successor of Peter, including bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated women and men and the lay faithful of so many nations, all as one praising God as together we offered the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Eucharist which makes us all one in Christ Jesus.
Here is Bishop Murphy’s homily given during the June 22 Evening of Prayer that marked the Fortnight for Freedom proclaimed by the U.S. bishops in response to current threats to religious liberty. June 22 is the feast day of SS. Thomas More and John Fisher, both martyred in the 16th century for their defense of the Church against the usurpations of King Henry VIII of England.
On January 19, Pope Benedict received a group of U.S. bishops during the ad limina report to Rome all of us bishops made in the past eight months. The Holy Father spoke of the Church’s witness, which “of its nature is public.” Therefore, when faced with “grave threats to the Church’s public witness,” threats to the good of the society as a whole, the Church must speak out. He went on:
“Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion.”
While we can chronicle a wide number of these in recent years here in our country — encroachments in the private and the public sphere, attacks on religion in general and Christianity in particular — the recent HHS mandates have defined religion and religious institutions in so narrow a way that it divides our Church and others into segments, with the government deciding what parts of our life as a Church are “religious” and what parts of it are not. In effect, the federal government has told us that we have freedom to worship but not freedom to act according to that worship, freedom to pass on our faith but not freedom to let it enter into the public square.