My dear family in Christ,

I’ve always had a particular attraction and devotion to St. Matthias. The origin of this devotion rests in the fact that my middle name was supposed to be Matthias. All of my older siblings have middle names that begin with the letter “M,” and my parents thought John Matthias had a nice ring to it; however, I was born on March 19 — the Feast of St. Joseph — and plans changed. Thus, not John Matthias, but John Joseph. When I learned of this, I become attached to the saint I almost shared name with.

My attachment to St. Matthias was strengthened during my seminary years when I found out I would be ordained a transitional deacon on the feast of St. Matthias, May 14, 1988.  As I received the first level of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, I believe St. Matthias has watched over me in a particular way since that day.

St. Matthias returns once again this weekend in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles. He is added to the 11 and becomes an Apostle. What amazes me about this story is that he is added through the luck of the draw. He didn’t apply for it. He didn’t interview it. He simply had the required credentials; he was with the 11 from the beginning and was able to witness to the resurrection of Jesus.

This story hit me hard this weekend in light of my appointment as the next bishop of Burlington.  I didn’t apply for the position; I didn’t interview for the position; I simply had the requirements and, in some ways, by the luck of the draw, I have been chosen to become a successor of the Apostles. It seems a bit unreal, but it is real.

What St. Matthias has taught me is that though I might feel unprepared, I have to trust that I have been chosen for a reason. Like St. Matthias, I am called to witness to Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection, and like the apostle, if necessary, be willing to lay down my life for the flock being entrusted to my care. It is a bit overwhelming, but I trust in the grace of God to sustain me and the prayers of some many to hold me up.

As I prepare for my episcopal ordination and the fullness of the priesthood on July 15, I ask that you please pray for me as I pray for the entire Diocese of Burlington. I hope to be a good and holy bishop so, like St. Matthias, by my words and actions, I can lead many to come to know, love, and serve Jesus Christ.

Oremus pro invicem! Let us pray for one another.

Most Rev. John J. McDermott

Bishop-elect of Burlington