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Bishop Cooney Bids Farewell


On Sunday, November 8, Bishop Patrick R. Cooney offered a fond farewell to the faithful of the Diocese of Gaylord as he presided over a special Eucharistic Liturgy at St. Mary Cathedral in Gaylord. The celebration was planned in honor of Bishop Cooney’s 20 years of service as Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord and 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. He turned 75 in March of this year and on October 7, Pope Benedict XVI named Rev. Msgr. Bernard Hebda to succeed him as the Fourth Bishop of Gaylord. The last liturgy of its kind for the retiring Bishop, the Mass included participation and representation from all areas of the diocese. Over 26 of the priests of the diocese concelebrated and were joined by Fr. Michael Cooney, Bishop Cooney’s brother, who serves in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Nine of the deacons in the area also vested for the service and all of the diocesan seminarians were present to minister as altar servers. The entire liturgy was planned to both reflect the people, heritage and faith of the diocese, as well as to provide one more opportunity to worship together in the Cathedral with Bishop Cooney. Women Native American Drummers sang during the prelude and 43 musicians, choir members and cantors gathered from 17 parishes to lead the assembly in music. Adolfo Mendez proclaimed one of the readings in Spanish and nearly 70 Knights of Columbus Color Guard lead the procession before encircling the full cathedral. Reflecting upon the readings of the day, Bishop Cooney said, “Though much of the time, St. Mary’s operates as a parish, today she is emphasized as the cathedral because she houses the church of God in this Diocese. There’s a characteristic of the church which you and I -- all of us in this church today -- are part of. We’re supposed to be heroic people. We are to fulfill our responsibilities to the Lord God and to the people he has created in this world with us, no matter what the penalty. And we are called to inspire others because that is the only way to encourage one another -- not to tell, not to command -- all those things don’t work. But to be inspired … to see a person who really believes and is truly acting it out – that causes other people to act it out also. “Today’s liturgy marks an ending of the church in Gaylord, but a beginning at the same time,” Bishop Cooney said. “My brothers and sisters who are gathered here, you have a wonderful, wonderful mission. You are only called to be heroic and when you are, the church is really the church. And God’s will is done,” he concluded. At the end of the liturgy Bishop Cooney introduced his brother Fr. Mike, and sisters Leontia and Maureen who traveled to Gaylord for the special celebration. He also thanked all those present. Bishop Cooney has repeatedly said, “This has been the most wonderful time of my life.” Glady Solokis, Mayor of the City of Gaylord presented Bishop Cooney with a Proclamation highlighting the thanks of the City for his ministry and involvement in the community which led to a standing ovation. John Moorlenaar from State Representative Kevin Elsenheimer’s office and Mary Jergernson, northern district representative for State Senator Tony Stamas’ office also presented a plaque signed by all of the state legislators within the territory of the Diocese recognizing Bishop Cooney’s efforts and leadership in the State. Moolenaar concluded the reading of the proclamation with a more personal comment, “I have to add that as we sat and participated here today, I can’t help but think of the words ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’.” The final presentation was an Apostolic Blessing from Pope Benedict XVI which was read in Latin by Fr. Rolando Silva and then in English by Fr. Duane Wachowiak, director of the diocesan Secretariat for Worship and Liturgical Formation. Bishop Cooney also shared a special and obviously heartfelt thanks to the diocesan staff for their service and help to him over the years. In conclusion, Fr. Wachowiak addressed the Bishop for those present saying, “Bishop, once more on behalf of my brother priests, we are happy to be serving with you and on behalf of the Knights of Columbus and all those who are gathered here, we wish you well and hope that you will come home to visit very often.” A reception followed in the Diocesan Pastoral Center where Bishop Cooney personally greeted nearly 700 guests, some of whom waited two hours to offer their well wishes for his retirement. Bishop Cooney will continue to serve the Diocese of Gaylord as Apostolic Administrator until Bishop-elect Hebda is ordained and installed on December 1. He then plans to return to the Detroit area where he will be closer to family and long time friends.

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