HARTFORD — On behalf of the clergy, women religious and lay faithful of Connecticut’s archdiocese, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford warmly welcomed Coadjutor Archbishop Christopher J. Coyne during a Mass Oct. 9 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph.
“Our welcome extends to all his family members and friends who are here for this joyful occasion, and we join them in praying for him and wishing him God’s blessing as he makes his home with us in Connecticut,” Archbishop Blair told a cathedral packed with hundreds of people. Even more could view the Mass via livestream.
Dozens of priests from the archdiocese as well as visiting priests filled several pews, and many bishops from the region also were in attendance.
Pope Francis named then-Bishop Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, as coadjutor for Hartford June 26. He had headed the statewide Burlington Diocese since his installation Jan. 29, 2015. Before that, he was an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis from 2011 to 2015.
“Archbishop Coyne, I have to tell you that archbishops here are a very hearty lot. Thank God,” Archbishop Blair said, noting the coadjutor was being welcomed “by no less than three of us.”
Hartford’s current archbishop, who is 74, was joined in the sanctuary by his predecessors Archbishops Daniel A. Cronin, now 95, and Henry J. Mansell, now 86. Also present were current Hartford Auxiliary Bishop Juan Miguel Betancourt, 53, and retired Hartford Auxiliary Bishops Peter A. Rosazza, 88, and Christie A. Macaluso, 78. All of the prelates were concelebrants.
“Ad multos annos!” (“Many years!”) — that’s the wish of all of us for you,” Archbishop Blair told the coadjutor. “This is a sentiment I know that is shared by all of our priests, deacons, religious men and women, and lay faithful represented by this vast congregation who welcome you and are eager to know you and to work with you for the sake of the evangelizing mission that is ours as members of Christ’s body and bride — the church.”
He added that everyone’s prayers will be with the new coadjutor “in the months ahead” as he adjusts to his new home and new responsibilities in preparing to be “‘in due course,’ as they say in Rome, the 14th bishop and sixth archbishop of this local church.”
As coadjutor, Archbishop Coyne, 65, will automatically succeed Archbishop Blair upon his retirement. Next April, the elder prelate turns 75, the age at which canon law requires a bishop to submit his resignation to the pope. The pope determines when to accept the resignation.
After Archbishop Blair’s remarks, Cardinal Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, read the apostolic letter of appointment for the coadjutor before Archbishop Coyne held it up for all to see. The cardinal, who also concelebrated the Mass, thanked Archbishop Blair for his 10 years as Hartford’s shepherd and his 24 years as a bishop. “May God continue to bless you in the remainder of your ministry,” he said.
He then addressed the coadjutor. “By the way, you have a good name!” he smiled, a nod to their shared name. He told the congregation that Archbishop Coyne brings to his ministry “a passion for evangelization” and follows St. Peter’s advice: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” — Jesus Christ and the promise of eternal life for all who follow him.
Cardinal Pierre advised Archbishop Coyne to get to know the archdiocese and its people and gain insight from Archbishop Blair in order “to hit the ground running when you assume leadership of this local church.”
The Gospel reading for the Mass was from Luke’s account of Jesus returning to his hometown of Nazareth to begin his public ministry and facing rejection. The townspeople do not recognize who he is: the Messiah spoken of by the prophet Isaiah. Jesus challenges them. They get angry and drive him out of town to throw him off a cliff. “But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.”
“All spoke highly of him. Everyone seems to be fine with this Jesus our neighbor, our friend, the kid we grew up with,” Archbishop Coyne said in his homily. But when Jesus said he was the Messiah, “there is no way they could be convinced.”
“Jesus, I know who you are. You are the son of God. … You have shown us the way to the Father and called us to be your disciples. In your life, we see our life. In your rising from the dead, we see our hope of rising from the dead. That’s our reason for hope that we’re ready to give to others,” he said.
Archbishop Coyne told the congregation he wants the faithful of the archdiocese to get to know him as “a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. I seek to know him, to love him and to serve him in the faith and practice of the church.”
“I’m a son, a grandson, a nephew, a brother, an uncle, a great-uncle, a friend and now a Connecticuter,” he continued, stumbling a bit over his newest identifier. “I’m also a Patriots fan,” he added to laughter from the congregation.
“But most especially I’m a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. … My friends, I walk with you first as a brother, not over you, but with you as a disciple,” he said. “But I have also been privileged to serve the church as a priest for 25 years and then as a bishop for over 12 years. … I’m here to serve, not to be served.”
“In walking with you as bishop, I sometimes will lead, I sometimes will have to make hard decisions,” he said. “I sometimes will do things with which you will not agree, but I will always seek to do so for the right reasons, to encourage and affirm the good in us, to say as it says in Scripture only the good things that men and women really need to hear, things that will raise them up, to dialogue and to listen to you and to pray with you and to worship with you.”
“This cathedral is holy ground, a place where holy things are done with and for holy people,” Archbishop Coyne said. “I stand with you today in this place as a disciple of Christ, Christ who died for my sake, and for your sake and for the sake of all creation. I stand with you today on the solid ground of our faith.”
“We are here, we are not going anywhere, we are present in this community that so desperately needs to hear the joy, the salvation and the faith of the church,” he continued. “We are here and we will so remain, because we want others to know and abide, and have what we have.”