Baptism, confirmation, holy orders, matrimony, penance, Eucharist and even the sacrament of the sick. One could sense a presence of all in symbol and actuality on Sept. 8, the feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as Archbishop Charles Chaput, formerly of Denver, took possession of his cathedral as 13th Bishop and ninth Archbishop of Philadelphia.
Baptism, as the Archbishop took up his new duties, was suggested by the persistent rain that flooded center city Philadelphia that day, and the sacrament of the sick by the black construction cloth that covered the façade of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul as the edifice itself undergoes rejuvenation.
Inside the cathedral was all splendor, literally packed with 1,500 witnesses to the ceremony, including approximately 100 cardinals, archbishops and bishops; 400 priests, interfaith representatives, government officials, friends and relatives of Archbishop Chaput and the Catholic faithful of Philadelphia.
The cardinals present for the Mass were Cardinal Justin Rigali, of course; Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap., Archbishop of Boston; Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington; Cardinal James Stafford, Major Penitentiary Emeritus of the Apostolic Penitentiary and Archbishop Emeritus of Denver; Cardinal William Keeler, Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore; Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles; and Cardinal John Foley, Grand Master Emeritus, Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications; and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington.
Civic dignitaries included Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania Jim Cawley, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, City Council President Anna Verna and District Attorney Seth Williams.
“The relationship of a bishop and his local church, his diocese, is very close to a marriage,” Archbishop Chaput noted at the start of his homily. “And a bishop’s marriage to the local Church reminds me and all of us that a bishop is called to love his Church with all his heart, just as Christ loved her and gave His life for her.”
With that said, he also noted that it really was an arranged marriage with the Holy Father as matchmaker, but “history suggests arranged marriages often worked at least as well as those based on romantic love.”
Near the beginning of the Mass, the Apostolic Letter confirming Archbishop Chaput’s appointment was read by Msgr. Jean-Francois Lantheaume, charge d’affaires of the Apostolic Nunciature to the United States. (This would normally be read by the Apostolic Nuncio, the papal representative, but that office has been vacant since the July 27 death of Archbishop Pietro Sambi.)
This was followed by what was the highlight for most people attending the ceremony. Cardinal Rigali led Archbishop Chaput to his “cathedra,” the ornate bishop’s seat that gives the cathedral its name.
“What really struck me during the ceremony was when Cardinal Rigali sat the Archbishop in the chair. You could tell how the Archbishop was really touched,” later commented Msgr. Michael Wostar, who was vicar general to then-Bishop Chaput in Rapid City, S.D.
Clearly, the rest of the congregation felt the same, judging by the thunderous applause for both Archbishop Chaput and Cardinal Rigali after the Archbishop was seated at the cathedra.
Archbishop Chaput set something of a keynote for his administration in his homily, when he said, “It’s crucial for us who are bishops not simply to look like bishops but to truly be bishops. Otherwise we are just empty husks — the kind of men St. Augustine meant when he said, ‘You say, “He must be a bishop for he sits upon the cathedra.” True – and a scarecrow might be called a watchman in the vineyard.’”
Although he did not directly mention the clergy abuse scandal, it was clearly alluded to when he said, “The Church in Philadelphia faces very serious challenges these days. There is no quick fix to problems that are so difficult, and none of us here today, except the Lord Himself, is a miracle worker. But the Church is not defined by her failures. And you and I are not defined by critics who dislike us. What we do in the coming months and years to respond to those challenges — that will define us.”
“Archbishop Chaput is a completely loyal man who inspires loyalty, and the people of Philadelphia are going to get to know him and they’re going to love him,” said Jonathan Reyes, president of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver. “He always tells the truth. He’s always faithful. He always does what he says. We are going to miss him dearly. We’re jealous. We’re sad.”
There were many more who wanted to be in the cathedral — if it could have held any more people — including hundreds of members of the Neocatechumenal Way lay movement who came great distances and sang and rejoiced outside despite the rain.
“We knew Archbishop Chaput in Denver,” said Bob Haben, a Neocatechumenal leader who brought a small group from Pittsburgh. “As he said, it’s a marriage and we think it is a perfect marriage.”
Martin and Burgel Johnson and their children were here from New York, representing the Bruderhof, a Christian sect, in many ways similar to the Mennonites.
