Catholic Herald staff
The mood was festive but prayerful Wednesday, March 17, as more than 200 people gathered to pray with Bishop-elect James Powers at a Solemn Vespers service on the eve of his ordination and installation as bishop of the Diocese of Superior.
Held at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior, the service was presided over by Bishop Peter F. Christensen, former Diocese of Superior bishop now of the Diocese of Boise, Idaho. Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, also attended.
After the Diocesan Chorale, under the interim direction of Kathy Turba, performed hymns, antiphons and a canticle, Bishop-elect Powers thanked the crowd for coming and for supporting him in his new role.
The evening’s reading was from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philipians (3: 12b-15) which began, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work.”
The first time Bishop-elect Powers looked over the reading, those words jumped out at him.
“Not exactly the comforting, warm, fuzzy words I was hoping for,” he added, smiling.
But, he continued, “Paul’s letter is written to a community out of love and joy … (he) encourages them to strive for unity and humility.”
“Fear and trembling,” a common Old Testament expression, indicates awe before God, he explained. Later, when Paul warns his readers to “do everything without grumbling or questioning,” he refers to the Israelites, who had a reputation for grumbling.
Paul’s letter continues, “Do everything without grumbling and questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights of the world.”
In the midst of the Holy Year of Mercy, in the Cathedral of Christ the King, how appropriate the message is, Bishop-elect Powers noted.
“I don’t think we can help but be filled with awe in the presence of our God,” he said. “As we go forth as individuals, as a diocese, as a church at large, may we shine as that light of Christ for all the world to see, and may God bless us, each and every one.”
Before the service concluded, Bishop Christensen shared his joy in Pope Francis’ choice of Bishop-elect Powers, whom he likened to a bald eagle unconscious of its own grandeur – “only others can see it.”
“This man has an ability to see the big picture,” Bishop Christensen added.
The new bishop of Superior will soar with the strength and support of the diocese, he said.
After Vespers, attendees were invited downstairs to a reception. As the church emptied, two Duluth residents, both members of the Cathedral parish, shared their joy in the service and the selection of Bishop-elect Powers.
“Beautiful,” Theresa Carr commented on the Vespers. “Absolutely beautiful. Inspiring. I think of it as the wedding rehearsal before the wedding. It’s that time for everyone to get together and celebrate.”
“I feel it’s very wonderful to pick a priest who is a pastor, not just an administrator …. because a shepherd is supposed to smell like the sheep,” said Marsh Thornton, referring to a phrase made popular by Pope Francis.