Cardinal Rigali marks 25 years as bishop
with a Mass filled with friends and his family of faith

By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA – Cardinal Justin Rigali celebrated the silver jubilee of his ordination to the episcopacy with a Mass of thanksgiving on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Tuesday, Sept. 14, at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.

“The Catholic Church glories in every action of Christ, but her greatest glory is the Cross,” the Cardinal said in an opening statement of his homily, quoting St. Cyril of Jerusalem, a bishop of the fourth century.

The cross was the central theme of the liturgy, beginning with the opening hymn, “Lift High the Cross.”

The Cardinal aptly opened and closed the liturgy with the responsorial: “We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.” {{more}}

A congregation of 1,200 faithful filled the Cathedral pews. Among them was his sister Charlotte Rigali, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet stationed in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Before he became Archbishop of Philadelphia, Cardinal Rigali served as Archbishop of St. Louis for nine years, from 1994 to 2003.

“It’s a privilege to be here,” said Sister Charlotte, the eldest of the Cardinal’s six siblings. “I can remember when he took his first step in the world. He’s walked a long way since then.”

Concelebrating the Mass were Cardinal John P. Foley, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and a former editor of The Catholic Standard & Times; Washington, D.C. Archbishop Emeritus Theodore E. McCarrick; and New York Archbishop Emeritus Cardinal Edward M. Egan.

Also concelebrating the Mass were 60 other archbishops and bishops and 300 diocesan and religious priests who serve the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

In attendance were 60 permanent and transitional deacons, 75 men and women religious and 159 seminarians from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood.

“I have never been alone as a bishop in proclaiming the triumph of the Cross or in bearing the burdens of the Gospel,” continued the Cardinal in his homily. “Like so many bishops, I have been blessed in experiencing the vitality of the Church and the goodness of all the categories of God’s people.”

Pope John Paul II ordained Msgr. Rigali to the episcopacy Sept. 14, 1985. He was appointed Archbishop of Philadelphia July 15, 2003, and installed as the ordinary Oct. 7 of the same year at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.

John Stokely, 23, a second theology seminarian from St. Agnes Parish in West Chester, Chester County, served as book bearer. Among the advice the spiritual shepherd has relayed to Stokely and his fellow seminarians through the years was this, said Stokely: “As seminarians, we may ask ourselves, do we have the strength to be a priest? The answer is, on our own, no, but with Jesus and His grace, anything is possible.”

The cantor of the liturgy, Scott Kennebeck, was a cantor for Archbishop Rigali in St. Louis. Kennebeck is still a cantor at the St. Louis cathedral. “He’s a great spiritual leader,” Kennebeck said. “It was always a joy to sing for Cardinal Rigali. He always expected the best and I always tried to deliver.”

The Cardinal, with a new crozier and vestments, greeted congregants in the vestibule of the cathedral as they recessed from the Mass. The crozier was a gift from the priests of the Philadelphia Archdiocese. The vestments were from his Philadelphia auxiliary bishops.

The striking crozier is gold, with the coat of arms of Pope Benedict XVI, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Rigali displayed at the base of the crook.

Among the Catholic schools represented at the Mass were Roman Catholic High School for Boys and John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School, both in Philadelphia, and Our Lady of Good Counsel School in Southampton, Bucks County.

Thirteen-year-old Chris Montague of Good Counsel is proud of Philadelphia’s spiritual shepherd. “I think he’s doing a great job – I hope he keeps it up,” he said.

Before they headed back to Bucks County, the boys and girls of Good Counsel serenaded the Cardinal with their rendition of the anthem, “Domine Salvum Fac.”

The sung prayer is a Philadelphia tradition in which priests salute their Archbishop and wish him God’s blessing for good health: “Lord, make safe our Father, Justin, and hear us on the day we call out to You.”

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468.