June 8, 2009
Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Praised be Jesus Christ!
I am humbled but filled with great joy and gratitude this day on the occasion of the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI has named me Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia. My heart is filled with gratitude first to Almighty God for the gift of life and for the gift of the Roman Catholic faith. I treasure the gift of faith and the priceless gift of friendship with Jesus Christ who has called me to share in His Sacred Priesthood. I am grateful to Pope Benedict for the call to the Episcopacy, and I assure him of my unwavering loyalty, obedience and fidelity to the Magisterium. To our Archbishop, Cardinal Justin Rigali. Thank you, Your Eminence for your confidence in me and for the fraternal love and support that you have given to me and to all the priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. It has been a great privilege to work so closely with you these past five years as Vicar for Clergy. You are an inspiring example of a bishop who truly cares for his flock with great devotion. Thanks as well to my soon-to-be brother Auxiliary Bishops, Bishop Robert Maginnis, Bishop Joseph Cistone – who has all of our prayers as he prepares to begin his new ministry as the Bishop of Saginaw, Bishop Joseph McFadden, and Bishop Daniel Thomas, my dear classmate and friend for many years. Bishops, I will always welcome your counsel and I beg your prayers.
I am so blessed with the selfless and enduring love of my mother, Elise Rothwell Senior, whose deep faith and love for our family and for the Catholic Church has – and continues to be – one of the greatest inspirations and sources of strength in my life. My brother Jim and my sister Myra; together with Jim’s wife Ann Marie, their children, Kate and her husband Mark Urbanski, and Jaclyn and Garrett and Myra’s husband, Ron DiNicola and their daughter Myra Katharine — I could never thank you all enough for all your love, support, encouragement – and patience and forgiveness as well! Our family is also blessed by the continued love an example of my aunt, Sister Regina Celeste, a Sister, Servant of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I am very proud of my family and deeply grateful to God for them.
I revere the memory of my father, James Harwood Senior, who died when I was just seventeen years old, but whose fatherly love has been with me over the years. I pray that this day he is rejoicing in heaven with my nephew, Matthew DiNicola, my aunt, Sister Saint Margaret, a Sister of Saint Joseph, my dear friend, Matthew Walsh, my grandparents and all our loved ones who have died.
My faith and my vocation were nurtured in Saint Rose of Lima Parish in North Wales and Lansdale Catholic High School. I would be remiss if I did not also mention my gratitude for the great gift of music in my life, which was passed on to me by my parents and encouraged especially by my mother. It was through music – through singing and studying the piano and later, the organ, that I first heard the voice of God within my heart calling me to the Priesthood. May God give me the grace that I need to continue to sing His praises – soon, please God – as a bishop in the Church for the rest of my life!
I am so grateful for the formation that I received as a young man from the priests on the faculty of Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary. Our Archdiocese is truly blessed to have such a wonderful Seminary. My assignments as a deacon at Our Lady of Fatima in Secane and as a newly ordained priest at Assumption BVM Parish in Feasterville, were gifts from God as well. I was blessed to serve as a resident priest at Saint Anthony of Padua in Ambler and Saint Ann Parish in Somerville, Massachusetts where I resided when I was in Graduate School at Boston College. And in weekend ministry at Saint Kevin Parish in Springfield, Saint Thomas the Apostle in Chester Heights and, for the last nine years at Saint John Chrysostom Parish in Wallingford.
The ministry of Catholic Human Services where I served for fifteen years is very close to my heart. The works of charity and health care in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are outstanding. Each day in the City of Philadelphia and in the suburban counties thousands of our most poor and vulnerable brothers and sisters are served by selfless and dedicated staff. It was through my work in Catholic Human Services that I first met the Daughters of Saint Mary of Providence and the wonderful residents and staff of the place that I have resided for the last fourteen years, Divine Providence Village in Springfield. The very special residents of Divine Providence daily reveal the face of Christ. They have humbled and challenged me in so many ways and I could never thank them enough.
I have been fortunate to work here in the Archdiocesan Office Center for over seventeen years now. During those years I have worked with and come to know so many wonderful priests, religious and lay people who have dedicated their skills and training to the service of the Church. As a bishop, I am looking forward to continuing to work with many of you, to renewing and re-establishing some old working relationships and developing new ones as well.
Finally, I am deeply grateful to God for the experience of priestly ministry that I have had these last five years serving in the Office for Clergy. What a blessing and a great grace it has been to serve my brother priests on behalf of our Cardinal Archbishop. To be a member of the Presbyterate of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and to share in the fraternity of priest friends, mentors and colleagues is a great gift in my life. I particularly want to acknowledge the staff of the Office for Clergy – the outstanding and dedicated priests with whom I have served in that office, and in a special way, the lay staff. I know very well the wonderful service that you give to the priests of the Archdiocese and to the Church as a whole. I am very proud of the work that you do each day. I am inspired by your faith and your love for the Priesthood and the Church. Thanks for putting up with me for five years! I will miss you, but I will not be very far and the work that you do will always be in my heart.
I love being a priest! As a priest, I have encountered the abiding and irresistible love of God drawing me ever more deeply into relationship with Him. In my life as a priest, I have been given opportunities to grow and to serve that I could not have imagined or planned for myself. The life of a priest is challenging and fulfilling in countless and surprising ways. I am confident that my future ministry as a bishop will be the same. I thank God today for the grace of perseverance and I pray for the ever deepening desire to do His will and to give my life completely in the service of His Church.
Now, I am eager to move forward – to prepare for my ordination and ministry as an Auxiliary Bishop. I am encouraged by the words of Saint Paul to my patron saint, Saint Timothy, when he challenges him to “stir into flame the gift of God bestowed when my hands were laid on you!” Please pray for me. Pray that my weaknesses and shortcomings will not impede the fulfillment of God’s holy will in my life through my ministry as a bishop. Please join me in praying that like Jesus, the good shepherd, I will always be in the midst of my brother priests and the people of God “as one who serves.” I beg the intercession of Saint John Neumann and Saint Katharine Drexel. May our Blessed Mother, Mother of Divine Providence, continue to lead all of us ever more fully into the mystery of the death and resurrection of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom we glorify God and in whom we are fully alive!