Friday, May 6, 2016

St. John Paul II the Model for Priests and Bishops

The following comes from Cardinal Wuerl at the NCR:

One of the powerful, enduring legacies of St. John Paul II’s nearly 30-year pontificate, are the priests and bishops whose vocations were inspired and formed by the newly canonized saint's efforts: the JP2 Generation.

One young priest whose heart was captured by St. John Paul II from the very beginning he stepped out onto St. Peter’s balcony was a Father Donald Wuerl, today's Cardinal Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington.

A few years later then-Father Wuerl found himself a collaborator in St. John Paul II’s reform of the priesthood: assisting in the mandated study of U.S. seminaries, and later (as bishop) at the synod on priestly formation that would lead to Pastores Dabo Vobis, the saint’s blueprint for how to form the next generation of shepherds for the Church. St. John Paul II made him an auxiliary bishop for the Seattle Archdiocese in 1986 to take over the decisions on liturgy, priestly and seminarian formation, and other key areas from Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen. In 1988, he was made bishop of Pittsburgh, and then Archbishop of Washington in 2006 (and later cardinal) by Benedict XVI, where he established the Blessed John Paul II Seminary.

In the days leading up to the canonization of St. John Paul II, Cardinal Wuerl shared what St. John Paul II meant for him personally, as a priest, a bishop, and for the new generation of shepherds whose vocations the saint inspired with his words "be not afraid."

How did John Paul II leave his mark on you as a priest?
He left his mark in a number of ways, but first and probably the most significant was his complete identification of his vocation with the Church — with Christ in his Church. That was something I saw and appreciated so much in him, first as a young priest.

What memory stands out for you?

He stepped out in front of St. Peter’s Basilica for that first Mass, and he simply reminded us not to be afraid, and to open wide the doors of our hearts to Christ. And from that day on, every time I listened to him, heard him speak, or saw him, it was clear to me that he identified himself completely with Christ at work in his Church. He saw himself as trying to make that presence of Christ as visible, as audible, as tangible as possible. I think it was a great lesson, because what it says is those of us who are in priestly ministry — those who (as the Church teaches) are configured to Christ as to his Church — we have to see ourselves totally and completely in love with that Church. And that is what came across with John Paul II.

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