My dear family in Christ:

By now most parishioners in the Diocese of Burlington have heard that Pope Francis has appointed me to serve as the 11th bishop of Burlington. I am humbled by this appointment and promise to pray for all members of our local Church even more than I have been as administrator. Please pray for me as I prepare for my episcopal ordination on July 15, 2024. Some may wonder how someone finds out they have been named a bishop. I thought I would share my story with you and offer a brief thought on how this appointment has taught me a valuable lesson in faith.

On Sunday, April 28, after my usual early morning cup of coffee, some prayer, exercise, and a light snack, I opened up the doors to The Catholic Center at the University of Vermont at 7:15. I went into the chapel to continue my prayer, and then at 7:25 a brilliant flash of lightning and a loud peal of thunder erupted overhead. At that exact moment my phone rang, and I saw the area code 202 — Washington, D.C. I expected it was a call from the apostolic nuncio, and so I answered the phone and went to my office. I thought he said to me that Pope Francis had appointed a new bishop for Burlington. I asked him who it was, and he responded enthusiastically, “no, he has appointed you, you to be bishop of Burlington.”

While I did not feel worthy of such an appointment, trusting the Lord to provide the grace necessary to fulfill the duties, I said yes. I had to keep this confidential until it became public on May 6 — not an easy task. I think the lightning and thunder were a heavenly reminder that the Lord is always present in our lives, sometimes in big and significant moments, but — as I was in the chapel in the presence of Our Lord in the silence of the tabernacle and Blessed Sacrament — sometimes in the silent moments of our lives.

In either case, He is with us and provides what we need to follow Him with all our heart, soul, and strength.

As I prepare to take on the responsibility of the episcopacy, it is my hope and prayer that I can help people know that presence of God in their lives in great and small moments in order to help them become the saints they are called to be.

Oremus pro invicem! Let us pray for one another!

The Most Reverend John J. McDermott

Bishop-elect of Burlington and Diocesan Administrator

—Originally published in the May 18-24, 2024, edition of The Inland See.