By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published June 1, 2017 | En Español
He was fly-fishing in Colorado last week!
Bishop-designate Ned Shlesinger had planned this getaway long before Pope Francis intervened and appointed him as our new auxiliary bishop. He had organized this trip as he closed the academic year at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia in order to be present at a number of local ordination celebrations.
Bishop-designate Shlesinger perhaps originally had thought that these few days of relaxation and leisure would allow him to unwind after a long year at the seminary. He needed that time to debrief, however, not merely to close his ministry at the seminary, but now to prepare for his arrival in Atlanta.
He will soon come to live in Atlanta and to transfer his pastoral service to this local church. During his whirlwind visit two weeks ago for the public announcement of his appointment, he met with many of our folks who all seemed to be quite impressed with his candor, affability and warm nature.
While he was trying to pull a few trout from some Colorado streams, I am sure that his heart was filled with excitement and amazement at what had happened to his life. Like all of us at times, the events that take us by surprise demand time and prayer fully to understand them.
During our time together, Ned told me that he didn’t have advanced degrees to bring to the episcopacy. Advanced degrees do not always adequately prepare the human heart for a ministry of compassion, service and generosity. Academic credentials can be very beneficial, but they cannot substitute for common sense or supplant human empathy. He comes to us as a simple, loving and gentle man possessing those virtues, which always makes for a successful servant.
He will need to learn about and understand the communities and people of the Archdiocese of Atlanta—and that will take him time. We are a diverse family of cultures, races and traditions. Our differences are blessings and, at the same time, ministerial opportunities.
His own background will be the lens through which he will see us. His military history, priestly formation in Washington, D.C., and Rome, his pastoral service in the Diocese of Raleigh, his personal interests and experiences will prepare him to become an auxiliary bishop for us. We will help to shape and form him for this new service.
He has a willing, but at this time in his life, a somewhat anxious heart—the very kind of heart that the Holy Spirit regularly shapes and forms into a shepherd’s heart.
While he was fly-fishing in Colorado, he must have thought about many things—in addition to trying to catch a few trout. I hope and pray that he was also finding confidence and trust in God’s ability to accomplish in each one of us God’s own design and plans if we but let Him.
Once Ned arrives in Atlanta, he will need to discover the location of the choicest streams in the north Georgia mountains to find the best trout and a little peace and quiet to continue speaking to God in prayer about what He asks of him.
Ned is also a golfing duffer, and I look forward to showing him many of the Atlanta golf courses where I have frequently displayed my serious lack of talent and enjoyed much genuine laughter with many of you. But my most important and happy challenge will be to help him to meet the gracious people of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, who will soon become for him the prize that he has been given.