By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published August 3, 2017 | En Español
ATLANTA—Ancient prayers filled the candlelit Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta for prayer on the eve of the ordination of Atlanta’s new auxiliary bishop.
Scores of clergy, men and women religious, and family and close friends of Bishop Bernard E. “Ned” Shlesinger III gathered Tuesday, July 18, in the flower-filled stone Gothic cathedral on Peachtree Road for vespers.
In chant led by a cantor and prayed by the congregation, the community sang traditional hymns and heard psalm passages such as “The Lord surrounds his people with his strength” from Psalm 125. They heard read aloud from the Book of Romans, “Let love be sincere.”
The solemn celebration included Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican representative to the United States, along with Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., of Savannah, Bishop Luis R. Zarama, bishop-designate of Raleigh, North Carolina, and other church leaders. Bishop Burbidge is the former bishop of Raleigh, the home diocese of the new auxiliary bishop.
In his homily, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said the “highly anticipated” welcome of Bishop Shlesinger began at this prayer service.
Archbishop Gregory said during the weeks leading up to this night the bishop-designate worked to become familiar with the archdiocesan Catholic community and spent time in prayer.
“Now we begin the formal process of taking a Raleigh priest and making him an Atlanta bishop,” he said.
“We begin this happy exchange in prayer, as we should begin all of our undertakings that are clearly dependent on God and his abiding goodness and providence,” said the archbishop. “This evening we come before the Lord of every age and nation to ask his blessing upon this man and upon this local church.”
The psalms prayed at the service “uniquely capture the faith and the hope of those who trust in God’s providence and goodness,” Archbishop Gregory said.
“This evening, we thank God for Ned and for the office he will assume for the church tomorrow.”
Evening prayer includes the singing of Mary’s “Magnificat” and highlights the bonds of constant devotion between the community of faith and Mary, Mother of God, the archbishop said.
“May she watch over this local church and this man, who will become a bishop therein, at each moment of our tomorrows and always,” he said.
With Archbishop Gregory at his side, Bishop-designate Shlesinger stood at the altar and affirmed his fidelity to the church, all of its teachings and to the pope. The oath is canonically and morally binding on the bishop.
Later, Archbishop Gregory blessed the symbols of the office of the bishop, the miter, crosier and ring. They were presented to the new bishop the following day as part of the ordination rite.
In brief remarks, Bishop-designate Shlesinger said he selected the words of St. John the Baptist for the motto on his bishop’s crest: “Christ must increase.”
“The key to any of our vocations is this constant turning back to Jesus, to receive his strength to do the mission he has entrusted to each and every one of us,” he said.
“Christ must increase, in the words of John the Baptist. He must increase and somehow we decrease in the process. Christ has to be more in the forefront of our lives.”
“I feel very strongly that the world is not going in this direction, in many respects—that Christ is kind of on the sidelines and we are the main players in the game. It cannot be like that. Our foundation of our lives has to be built upon the person of Jesus. He must increase and we must decrease.”
A goal for his ministry as bishop is to “reflect an urgency” to assist people to come to know Jesus more deeply.
“It is he who came that we might have life and have life to the full,” he said.
Humbled by the many prayers and words of support, Bishop-designate Shlesinger said, “May God reward you in many ways and bless you with his peace.”
The last time this prayer service took place at the Cathedral of Christ the King was in April 2013 before the episcopal ordination of Bishop David P. Talley as auxiliary bishop of Atlanta. He was elevated to lead the Diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana, last fall. In 2009, vespers took place at the cathedral before the ordination of Bishop Zarama as an auxiliary bishop of Atlanta. He will be installed as bishop of Raleigh Aug. 29.
Music was provided by the Cathedral Choir, led by choirmaster Kevin Culver, Su-Ryeon Ji, assistant cathedral organist, and H. Hamilton Smith, director of music-emeritus.