April 23, 2022

“[S]ome seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”  Matthew 13:8

In February of 2007 when I was informed that I would be the third Bishop of Lake Charles, the Papal Nuncio told me, “Remember, it is His Church.”   That advice has stayed with me these last fifteen years, as I have experienced the challenges and joys of what it means to be a bishop in the 21st Century.  

The bishop is very similar to a farmer or a gardener who plants.   As a matter of fact, this horticultural image came to me when I considered a motto, which each bishop must select.    “He plants for those to come”—Pro venturis serit—refers to our Lord, as He Himself tells us in the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:37).   Our Lord often used this metaphor to describe the kingdom He had come to proclaim.   Chapter thirteen of the Gospel of St. Mathew is filled with this image of planting and growth.   It is a rich symbol and has served as a reminder to me throughout these years of the work required of a successor of the Apostles.   A bishop cooperates with the Lord in planting the seeds of the kingdom, for indeed the Church is His.

The two most frequent questions people ask me are these:  what is my greatest joy and what is my greatest frustration being a bishop?   Joys?    A number come to mind but one that stands out is my visit with the youth at confirmations and school visitations.   I always allow them to ask me questions, because I firmly maintain that the subjects they raise occupy them most.    And they are the future of the Church.   We need to address what concerns them.   If I can in whatever way help them, then this is cause for some happiness.   It was very much this motivation that led me to support wholeheartedly the building of Camp Karol.   

Frustrations?   There are quite a few, like those of the sower and the seed in the Gospel.   Some seed is eaten by birds, other seed falls on rock, still other seed is scorched by the sun or devoured by weeds.   Finally, some seed does fall on rich soil and yields abundantly.   I think of the painful decisions we faced following Hurricanes Rita and Ike to rebuild parish facilities which took over six years of considerable labor, expense, and effort to accomplish, only to have them destroyed again in 2020 by Hurricanes Laura and Delta.   I think of the sadness caused in the closure of two of our beloved Catholic schools.   While our sentiments tell us one thing, the reality tells us another.   Sometimes we must make hard decisions.   All is in God’s hands.   It takes humility to accept that truth.

All these frustrations along with the joys converge into the Sea of Tiberias. The apprehension of the disciples, the distress of an empty net, the yearning of the Lord to make Himself known—all these mixed emotions meet each other on the shore of the Sea (cf. John 21:1-14).   No one asked, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord (John 21:12).    Signs and sacraments are moments of recognition for Catholics.  To know the Lord, we acknowledge the signs. The fish and bread on the charcoal fire, the number of fish in the net, and the Lord’s invitation to have breakfast were all signs.   We come to recognize Him in the signs, and they are fulfilled in the Sacraments.   In every efficacious sign there is the presence of the Lord.   We see Him in the water of Baptism, the oil of Confirmation and Anointing, the laying on of hands at Ordination, in the love of husband and wife, in the forgiveness of sin.    One of the joys of a bishop is to be the caretaker who sees to the proper celebration of these Sacraments.   In them our Lord is revealed to his disciples.   It is an Easter celebration, an Easter rejoicing.   For all this I am truly grateful to God and to you, the faithful of the Diocese.