Vermonters Welcome 10th bishop
of Burlington at a joyful Installation Mass
To the Church in Vermont: Meet your brother, Christopher.
The name means bearer of Christ.
It is the name of the tenth bishop of Burlington, Bishop Christopher J. Coyne.
He was installed as the shepherd of Vermont Catholics during a joyful Mass Jan. 29 at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington.
“To my new friends in Vermont I say, ‘I am your brother, Christopher,’” he said to one of many rounds of applause during the nearly two-hour celebration.
Boston Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley presided over the installation and told the bishop he could count on the cardinal’s friendship and prayers as he embarked on his new ministry in Jesus’ name.
Msgr. Angelo Accattino, first counselor, Apostolic Nunciature, read the apostolic mandate by which Pope Francis appointed Bishop Coyne to be bishop of Burlington.
When Bishop Coyne accepted the mandate, he was given a crosier, a sign of his office.
The crosier used at the installation Mass was that of the first bishop of Burlington, Bishop Louis deGoesbriand.
Bishop Coyne wore a pectoral cross that belonged to Vermont’s second bishop, Bishop John Michaud, and a ring that belonged to the fifth bishop, Bishop Edward Ryan.
The co-cathedral was filled with visiting archbishops, bishops and clergy as well as clergy, religious and laity of the Diocese of Burlington and civic leaders including Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin. Seated in the front row was the bishop’s mother, Rita, with members of his family.
Also in attendance was Bishop Salvatore R. Matano, ninth bishop of Burlington whose transfer to lead the Diocese of Rochester in 2013 left Vermont without a Catholic bishop until Bishop Coyne’s appointment in December.
Students from Catholic schools served in a variety of roles at the installation Mass including greeters, gift bearers and servers, and representatives of different constituencies within the statewide diocese greeted the bishop during the Mass.
In his homily, Bishop Coyne addressed decreasing church attendance. “Now more than ever, our community needs to hear the call of the ‘Good News’ proclaimed to a culture that seems to hear so many other voices,” he said.
But he is not without hope.
“’We shall not be left orphans, we shall have within us the strength of the Paraclete.’” Jesus’ promise of the gift of the Spirit to his disciples is our inheritance as well,” he said. “In this power, we are not left orphans but are sons and daughters, brought into the communion of love that is the sublime essence of the Trinity. This is the Spirit that St. Paul speaks of in (the) reading from Colossians that allows us to put on ‘compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience … forgiving one another,’ binding it all with Christian love. If we, fallible and broken humans, can unite in such charity, is that not a sign of both hope and a witness that invites others to join us?”
He addressed the challenge faced in Vermont and elsewhere of declining membership and a cultural trend away from revealed religion to a personal spirituality at best or no belief at worst.
Pointing out that Jesus did not stay in the synagogue but went out, Bishop Coyne said His voice did not simply ring out from a place of worship like a bell stationary in a church steeple, calling people to come to Him; He went out to them. He went out to spread the Good News of the Kingdom of God and the offer of eternal salvation.
“My brothers and sisters, I challenge myself and you to follow the Lord’s lead to ‘go out.’ We are no longer the Church of the establishment in which if we just open our doors and ring the bells people will come. That is not happening,” he said. “In fact, we are opening our doors and people are not coming. They are leaving. We have to change the paradigm from that of the church of the establishment to that of a missionary Church, one that has to go out and engage the wider community in our ongoing acts of Christian mercy and in our words and conversation.”
Rita Coyne of Woburn, Mass., said her son’s installation as bishop of Burlington is the “culmination of all I knew he could be and do.”
“He realizes his potential and wants to do so much good,” she continued.
Asked to name his three best qualities, she replied: “He is very open to new ideas. He believes in the future. And he trusts in God deeply.”
“I am delighted,” said Deacon Peter Gummere of Corpus Christi Parish in St. Johnsbury. “I think (Bishop Coyne) is exactly what the diocese needs to do the work of evangelization and outreach to people in ways that are powerful and sincere and willing to be filled with God’s love.”
Story by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.
Read more in the February issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.