CARMEL VALLEY — At the conclusion of his episcopal ordination Mass, celebrated June 9 at St. Therese of Carmel Church, John P. Dolan addressed the people of San Diego for the first time as their auxiliary bishop.
He began by recalling martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero’s prayer on the eve of his priestly ordination: “With Your everything and my nothingness, we can do much.”
“Indeed, God is everything and I am nothing, but don’t I look like something?” quipped Bishop Dolan, a miter atop his head and a pectoral cross on his chest. “My miter on straight, Mom?”
The large church was filled to capacity for the ordination liturgy, which was celebrated by Bishop Robert W. McElroy in the presence of Cardinals Roger Mahony and William Levada. There were also more than 20 additional archbishops and bishops, as well as almost 150 priests, concelebrating.
In his remarks, Bishop Dolan shared that he had recently been asked to name his favorite pope, a question that he interpreted as the interviewer’s way of ascertaining the sort of bishop he is likely to be.
“If I could have just a sliver of the charism of Pope St. John Paul II, or a portion of the theological brilliance of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, or just a sample of the pastoral zeal of Pope Francis, then I might be a pretty good bishop,” he said, before confessing that he has always had a special affinity for Pope St. John XXIII, who convened the Second Vatican Council only three months after Bishop Dolan’s birth.
However, he acknowledged that he will only be an effective shepherd if he remains true to himself, and he requested prayers that he might always be able to remain so.
To those who might wonder what he will be like as a bishop, he suggested that they ask his parents. But he quickly qualified that remark, requesting with tongue-in-cheek that they ask his father because his “mom might tell you the truth.”
He thanked the many archbishops and bishops in attendance. Among them were Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States; retired Bishop Robert H. Brom of San Diego; retired San Diego Auxiliary Bishop Gilbert E. Chavez; Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, a former auxiliary bishop of San Diego; and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles.
Finally, he expressed gratitude to the many people, from all walks of life, gathered inside the church.
“To all of you, I give my heartfelt thanks, and please be assured of my prayers for you,” Bishop Dolan said. “I love you. Abide in His love.”
Those final words — “Abide in His love” — were a reference to the new auxiliary bishop’s episcopal motto.
The ordination Mass was a liturgy steeped in tradition and rich symbolism.
Archbishop Pierre read the decree from Pope Francis appointing Dolan as auxiliary bishop. He then handed it to Bishop Dolan, who, in accordance with the ritual for an episcopal ordination, showed it to Bishop McElroy, the other bishops, the priests and the assembly.
Bishop Dolan publicly pledged to uphold the faith and to discharge his duty as bishop in response to a series of questions asked by Bishop McElroy. After the laying on of hands and the prayer of ordination, Bishop Dolan’s head was anointed with sacred chrism, the perfumed oil blessed at the annual chrism Mass for sacramental use. He received the Book of Gospels and the insignia of the episcopal office: a bishop’s ring, the miter and the crosier.
Shortly before his brief remarks, Bishop Dolan walked through the church, down each aisle, to give his first episcopal blessing to all in attendance.
In his homily, Bishop McElroy reflected on the Gospel reading that had been selected for the Mass, which was taken from Jesus’ farewell discourse to His apostles on the night of the Last Supper. On that occasion, he said, Jesus looked into their hearts and entrusted to them a mission.
“Today, as you are ordained a bishop, the Lord looks into your heart and sees the same hope and sacrifice, humanness and faith, courage and love, and calls you in intimacy and friendship to an identical fourfold mission for the whole of your episcopal ministry,” Bishop McElroy told the man who would shortly be ordained as his auxiliary.
As part of that mission, the bishop said, Jesus has called Bishop Dolan to lead “a life of joy,” while recognizing that “true Christian joy” enters into the suffering of others; to love others with the “tender, pastoral love” of the Good Shepherd; to support the Church’s “missionary impulse,” nurturing the current members of the flock while also reaching out to the marginalized; and to be “an apostle of hope,” filled with “the conviction that, in every situation of human suffering, God stands with us.”
“Today is a day of overwhelming hope in our Local Church,” Bishop McElroy said. “A man born in our midst, educated in our schools, committed to a life of priestly service with the people of San Diego and Imperial counties, a leader of our presbyterate, and a man of profound Catholic faith will become, in God’s grace, our auxiliary bishop.”
To his new auxiliary, the bishop added, “May you always abide in God’s love and know that you will always abide in ours.”