After a vacancy of more than a year, the Diocese of Salina, Kansas received its new leader on April 27, when Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger offered his life in service to the Church at his ordination Mass.
“It is indeed humbling to stand before you today,” he told a 1,200-strong crowd at Sacred Heart Cathedral. In words also broadcast live by EWTN, the newly-ordained bishop said he owed the local Church “more than just the emotion of gratitude.”
“I actually owe you a life well-lived, poured out in service as your brother in Christ, your spiritual father, your shepherd,” said Bishop Weisenburger, noting the importance of a life that “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. I know my limitations and weaknesses all too well,” he told the assembly of clergy and lay faithful, including 24 bishops and 150 priests. “Were it not for my trust and hope in the divine assistance of the Holy Spirit, I would be too shaken to even try.”
Ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City in 1987, Bishop Weisenburger was installed as Salina's bishop after his episcopal consecration by Kansas City Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
In his remarks after the rite, Bishop Weisenburger said he drew inspiration from St. Paul's instructions for believers “to allow the Spirit to work in and through us.”
“I hope to see Christ help me rise to the occasion, that I might be a faithful servant to you,” he said.
During 2012, the Church in Salina will mark the 125th anniversary of its establishment as a diocese. It is also in the middle of a multi-year pastoral plan, focusing on personal holiness, vocational encouragement, charitable service, and evangelization.
Salina's new bishop said occasions like his ordination, and the anniversary celebration, offered a chance to reflect on “the incredible wealth of blessings given to us by our ancestors, whose love for God and his Church compelled them to live lives that were exemplary in devotion and commitment.”
“Our Church helped form great saints in these last 125 years, and she is calling us to a holiness and dignity no less than that of our mothers and fathers in the faith.”
“Hang onto your seats,” he told the faithful,” because together and with the Lord in our midst, our future is equally filled with hope and promise.”
Father Barry Brinkman, who administered the diocese for 15 months before Bishop Weisenburger's arrival, told EWTN News that the new bishop's ordination and installation ceremony was especially joyful due to the prolonged wait.
“It makes the celebration even more eventful,” he said. “People were really anticipating and wanting a bishop.”
Many of the rural parishioners, Fr. Brinkman said, had “never seen such an elaborate liturgy. It was two-and-a-half hours long, and no one seemed to mind it being that long. It was, for many, a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
Now that Bishop Weisenburger has been installed, Fr. Brinkman says Catholics are excited to “push forward” with the pastoral plan. Its current phase focuses on “being a good steward of one's vocation,” whether to the priesthood, religious life, marriage, or life as a single person.
The plan's four stages emphasize the importance of personal conversion, as an integral part of evangelization and service. The plan “begins within and moves out,” he said, explaining how subsequent years will focus on service and the proclamation of the Gospel.
He predicted Bishop Weisenburger's arrival would give the plan “more momentum,” particularly in the effort to foster vocations to the priesthood.
“He was involved with vocations in his priestly ministry in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City,” noted Fr. Brinkman.
The priest is also enthusiastic about his new bishop's “vast pastoral experience,” and his desire “to give his life to us, to the diocese, in his role as shepherd and leader.”