My dear family in Christ,

Over the last nine days many of us have been praying a special Novena to the Holy Spirit, asking for a fresh outpouring the Spirit’s gifts into our lives. It is appropriate that we seek this anointing as we celebrate Pentecost and the end of the Easter season. It was at the first Pentecost that the Church under the leadership of the Apostles embraced the call to go out to all the world and proclaim the Good News. The story of the Apostles’ transformation on that first Pentecost is well known; we hear it proclaimed in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles at Mass, but we run the risk of thinking this is a story relegated to the pages of history, an event of the past we remember but having little impact upon our lives today. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We must remember that the Holy Spirit continues to come to the Church and its members. We receive the Spirit when we are baptized and confirmed. We experience the Spirit’s guidance in times of trial or when we are facing difficult choices. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us the words to offer comfort to those who are struggling or in pain. The Spirit continues to move us to imitate Christ, but are we open to the Spirit’s gifts? The Apostles could have chosen to refuse the strength the Holy Spirit was bringing them. They could have decided to remain in the upper room locked away from the world out of fear, but they chose to allow the Spirit to free them from fear and doubt to go into the whole world.

I have been reminding myself of this quite a bit over the last two weeks as I come to terms with my appointment as the next bishop of Burlington. Part of me is filled with some fear, doubt, and trepidation. Will I shepherd people well? Will I be willing to speak out for what is true and good? Will I be willing to die to self in order to live for the people entrusted to my pastoral care? Or will I just accept the office and be like the servant who buried his talent out of fear? As I go on retreat this week, I will be praying especially that the Holy Spirit empower me to be the bishop our diocese needs right now — not allowing fear or doubt to cause me to cower in an “upper room” but to be bold like the first Apostles in sharing the Gospel of Christ.  As someone called to be a successor of the Apostles, pray that I follow the Holy Spirit’s lead.

Know that I will be praying for all the people of the diocese, especially the graduating students, that we all will respond to the Holy Spirit’s invitation to go into the world with a strong and living faith, a faith that will be shared with others so that the face of the earth might be renewed.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created, and you will renew the face of the earth. Amen.

+The Most Reverend John J. McDermott

Bishop-elect of Burlington