There’s no doubt about it. Bishop Peter Christensen will be missed.
In his time here, he’s touched the hearts of many, and I’ve heard countless admirers express their appreciation for his gifts.
A smiling woman stopped me at one of the first events I attended in the diocese. She praised the bishop’s talent for pastoral care and his intuitive way with people, and then her expression changed.
“I hope he doesn’t get moved,” she said in a worried voice.
It’s a sentiment I’ve heard many times in churches and living rooms and over bowls of soup at parish luncheons. Through his exhaustive travels, uplifting homilies and constant attention to others’ needs, Bishop Christensen has succeeded in unifying our 16-county diocese as a community and a Catholic family. He has truly been a spiritual leader, shepherd and father to all of us, and we are understandably reluctant to see him go.
In his seven years in Superior, the bishop has crisscrossed the diocese, celebrating Masses and attending events in parishes large and small. His homilies sparkle with a subtle magic – a relevance that addresses each occasion, but also speaks to the hearts of individuals. He is, above all, a virtuosic storyteller who sees the miraculous in the everyday and shares those serendipitous moments with the rest of us.
On a more practical note, he has also ensured our diocese’s ability to support seminarians and care for retired priests by launching the Faith in Our Future campaign. Donors have been generous with their response, and Bishop Christensen has been correspondingly generous with his time – traveling to and speaking at more than 80 receptions could not have been easy, particularly in a Northwoods winter. His faith in us, like our faith in the church, has been well served. Together, we have ensured the financial viability of our small mission diocese.
Perhaps these successes have made the bishop’s new appointment all the more difficult to accept. When the move to Boise, Idaho, was announced on Nov. 4, his flock’s response was a mix of congratulations, joy and sadness. Online, in-person and in bulletins, parishioners grieved, wished him well and wondered who would be his replacement.
He’ll be a tough act to follow, predicted Kathy Raue Maas, the Duluth artist whose hand-drawn Christmas cards were featured in the Dec. 4 issue. We at the chancery feel the same way – energized by Bishop Christensen’s leadership (and frequent visits from an always-hungry Gus), we’re wondering how the interim period will go, and what to expect from his successor.
It is somehow fitting that Advent, the season of preparation, should be upon us as we bid farewell to Bishop Christensen and anticipate the installation of a new bishop. We wish him many blessings as he carries on with his vocation, and we pray our diocese’s sense of unity will only grow stronger as we await the coming of our Lord.