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December 19, 2008
Column by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller
Today's Catholic Digital Edition

Thousands greet the new auxilairy bishop

Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Cantú offers the Eucharist to his mother, María de Jesús Cantú, at his Mass of episcopal ordination at St. Mark the Evangelist Church on June 2.
Ruben Alfaro | Today’s Catholic
Jordan McMorrough
Today’s Catholic

Youthful auxiliary bishops are not new to San Antonio. Although Bishop Oscar Cantú made history June 2 as the youngest bishop in the United States when he was ordained auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese at St. Mark the Evangelist Church, one of his ministerial heroes — Archbishop Emeritus Patrick F. Flores — was even a few months younger when he was appointed a bishop in the Alamo city by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

Bishop Cantú, a Houston native, was installed as a member of the episcopacy in a two-and-a-half hour liturgy at the beginning of the month in the largest parish in San Antonio.

Archbishop Gomez was the principal consecrator, joined by co-consecrating bishops, Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza and Auxiliary Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston was also present at the ordination liturgy.

More than 1,100 people attended the ordination. Bishop Cantú’s mother, María de Jesús Cantú, his seven brothers and sisters, and much of the bishop’s extended family and friends made the trip from Houston and other places around the country to share in the special day.

The celebration began with a solemn procession that included more than two dozen archbishops and bishops from California, Colorado, New Mexico, Louisiana and dioceses across Texas, as well as close to 200 priests and deacons from San Antonio and Houston.

Msgr. Terence Nolan, chancellor of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, read the letter from Pope Benedict XVI which announced the appointment to the office of bishop by the Holy See. Once the letter was read, all those in attendance sang their approval with the words, “Deo gratias! Deo gratias! Thanks be to God in the most high.” That was followed by a sustained standing ovation as well as some whoops and cheers from the large contingent of parishioners from Holy Name Church in Houston, the Cantú family’s home parish.

In his homily, Archbishop Gomez called the episcopal ordination a moment of great significance in the life and history of the Lord’s church.

“But it is also something deeply personal,” the archbishop explained. “I’m sure my brother bishops here tonight share my experience — that our ordination to the episcopacy was a definitive moment in our lives. I am touched by moving memories of my ordination.”

Archbishop Gomez said that Pope Benedict reminded the bishops during his U.S. visit that their mission is to promote the encounter with the living God. “This becomes your mission now too my brother,” the archbishop told Bishop Cantú. “It is first given to the apostles. Through my hands, the Holy Spirit will anoint you preacher, apostle and teacher.”

“Take courage, my brother!” proclaimed Archbishop Gomez. “You must answer our Lord’s call with Christian valor. You are not being given a spirit of fear or timidity. You will receive a spirit of power and love — the power and strength of God. This is the flame, the gift of God, you must keep. And what is this power, my brother? It is the power of the cross.”

He continued, “Like the apostles in whose footsteps you will now walk, do not be ashamed to imitate Christ — being willing to suffer, even to lay down your life for the sake of your flock and his Gospel.”

In closing, the archbishop welcomed Bishop Cantú by saying he walked in the footsteps of some very holy bishops — men like St. Rafael Guízar y Valencia and Archbishop Emeritus Patrick F. Flores, the first Mexican-American archbishop in the United States. “May we be worthy of such holy predecessors!” he concluded.
After the homily, in following the ancient custom of the church, Archbishop Gomez questioned Bishop Cantú about his resolve to fulfill the responsibilities of episcopal ministry.

Then at the litany of supplication, the archbishop invited all to pray that God will bestow his grace to provide for the welfare of the church. Archbishop Gomez then, in silence, placed his hands upon the head of Bishop Cantú. Afterwards, the two co-consecrating bishops placed their hands on Bishop Cantú, followed by Cardinal DiNardo and all of the attending bishops and archbishops. This act invokes the power of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit given by Christ to the apostles.

The Book of the Gospels was placed over the head of the new auxiliary bishop as a sign of the power of God’s Word. This rite illustrates that the faithful preaching of the Word of God is the pre-eminent obligation of the office of the bishop.

While the Book of the Gospels was held above the head of Bishop Cantú, the bishops joined in the prayer. This prayer further invokes the power of the Holy Spirit upon the newly ordained bishop and recalls the importance and role of the bishop within the community of the faithful.

The head of Bishop Cantú was then anointed with sacred chrism by Archbishop Gomez, a sign of the bishop’s distinctive share in the priesthood of Christ. The archbishop then presented the auxiliary bishop with the Book of the Gospels, exhorting him to preach the Word of God faithfully.

Lastly, Bishop Cantú received his episcopal insignia blessed by Archbishop Gomez: the ring, miter and pastoral staff. The ring symbolizes the bishop’s fidelity to the Bride of Christ, the church. The miter signifies his resolve to pursue holiness. The pastoral staff signifies the duty of guiding and governing the church entrusted to him.

Bishop Cantú was then led by Archbishop Gomez to a seat of honor. The new auxiliary bishop then set aside his pastoral staff and received the fraternal kiss of peace from Archbishop Gomez and the other bishops.

At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, gift bearers included three of the bishop’s sisters. During the Eucharistic prayer, the bishop remembered his father who had passed away.

At the concluding rite, all sang in thanksgiving as Bishop Cantú was led through the church by Archbishop Gomez, and he offered his first episcopal blessing to the gathered faithful.

Before the end of the Mass, Bishop Cantú briefly addressed the assembly. “The history of the Archdiocese of San Antonio is one that involves a strong Catholic presence in this geographical region, and the fruits of the church’s missions are still evident today,” said the auxiliary bishop. In 1836, he explained, most Texas Catholics were Hispanic, while a smaller but significant number were Irish. “These demographics seem not to have changed much in San Antonio,” Bishop Cantu said to laughter from attendees. “Now as I come to San Antonio to serve as auxiliary bishop, I am deeply humbled that my personal history has somewhat mirrored the history of the church in Texas.”

Bishop Cantú then thanked his family for teaching him the value of love, truth, sacrifice and forgiveness, lessons and habits he said have served him well in the priesthood.

“I ask for your prayers,” he told the assembly, “that I may carry out my ministry in truth and compassion, and that I might continue to model my life on the example of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd.”

There was an additional presentation before the close of the liturgy. Sister Carla Marie Lusch, SSND, superintendent of Catholic schools, introduced Catholic school students who presented a gift to Bishop Cantú, a directory listing all the Catholic schools in the archdiocese as well as a statue of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. A reception followed in the St. Mark Community Center.

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