Friday, May 8, 2009

Bishop Harrington notes his 50th jubilee as a priest, and his retirement

Bishop Bernard Harrington hoped to retire on his 50th anniversary in the priesthood, and Thursday, he got his wish. Almost.

A celebration Thursday at Cathedral of the Sacred Heart marked Harrington’s 50th anniversary as a priest and the official transition of power from Harrington to Bishop John Quinn. Harrington was actually ordained June 6, 1959, but it was too hard to schedule the event on that date, he said.

“Plus, Bishop Quinn is anxious to get to work,” Harrington quipped.

Harrington handed Quinn his bishop’s crosier -- the one originally given to Bishop Joseph Cotter, Winona’s first bishop. They embraced and were met with a standing round of applause from the packed Cathedral, signaling a shift in power and the beginning of Quinn’s sole oversight.

“If I had to do it over, I would do it again,” Harrington said. “I would do the same thing.”

Quinn becomes Winona’s eighth bishop by replacing Harrington, who resigned in September 2008 when he turned 75, the church’s maximum age for bishops. Harrington received a letter from Pope Benedict XVI congratulating him on his service, and it was translated from Latin and read aloud to the congregation.

At the ceremony and in an interview Thursday morning, Quinn lauded Harrington’s work, who he called a “great pastor and great shepherd of God’s people.” Much of Quinn’s ministry will build upon Harrington’s -- reaching out to young people, fostering a growing Latino community, and keeping the diocese relevant in a culture much more secular than 30 years ago, he said.

“Our culture is pretty noisy,” he said.

First, Quinn will begin a search for new priests to fill a dearth in the diocese, he said. He’d like to add full-time ministers for college groups, especially in Winona. Young people do not hear the call to ministry as easily as they did before, he said.

Quinn also defended the church’s stance in a recent court hearing, in which it fought to keep private the names of 13 priests accused of sexual abuse who worked in the Winona Diocese.

Many on the list were dead and could not defend themselves, or the accusations were decades old or were not proven, he said. A judge ultimately ruled to keep the names private.

Quinn said the diocese would intervene immediately if new accusations are made.

Finally, Quinn said he wants to make Catholic education more affordable. Catholic schools are still strong, he said, but high tuition is keeping some families from enrolling in Catholic education. Winona Daily News

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