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Striving to make the Archdiocese of Miami a true community of faith, hope and love

Archbishop Thomas Wenski's Vespers talk at archdiocesan 60th anniversary celebration

Archbishop Thomas Wenski gave this talk during Vespers (evening prayer) on the Feast of the Holy Rosary at St. Mary Cathedral, Miami, Oct. 7, 2018.

On this day, the Feast of the Holy Rosary, in 1958, Diocese of Miami was born with installation of its first bishop, Coleman Francis Carroll. 60 years later, I am privileged to serve as the fourth Archbishop of Miami.

Bishop Carroll confirmed me, and later in 1976, he ordained me a priest right here in St. Mary’s Cathedral. The second Archbishop of Miami, Edward McCarthy, assigned me in 1979 to work as a parish priest for the Haitians who were beginning to arrive here in great numbers. Then in 1995, the third archbishop, John Favalora, appointed me as the Archdiocesan Director of Catholic Charities and later in 1997, ordained me as an auxiliary bishop. So, except for the 7 years I served as Bishop of Orlando, I have been here in the Archdiocese from its very beginning. So, I am happy to celebrate these 60 years which I have experienced “up close” as it were. Besides, I don’t think I will be here to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

The history of this Archdiocese is a history of saints and sinners. –For, like all human history marked as it is by human sin as well as by God’s grace, the history of the Archdiocese has its lights and shadows. But, despite the shortcomings and foibles of her human members, the Church of Jesus Christ has continued to grow here in South Florida. In 1940, Florida ranked 27th in population of the then 48 states, twenty years later, when the Diocese of Miami was in its infancy, it was number 10, today it is the third largest state in the union. Florida has grown tremendously – and so has this local Church of almost one and half million faithful, who today worship in 110 parishes and missions, in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

Thanks to the presence of the Holy Spirit, who could say that these past 60 years have not been years of grace? As St. John says in the prelude to his Gospel: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” And so, we remember the past with gratitude, we embrace the present with enthusiasm and we look to the future with great hope.

Jubilees and anniversaries are also occasion of seeking and giving forgiveness. As we begin our next 60 years, may we strive to make our Catholic Church here in South Florida, a Church rich in cultural and ethnic diversity, a true community of faith, hope and love. In these times of great divisiveness and polarization in our society and world, may we, Catholics, model in our parishes, organizations and apostolic movements what a reconciled and reconciling world should look like.

Now to speak of the Archdiocese of Miami is almost to speak of an abstraction – for most experience the “Church” in their parishes. And without our parishes, and without our parishioners, that portion of the Universal Catholic Church we call the Archdiocese of Miami would be, I fear, just that, an abstraction. The reality of the one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is lived in our parishes. There, children are baptized and catechized; it is there, that people grow in faith hearing the Word of God and celebrating the Sacraments. It is in our parishes, couples begin new lives together in the Sacrament of Marriage, and where prayers will be offered over our bodies as we enter eternal life.

For this reason, today, at this evening prayer, we wish to honor and thank the members of Christ’s faithful who make up this local Church. Your pastors designated two people from each parish to receive this special jubilee recognition. Also, others including several lay persons who assist me as volunteers in the administration of the Archdiocese are being honored with the Primum Regnum Dei award. In honoring them, I wish to recognize and honor all the baptized faithful of this local Church.

Now the greatest “honor” we can receive is that of the name “Christian.” And this honor we received at baptism. That is our greatest honor and dignity; for, Baptism makes us children of God and co-heirs with Christ to the promises of his Kingdom.

And so, as Christians, none of us should really seek recognition for doing what Jesus asks of us. Jesus himself was always among us as “one who serves.” Still, the Church does often honor her members, and rightly so, with recognitions that, while not as significant as the name “Christian,” do serve to illuminate for us the different paths where Christian service can lead. So, today we honor you for your service which has made these past 60 years of grace possible.

And while you rightly deserve it, you are being honored not because you are necessarily any different from the rest of the laity of our Archdiocese, but because you are representative of all of them; of their dedication and their devotion that so well characterizes this local Church of Miami during these past 60 years.

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