ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CNS) — Faith is meant “to be integrated into every aspect of our lives,” Anchorage’s new archbishop told the congregation packed into Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral in Anchorage.
“Going to church on Sunday is not meant to be one thing we do in the midst of many other things,” said Archbishop Paul D. Etienne. “No, celebrating our faith and receiving the sacraments are meant to renew and recharge us for carrying that faith and Jesus Christ into the world.”
The archbishop made the comments in his homily for his Nov. 9 installation as head of the 138,000-square-mile archdiocese. Alaskans from every corner came to witness the former bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming, formally succeed retiring Archbishop Roger L. Schwietz.
Archbishop Schwietz, 75, had headed the Archdiocese of Anchorage since 2001. Archbishop Etienne, 57, was shepherd of the statewide Cheyenne Diocese since December 2009.
On hand for the installation were more than 800 people. The congregation included most of the archdiocese’s priests, deacons, seminarians, men and women religious, and many lay faithful. Church leaders from various denominations around Anchorage and many dignitaries also were in attendance.
The Mass began with the new archbishop entering the co-cathedral with a greeting from Archbishop Schwietz.
At the start of Mass, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the U.S., read to the congregation the document from Pope Francis appointing the new archbishop Oct. 4. It was formally shown to archdiocesan college of consultors for verification.
At this point, the nuncio then led the new archbishop to the cathedra — the seat of the archbishop — and handed him the crosier, or archbishop’s staff. This was the moment was installed, the point when he officially became the new archbishop of Anchorage.
For the Mass, many dignitaries were in attendance, along with The liturgy proceeded with Archbishop Etienne delivering the homily.
“Our celebration today reminds us that a ‘full human life; a life resplendent with dignity’ is a life imbued by God, redeemed by Jesus Christ, and animated by the Holy Spirit,” Archbishop Etienne said. “When we fully understand this, then our life, each one of us, becomes a blessing to others.
“We become that fresh water that flows into the sea of the world, making it fresh and giving it life,” he continued. “The dignity of our life is enhanced, and our lives bear the good fruit of mercy and understanding; accompanying others waiting for someone to raise them up and acknowledge their dignity as a son or daughter of God.
“When we live a fully integrated faith-life, our life becomes in the world a healing balm of goodness and a medicine that heals the wounds of division and discord.”
When believers in Christ allow him to cast out indifference and hatred “from the temple of our hearts,” he said, “then our lives are renewed.”
“We are set free, and we become the metaphorical trees of the Prophet’s vision whose leaves never fade, and whose fruit never fails,” Archbishop Etienne said.
He told the congregation that “this is God’s dream, and with God, all things are possible.”
“As your new archbishop, this is now my dream for our potential and possibility! I am told that Alaska is known for its high tides,” he said. “That being the case, may the faith and good works of this local church be the standard of high tides for the church. Let us become ‘the waters of the river which gladden the city of God,’ making the world around us a dwelling for the Most High.”
The evening before his installation during a prayer service at Holy Family Cathedral in Anchorage, Archbishop Etienne described a poster he noticed in his new office listing “the various values of the different tribes of the native people of Alaska.”
“I think these are the values we are called to (emulate) in our faith life; these are the skills necessary to build this elegant church,” he said.
He shared the list: “Traditional values of Alaska: Listen with your heart and mind; honor family; help others; hard work; sharing; humility; respect for elders; respect and care for nature; gather knowledge and wisdom; unity; village cooperation.”
“We need only find our ‘place’ in the church, and joyfully carry out our task. And when we make a mess of things, we have our Mother, Mary to turn to,” he added.
Davidson is editor of the Catholic Anchor, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Anchorage.