“We met Archbishop Chaput in Denver,” Martin Johnson said. “We are not Catholic, but we are good friends with Catholics. We are pro marriage and pro life.”
Jerry Tuckwin, who came all the way from Kansas, shares Archbishop Chaput’s Potawatomi heritage.
“He brought the Capuchins into the school where I taught in Kansas,” he said. “Being members of the same tribe we stayed spiritually connected. He’s a wonderful person, a very good man. He’s what each and every one of us would want to be before the Lord.”
Philadelphians and former Philadelphians from all walks of life were at the installation, and most greeted the Archbishop after the Mass.
“I’m pleased in a very special way that God has blessed us with this gift of Archbishop Chaput,” said Immaculate Heart Sister Sheila Galligan of Immaculata University. “He’s a man of God and therefore a man of and by the Church. He’s a bishop who bishops and he lives the Lord. There is evidence of that in his spirit of joy.”
Bishop of Harrisburg Joseph McFadden, a former Philadelphia auxiliary bishop, said the whole ceremony was “in fine Philadelphia style. Philadelphia does liturgy in such a great way. I think the message was perfect, and he will do a great job.”
“The great love Archbishop Chaput already has for the people and the Church in Philadelphia is so beautiful,” said Msgr. Joseph McLoone, parochial administrator at St. Joseph Parish in Downingtown. “We the people, the priests, the sisters, we want to respond in love to him as well.”
Gabriela Pedroza, from the Archdiocese’s newest parish, St. Rocco in Avondale, brought her 2-year-old daughter Daniela to the Mass.
“I thought it was really funny when he made a reference to marriage,” said Gabriela, “because as we were getting ready to go up (to greet Archbishop Chaput), I actually told my friend, ‘I feel like I’m getting married. I’m so nervous.’ It was really exciting … to be a part of it. It’s a privilege to be selected out of 12,000 members we have in our parish.”
Areli Zavala, also from St. Rocco Parish, said, “I thought the Mass was very special. I was happy that we got to partake in it. It was just breathtaking to be on the altar with him. He greeted us in Spanish which I thought was very nice. It was nice that he took the time to greet everyone. It looks like he’s very energetic and ready to get started.”
“I was honored and privileged to represent the Polish community,” said Theresa Romanowski of St. Adalbert Parish in Philadelphia. “The liturgy was absolutely beautiful. Archbishop Chaput is fantastic. I love him already. I think our marriage is going to work. He said everything sincerely. He said he will be the best bishop. What will happen in the future will define who we truly are. He actually seemed down to earth; he’s part of us. I just love the man.”
There was also a contingent of Knights of Columbus in regalia to welcome their new archbishop, led by George Koch, the Pennsylvania state deputy.
“We had breakfast with him in Denver,” he said. “He’s going to energize everyone here. Everything The Catholic Standard & Times said about him is true.”
Youth are very important for Archbishop Chaput, and there were a fair number of young people at the Mass.
“I loved how he incorporated the marriage aspect into his homily,” said Victoria McClellan, from Gwynedd Mercy Academy in Gwynedd Valley. “I think it got a lot of people thinking. His homilies are so relatable.”
Dan Matour, from Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia, was impressed by the new archbishop’s energy level. “He’s very enthusiastic; I think he’s going to do a great job,” he said.
Becky Gutherman of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Croydon agreed. “It’s beautiful to see how energetic he is and so unabashedly Catholic.”
Dan Burns of Immaculata University in Immaculata said, “You can see why the people in Denver were excited. He brings a powerful spirit into the room.”
Scott Nulty of Bishop Shanahan High School in Downingtown and David Thomas of Roman Catholic High School were both assisting as umbrella escorts. Nulty, a senior at Bishop Shanahan, described the experience as great. “This isn’t going to happen a lot. I feel honored to be a part of it,” he said.
“I feel very proud to be involved with the installation. It’s a great honor,” Thomas said. “I feel the new Archbishop will do great things for the Archdiocese. It’s a triumphant moment. I feel really good about being asked to participate.”
Finally, Jim Murray, a former Philadelphia Eagles official now with Ronald McDonald House, likes sports analogies. “When you get a new head coach you get a new playbook and he’s brought his own playbook. In both him and Cardinal Rigali we got first-round picks.”