Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.

Bishop Wypych reflects on role of a bishop

February 12, 2012

Editor’s note: Cardinal George is in Rome for the ad limina visit with the bishops of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin (see story on Page 5). He asked Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Wypych to write a column in his place for this issue.

What a wonderful few months my life has been lately. Just when I thought I had figured everything out — my life’s objectives and intellectual pursuits filling up my ministry as pastor of a wonderful parish with that comfortable sense of satisfaction — I get a call from the pope’s representative in Washington, D.C., asking if I would accept the call to serve the church as a bishop, officially, being named bishop of the ancient Episcopal See of Naraggara in Tunisia. Since there are more camels there than confirmation candidates, Cardinal George gets to use me here in Chicago as he sees fit.

Remembering St. Peter’s response to Jesus after the resurrection when Our Lord asked him, “Do you love me more than these?” How could I not answer in a similar way? I said “yes,” and have sensed that my life has been changed for all eternity.

But what does it mean to be a bishop? This question has been thrust upon me in a new and radical way. I am finding out that it means a great deal to a great many people. The constant calls and correspondence teach me anew the lesson I thought I already knew, namely that people look to the church for answers, for guidance, for blessings, for hope. I see my staff, not only as my office staff, but the priests, the religious, the deacons, the teachers and other lay leaders in the local church. A bishop is one who directs the resources of the church to serve the many challenges we face together. My heart is directed anew to the concerns of the poor and the advancement of the common good.

To my friends, this call has brought much joy I suppose, but also its share of regret — joy, for sharing in the pride of this sacred honor, but sorrow, because they already know we will have less time together. And how can I not feel the sense of enthusiasm of Polonia, as one of their own sons, who left Europe as a “missionary” has been given this new responsibility and honor?

What is a bishop, or who is a bishop? He is a man who is an “overseer.” But in truth, he is a man who takes upon himself the mantle of a father, the image of a brother and the label of a friend. As a father, he works to keep his family safe, being well fed, helping his family know the direction God wants for them. As a brother, he is a man who listens carefully who struggles along side people to find solutions and suitable developments to life’s ever present challenges.

He is a man who is called to discuss and to consult, to gather in the wisdom of God where he can, and is even called to argue at times, so that together the church will find common ground in the building of the kingdom of God. And as a friend, he must be attentive to others needs and to support with empathy their sorrows and struggles. This “episcopal friendship” encourages others with the encouragement of Christ and loves others with the love of Christ, because the truth is: Christ loves us right now. Finally, this reflection reminds me of what Scripture says: “By your fruits you will be known.” So pray for your bishops, especially for Chicago’s two new guys on the block, Alberto Rojas and me. By the grace of God it will be our duty to lead, feed, protect and correct the family of those who believe in Jesus Christ. I thank you for reading these humble words. “Praise be Jesus Christ. Now and forever.”

— Most Rev. Andrew Wypych