by Doug Weller
Salina — In front of more than 1,200 people at Sacred Heart Cathedral here, and before countless others watching live on television and the Internet, Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger was ordained the 11th shepherd of the Diocese of Salina May 1.
The overflow cathedral crowd watched a lengthy procession of more than two dozen archbishops and bishops and more than 150 priests, permanent deacons and seminarians as the rite of ordination began.
Afterward, the new bishop expressed his gratitude to the papal nuncio, his fellow bishops and priests, and his family, then spoke to his new flock at large.
“The truth is I owe you, and most especially the people of the Diocese of Salina, more than just the emotion of gratitude,” he said. “I actually owe you a life well-lived, poured out in service as your brother in Christ, your spiritual father, your shepherd, your bishop — a life lived out in such a way that it points to Christ, reflects Christ and calls us all to an ever deeper union with Christ.
“It is a huge task, and I tremble before it,” he continued. “I know my limitations and weaknesses all too well. Were it not for my trust and hope in the divine assistance of the Holy Spirit, I would be too shaken to even try.”
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann ordained the new bishop and was joined by co-consecrators from Bishop Weisenburger’s home Archdiocese of Oklahoma City — Archbishop Paul Coakley, the most recent bishop of Salina, and Archbishop Emeritus Eusebius Beltran.
All of the visiting bishops and archbishops laid hands on the new prelate as the congregation sang “Come, Creator Spirit.”
The ceremony, which ran 2-1/2 hours, was televised live on EWTN and CatholicTV and streamed live on the diocesan website, affording far more people the chance to watch than those able to secure a ticket.
Afterward, at a public reception, Bishop Weisenburger greeted a seemingly endless line of well-wishers for about 90 minutes before leaving for a celebratory dinner with fellow bishops, family, diocesan priests and other guests.
Archbishop Carl Maria Vigano, the papal nuncio to the United States, read the apostolic mandate from Pope Benedict XVI appointing the new bishop and offered his remarks on behalf of the Holy Father.
“I bring warm greetings to each of you and thank Msgr. Edward Weisenburger for generously answering God’s call,” he said.
Archbishop Vigano, who was named nuncio in October 2011, is responsible for vetting candidates to become bishops and announced Msgr. Weisenburger’s appointment on Feb. 6.
He spoke of Pope Benedict’s call for Americans to be “public witnesses of the church on the moral issues of the day.”
The papal nuncio said the people of the Diocese of Salina, together with their new bishop, “will effectively face these challenges for the good of your diocese and society as a whole.”
In addition to Archbishop Coakley, the only other former living bishops of Salina were also in attendance — Bishop Emeritus George Fitzsimons, the ninth bishop of Salina from 1984 to 2004 and who continues to serve there, and Archbishop Emeritus Daniel Kucera, OSB, of Dubuque, Iowa, who was the eighth bishop of Salina from 1980 to 1984.
In his homily, Archbishop Naumann recounted the common history of his archdiocese and the Salina Diocese and told a story of the “tiny crosier” he carried as he processed into the cathedral. The heavy, brass crosier stood taller than he.
He said Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph found it in a restoration shop in St. Louis and was told it came from a bishop of Kansas. He had it restored and donated it to Archbishop Naumann, metropolitan of the four dioceses that make up the Kansas province.
“It symbolizes the shepherds who have gone before us,” he said.
Archbishop Naumann told the new Salina bishop that “rest assured, Our Lord will provide you all you need to shepherd your flock.”
But he also stressed that it would not be easy.
“As a bishop, you are not permitted the luxury of remaining silent. Your words take on added importance, now [that] they are the words of a successor to an apostle,” Archbishop Naumann said.
He challenged Bishop Weisenburger “to be an effective preacher of the Gospels” and that his words “be amplified by a life of virtue and unselfish service.”