Thursday, August 6, 2009

Faith Profile: Bishop Samuel J. Aquila, Bishop of Fargo


Faith Profile: Bishop Samuel J. Aquila

Bishop Samuel Aquila

Bishop Samuel J. Aquila

Born: 1950, Burbank, California

Education: B.A., Psychology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, 1972; M.A., Theology-Dogma, St. Thomas Seminary, Denver, CO, 1976; Licentiate of Sacramental Theology, San Anselmo University, Rome, 1990.

Vocation: Ordained to the priesthood in 1976; Bishop, The Catholic Diocese of Fargo since 2001

On Success: “When people tell me that I have been an instrument of God and have helped to bring them to encounter Jesus Christ.” “Being a spiritual father to seminarians.”

On leadership: “A leader needs to be a person of honesty, integrity, who desires truth, is compassionate and a listener.”

“One who has to make the difficult decisions that are grounded in The Truth.”

Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). Mary’s instruction to the waiters at the wedding feast in Cana reminds Bishop Aquila to be a servant of Christ and the Church and to trust Jesus to guide him.

As he visits parishes, teaches through his homilies and speaking to Catholics and non-Catholics throughout the Diocese of Fargo, Bishop Aquila hopes to inspire all of us to give ourselves fully to our Lord, to live our lives according to our faith, and do whatever Jesus calls us to do. Bishop Aquila started his spiritual journey as a parish priest in the 70s and served in parish ministry for 11 years.

“Every priest has it in their heart to serve people,” he reminds us, and he has served the people well. Over the last 30 years, he has accepted positions of increasing responsibility in the church and has earned the honor of being named a Prelate of Honor by Pope John Paul II, receiving the honorary title of Monsignor in 2000.

Ordained a bishop in 2001, Bishop Aquila now oversees 139 parishes, 86 active priests, a number of retired priests, the Cardinal Meunch Seminary and 13 schools located in eastern North Dakota, which covers approximately 36,000 square miles. Bishop Aquila serves on the Bishops’ Advisory Council for the Institute for Priestly Formation.

He is also a member of several United States Conference of Catholic Bishops committees. His responsibilities include teaching though preaching, writing pastoral letters and visiting with priests and parishes. He also oversees the sacramental life and governance of the Church in all churches in the diocese and he attends many monthly and quarterly meetings that are devoted to running the diocese.

Twice a year, Bishop Aquila meets with lay people and priests, who are members of the Diocesan Pastoral Council, about their concerns and pastoral outreach. A typical day also includes an hour in prayer before the Eucharist, and praying five times daily for the church and the diocese.

The admonition from John 2:5, “Do whatever He tells you,” also adds direction to Bishop Aquila’s daily life. Bishop Aquila says he was inspired by the late John Paul II’s ability to teach, preach, and visit with people. He said that John Paul II had a deep goodness about him, living The Faith, enjoying people, and engaging in banter back and forth in conversation with them. He has also worked diligently to meet controversy head-on and to stand for The Truth—especially pertaining to the dignity of human life.

He admires, remembers and applies a quote that John Paul II used often: “Be not afraid.” Much like a corporate CEO, Bishop Aquila manages a large team of people and faces the same challenges. He points out that he relies on a talented staff that does a wonderful job with the day-to-day duties of running the diocese.

Bishop Aquila has learned to set very clear expectations for his staff and to give people the freedom to do their job, allowing them to be accountable for their areas of responsibility. Bishop Aquila says that, over the years, he has learned to trust his gut feeling or intuitiveness more when dealing with staff and daily issues. Bishop Aquila stressed that his primary focus and love is the spiritual side of his calling.

His future goals include continuing to evangelize the truth of Jesus Christ and of the Catholic Church. The Bishop would like Catholics to be more familiar with the Catechism so they can truly understand the real teachings of the church and develop a deeper love of the Eucharist. All in all, Bishop Aquila is striving for them to know The Word, to develop a more contemplative heart and to be silent in order to listen to the Lord. Bishop Aquila believes that, in this day and age, silence can be uncomfortable for people. He said that we are constantly bombarded with noise and activity from Ipods to cell phones to constantly running between activities.

By pursuing regular silence in our lives, he notes, we can hear God’s plan for each one of us and enter in to a deeper relationship with Him. As for time spent in prayerful silence, Bishop Aquila said one of the most profound experiences he has experienced was a 30-day silent directed retreat. He adds that time spent in silence and prayer can offer a real renewal in our family life — the place where stability starts for children.

In addition to prayer, Bishop Aquila believes in the importance of reading and learning. He reads books of the Church Fathers from the early 600s, theological books, as well as biographies and autobiographies of the saints. Reading and reflection helps him see that conversion is an ongoing experience for all of us.

Bishop Aquila has enjoyed all of the many different ministries that he has been involved in over the years and has found real grace in all situations. However, he has enjoyed serving as a parish pastor and seminary rector the most.

This servant of God also enjoys traveling, the water, boating, playing pinochle and began golfing a few years ago. He recently played in a pinochle tournament in Napoleon, ND and commented, “It was a blast!”

I found Bishop Aquila to be a warm and approachable person with a delightful sense of humor. When you talk with him, you have his undivided attention and you can feel his deep commitment to the church and above all, to God.

As he puts it, “I believe that, in Christ Jesus are all of the words and instructions that mankind needs to live life in peace and harmony and to gain eternal salvation.” The priest said to them,”Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the Lord.” - Judges 18:6 KFGO Faith (Fargo-Moorhead)

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