By TARA CONNOLLY Staff writer, AD Times
Keith Urban may have been performing at the Great Allentown Fair Aug. 30 but that did not deter the faithful from exceeding capacity across the street at the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown to pray with Bishop Alfred Schlert on the eve before his ordination and installation as the Bishop of Allentown.
“Welcome to the Catholic version of the Keith Urban concert,” said Bishop Schlert to the enormous crowd of faithful whom sang Psalms and offered prayers for him during Solemn Vespers or “Evening Prayer.”
The celebration, which was presided over by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, also drew Bishop of Rockville Centre John Barres, Auxiliary Bishop of Rockville Centre Robert Brennan, Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput, Bishop Emeritus of Allentown Edward Cullen, Bishop of Harrisburg Ronald Gainer and Bishop Emeritus of Rockville Centre William Murphy.
The Bishops, along with the faithful and approximately 300 diocesan priests, deacons and seminarians, witnessed Bishop Schlert publicly make a Profession of Faith and take an Oath of Fidelity.
During the Oath of Fidelity, which is required by the Apostolic See for a member of the faith called to exercise an office in the name of the Church, Bishop Schlert pledged to make every effort to carry out his duties as a Bishop, uphold the discipline of the Church and remain forever faithful to it and to the Holy Father.
In the Profession of Faith, Bishop Schlert proclaimed his belief and devotion to God and the teachings of the Church.
After the oath and profession, Archbishop Pierre blessed the symbols of the Bishop’s office – the crosier, miter and ring – which Bishop Schlert was given during his Mass of Ordination and Installation.
During the ceremony, Bishop Schlert briefly spoke in English and Spanish and reflected on “joy” with the faithful – especially the youth and school students attending the service.
“Joy is not the same as pleasure. Joy springs from within the soul and is the fruit of communion with God. On the other hand, pleasure comes from sources outside the person. Some things that give pleasure are very good and enliven our life here on earth. Other things that seemingly offer pleasure can be sinful and destructive,” he said.
Bishop Schlert stressed that encountering Jesus spurs “joy” and invited young people to set themselves free from sin, sorrow, emptiness and loneliness.
He also called on adults to embrace the joy of Christ by stepping away from the things that separate them from the love of Christ.
“St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, once said: ‘Joy isn’t found in the material objects surrounding us, but in the inner recesses of our soul,’” he said.
Bishop Schlert then reminded the faithful that one of the greatest sources of joy comes from performing God’s will and pleaded with the youth to listen carefully to God’s call and for older people to remain committed to the vocation they are already living.
Before closing his remarks, he humbly asked young men and women to contemplate a religious vocation and assured them that there is nothing to be afraid of.
“This is a call to joy, and should not be feared,” said Bishop Schlert.
Among the youth and adults participating in the service were Janet and Marge Brogan, cathedral parishioners, who came to know Bishop Schlert while he was in residence at the cathedral for 10 years beginning in 1998.
“If he heard your name once – he never forgot it. We wouldn’t miss being here tonight,” said Marge.
Both women said they regularly prayed the Prayer for a New Bishop while the Allentown Diocese was a “vacant see.”
“I was hoping he would be chosen. He is a wonderful person and very people-oriented. Pope Francis could not have picked a better person,” said Janet.
Several parishioners from St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, Hellertown, where Bishop Schlert resided before being named the new Bishop of Allentown, arrived an hour early to secure a seat.
“We love him. We could not miss being here with him tonight. He is such a humble man and he is in need of our prayers,” said Linda Dull.
Two lucky students from St. Jane Frances de Chantal School, Easton, which Bishop Schlert attended, had their names pulled from a hat to represent the school at the prayer service.
Jordan Smith, 11 and Sarah Andreano, 12 said they were excited to learn they won the opportunity since neither had ever won contests or prizes at the school.
“We never win anything, so this is a big deal for us,” said Andreano.
The ceremony was a first for Smith, who said he didn’t realize the magnitude of the service until he saw so many clergy in the processional and heard the powerful music from the choir.
“I really liked the singing. You could see holiness everywhere. It felt very special,” he said.
For Andreano, the service was more to her liking than heading to the fair and marked the first time she saw a Bishop in real life.
“It was a great experience to see so many Bishops together. I really liked how Bishop Schlert talked about how joy is different than pleasure. He was funny and I liked everything he had to say,” she said.
“And I don’t really know who Keith Urban is – but I do know the new Bishop was much better than him tonight.”
College of Consultors Meet with Bishop Schlert
In keeping with tradition, the Diocesan College of Consultors met with Bishop Alfred Schlert prior to his Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity during Solemn Vespers Aug. 30 in the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena Rectory.
The special meeting was historically the occasion at which the new Bishop signs the oath before the new norm, which stipulates the action must be performed publicly and in front of a Bishop.
The consultors consist of priests who act as official advisers to the Bishop in certain matters pertaining to the administration of the Diocese.
Consultors meeting with Bishop Schlert were Msgr. Joseph DeSantis; pastor of Holy Rosary and Sacred Heart, Reading; Father Andrew Gehringer, pastor of Holy Infancy, Bethlehem; Msgr. William Glosser, pastor of St. Clare of Assisi, Saint Clair and administrator of St. Stephen, Port Carbon; Msgr. Gerald Gobitas, Diocesan chancellor and secretary; Msgr. David James, then-Diocesan vicar for pastoral planning and director of vocations (named vicar general Sept. 1, see page 2); Msgr. John Murphy, pastor of St. Thomas More, Allentown; Msgr. Stephen Radocha, pastor of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Easton; Msgr. Francis Schoenauer, cathedral rector; and Msgr. Robert Wargo, pastor of St. Joseph the Worker, Orefield.
Bishop Schlert opened the meeting by thanking the priests for their support and asked them to share in a vision that is in the best interest of the people of the Allentown Diocese.
“I couldn’t ask for a better diocese as far as I am concerned,” he said.
“People will follow where a priest leads them. It is a central role priests play in guiding people in the work of the Diocese.”
Bishop Schlert noted the “increasingly small number” of priests and asked the advisers to help create a “culture of vocations” by being well-rounded, happy and zealous priests.
“It’s important for men to notice in us a vocation that they want to follow. It’s a tremendous calling from God and they should not be afraid to respond,” he said.
In addition, he called on the advisers and all priests to be “collaborators” instead of “implementers” of the faith to all the faithful – especially younger generations that have stepped away from the Church.
“It’s not good to water down the faith or make it glib or gimmicky. It’s the real teachings of the Church without compromise that will be appealing to them.”
As he takes on his new role, Bishop Schlert admitted that he is well aware that he cannot live up to everyone’s expectations.
“No one can. I will do the best I can. And if I must say no to a particular request, I’ll do my best to do so gently,” he said.
He also told the consultors that the greatest gift they could give him is to point out any action that goes against the Office of Bishop.
“Please come to me in fraternity. I would really appreciate it,” he said.
With trust in God and guidance from the Holy Spirit, he told the consultors that the Diocese is home to a wonderful presbyterate, which he hopes will emulate the same enthusiasm as their brother priests who established the Diocese in 1961.
“They had their challenges forming a new Diocese. We have our challenges too. We are all brothers in this. We can’t ever lose sight of that,” he said.