Installation rite connects parish to the universal church
by Joe Bollig
WAMEGO — The assignment of a new pastor to a parish is no small thing, yet the rite of installation at St. Bernard Parish here on Sept. 8 was a relatively simple affair.
After the readings and before his homily, Archbishop Naumann stood with Father Michael Peterson — who arrived only two months earlier — and installed him as pastor.
Stating his confidence in Father Peterson’s zeal and abilities, the archbishop invited all present to show their approval to the appointment of Father Peterson as pastor of St. Bernard Parish in Wamego, St. Joseph Parish in Flush, Sacred Heart Parish in Paxico, and Holy Family Parish in Alma.
There was loud and sustained applause.
“So I’ll take that as approval,” the archbishop said, with a smile.
Although he’d been at St. Joseph Church earlier that week for confirmations (and was going to Sacred Heart the following week), Archbishop Naumann thought it important that he return for the installation of Father Peterson.
“This may be the first time at St. Bernard’s or any of the parishes that [we’ve] formally had a pastor installed at a Sunday Eucharist,” he said. “It really wasn’t the custom in the archdiocese. But I’ve chosen to take advantage of that liturgical option . . . for a couple of reasons.”
First, it shows the essential connection between the priesthood and the Eucharist. No priests — no Eucharist.
Second, the installation of a pastor gives the archbishop an opportunity to preach in parishes about the importance of the priesthood in the life of the church, and the need for parishes to generate and nurture vocations to the priesthood.
“We need more priests,” said the archbishop. “We need more seminarians. And so . . . we all have a responsibility and a role in promoting vocations to the priesthood, particularly in families . . . that our families hold up the vocation to the priesthood as an important consideration to every young man.”
Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant for the Mass. Father Peterson and Father Carl Dekat, senior associate, concelebrated.
The installation of a pastor is important for the way it symbolizes the relationship between archbishop and pastor, and archdiocese and parish, said Michael Podrebarac, archdiocesan consultant for liturgy.
“The installation of a pastor signifies the relationship between an individual parish and the local bishop,” said Podrebarac. “A pastor of a parish is, in a sense, a delegate of the local bishop, and so the installation rite makes visible the connection between bishop and pastor.”
The official rite of installation, found in the Book of Blessings, is part of the Roman Ritual. The formal rite includes the presentation to the parish by the bishop, the profession of faith led by the pastor, his promise of obedience to the norms of faith, and his acceptance by the parish community, said Podrebarac. It usually takes place during a Sunday Mass.
“Because there are so many new pastors each year, and given the size of the archdiocese, it is common for a pastor to begin his work in a parish before being ritually installed,” said Podrebarac.
“The actual letter of appointment by a bishop to a priest indicating his assignment as pastor constitutes the legal document binding a pastor to a parish,” he continued. “The rite of installation solemnizes that appointment within the celebration of the liturgy.”
Although many Catholics may look at their parish as the “local church,” in truth the “local church” is the diocese. This is because Catholics do not operate on a congregational model, but on a universal model, with dioceses being the “local church.”
“We cannot underscore enough the fact that we belong first to the church universal, organized by dioceses and then individual parishes,” said Podrebarac. “The chief pastor of the universal church is the Holy Father in Rome. The chief pastor of a diocesan church is its bishop, and parishes belong to the diocese as full and equal members.
“So, in a sense, Archbishop Naumann shepherds the people of God in northeast Kansas and is assisted by the pastors of our parishes, as well as by the associate pastors and deacons serving within the archdiocese.”