Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Superior's Tenth Bishop Installed at Christ the King Cathedral - Peter F. Christensen


The Cathedral of Christ the King was filled to overflowing Sept. 23, for the installation of Bishop Peter F. Christensen as the 10th bishop of the Diocese of Superior. Christensen was ordained a bishop Friday, Sept. 14, at the St. Paul Cathedral in St. Paul, Minn. Christensen has been pastor of Nativity of the Lord Parish in St. Paul.

The installation began with a group of American Indian dancers from St. Francis Solanus Parish in Reserve leading Christensen to the doors of the cathedral. Christiansen knocked three times on the cathedral door and was welcomed by Fr. Daniel Dahlberg, rector of the cathedral. After crossing the threshold, he reverenced a crucifix with a kiss and proceeded to the baptismal font, where he blessed himself and everyone attending the Mass.

The procession into the cathedral included a Knights of Columbus Honor Guard, priests and deacons, Christensen, who was the celebrant of the Mass, Bishop Emeritus Raphael M. Fliss, and visiting bishops, including Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of Milwaukee, who was the installing bishop and Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Fliss said a few words of welcome. "It's with great delight that I welcome all of you here on this beautiful autumn day in northern Wisconsin. I welcome you to this cathedral church, in the see city of Superior, which takes its name from the great lake, which the native people called Gitchee Gumee." He added that Lake Superior inspired both awe and dread in the early missionaries who traveled the area by canoe and snowshoes.

Fliss welcomed Sambi and Dolan, as well as all the other bishops and archbishops in attendance. "But, most of all," he said, "I joyfully welcome you, Bishop Christensen." He added that for two years the diocese had waited and hoped and prayed and "speculated with abandon" about his successor. "Today all this comes to fulfillment. É and so, as my final act as apostolic administrator, I entrust to you, Bishop Christensen, the church of Superior--the many people and priests who have endeared themselves to me these 28 years. I trust you will be as inspired by their lives and enriched by their faith as I have been. Welcome, Peter, and God bless you."

Following the welcome, the apostolic letter from Pope Benedict XVI, appointing Christensen bishop of Superior, was shown to Sr. Eileen Lang, chancellor of the diocese; the college of consultors, which is made up of some priests of the diocese; and the assembly.

The chancellor then announced, "Let it be known that, in accord with the provisions of canon law, the college of consultors has duly examined the apostolic letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI by which the Most Rev. Peter F. Christensen is appointed the 10th bishop of the Diocese of Superior."

The apostolic nuncio then read the letter aloud. Applause signified the assembly's consent.

To formally acknowledge Christensen's position as bishop, Dolan led him to the cathedra (bishop's chair) and presented him with the symbol the office of bishop, his crosier.

As they were each introduced by Lang, FSPA, representatives from the presbyterate, the diaconate, religious congregations, the local ecumenical community, local civic officials, the laity, the American Indian community, the diocesan pastoral and education departments, Catholic Charities and the chancery staff came forward to greet their new bishop.

One of the lighthearted moments came when Lang introduced "Mrs. Patricia Wildenberg, your secretary." That got a laugh from the bishop and all of those assembled.

The newly installed bishop delivered the homily, which was interrupted with applause several times. He began with, "It's good to be here. What a beautiful cathedral, a magnificent symbol of our Catholic faith, filled with good, faithful people. It's good to be here."

He thanked the various individuals and groups involved in planning and participating in the installation liturgy. Of Fliss, the retiring bishop, Christensen said, "You are known for your kindness, gentleness and your gracious service to the people here."

Christensen talked about his motto. He said he chose "You are the Christ, son of the living God," when he was ordained to the priesthood, but the meaning has never been more evident that the past three months since he learned of his appointment.

He told the story of the call he received from Sambi, telling him he had been appointed bishop of Superior. He said he was so surprised that he didn't say anything and there was a long pause. Sambi asked, "This is Nativity Parish -- You are Fr. Peter Christensen?"

Christensen said Sambi introduced the call with a beautiful Scripture passage where Jesus and the Apostles are out on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus approaches on the water and says, "Come to me, Peter. Come to me. Do not be afraid. The archbishop said to me, 'Do not be afraid.'"

Christensen also talked about the proclamation of faith and oath of obedience he had to make before his ordination. Included was a pledge to be faithful in carrying out the ministry that has been entrusted to him and to ensure that the truths and teachings of the church are handed down pure. He added that he delights in these promises.

Part of his mission as a bishop, Christensen said, will be to show particular affection to all priests and deacons, to all men and women religious. "I will likewise take great care to promote spiritual vocations."

He will also recognize and promote ministries of lay people and especially promote the work of evangelization and will encourage family life. "I will stand with you to build strong families in faith," he said.

"I would encourage all of us, including myself, to remain faithful to prayer. That's where the dialogue takes place."

He held up a small volume of St. Augustine's "Confessions." One of his parishioners at Nativity Parish in St. Paul had given the 1686 edition of the book to Christensen as a going away gift. St. Augustine of Hippo is the patron saint of the Diocese of Superior.

He said the parishioner pointed out that when that volume was printed, missionaries were just beginning to preach Christianity in what would become the Diocese of Superior.

Christensen quoted Augustine's prayer about his coming late to the faith, "Late have I loved thee, O beauty, so ancient and so new," and said his feelings for the diocese echo Augustine's words. Christensen is getting to know the diocese "late" at the age of 54.

After a few remarks by Dahlberg, welcoming Christensen as bishop and as pastor of the cathedral, the installation Mass ended. Superior Catholic Herald

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