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"Family of Faith" Welcomes Its New Shepherd
“We are one very large family here, a family of faith,” the Most Reverend Steven J. Raica acknowledged to the 1,200 seated inside his cathedral and to the countless more using traditional and social media to witness his ordination and installation as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord Aug. 28.
Amid the traditional Church pageantry of the three-hour ordination were elements reflecting the unique character of the Diocese and its new shepherd. Together with a 57-voice combined choir from parishes within the Diocese, a brass quartet, timpani drummers and a hand-bell choir, a drum circle from the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians raised voices and melodies during the rite.
Though predominately celebrated in English, the Eucharistic Liturgy also featured some readings and songs in Spanish and Latin. An interpreter translated the entire ceremony in Sign Language and Raica, a gifted linguist whose ethnic roots are Polish and Italian, slipped a bit of Polish and Italian into his remarks.
Moments of laughter, applause and sentiment punctuated the ordination for which Archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron was principal celebrant. Archbishop Bernard Hebda, Coadjutor Archbishop of Newark who had served as Gaylord’s fourth bishop, returned to his former cathedral, joining Bishop Emeritus Carl Mengeling of Lansing as a Co-Consecrator.
Raica’s mother, brother and cousins were seated in the front pew as the man born in Munising in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula pledged fidelity to the Church and its mission, and prostrated himself before those gathered to pray for him.
His ties to the Upper Peninsula (UP) served as reference points for both Raica and homilist, Bishop Earl A. Boyea of Lansing. Both bishops made note of the work of 19th Century missionary, the Venerable Frederic Baraga, first bishop of Marquette, who evangelized in the UP and in parts of what is now the Gaylord Diocese.
“On this day, Aug. 28, 153 years ago, after a two-day canoe journey of 11 hours each day, Bishop Baraga arrived with his five Indian companions at Eagletown from Little Traverse and wrote: ‘After an unpleasant journey, rowing continuously, I arrived … sick.’ Bishop Raica, he was only two years older than you,” Boyea told his friend, eliciting laughter.
Like Baraga, said Boyea, the new bishop will face challenges. “The times have changed, but this diocese, even in these changed times, needs you to be another missionary in their midst.”
“Bishop Boyea … your homily today regarding the vocation of a bishop so aptly and succinctly illustrated the bold mission of the Servant of God Bishop Frederic Baraga in our area and the UP in circumstances that inspire us today to look for every opportunity to do something more,” said Raica. “… He was a pioneer of the spirit needed in every age to share Good News.” His call for prayers for Baraga’s beatification and, “God willing, his canonization,” drew applause.
Raica opened his remarks thanking God “for the great gift of life.” He expressed gratitude to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganὸ, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, papal liaison. “Your presence today reminds us of the closeness of Pope Francis to the Church of Gaylord,” said Raica. The crowd applauded when the new bishop asked Viganὸ “to convey to the Holy Father the love, affection and prayers of the faithful here in Gaylord as well as gratitude for his Petrine ministry and our steadfast communion with him.”
He later thanked the bishops gathered, including Bishop Robert J. Rose, second bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord. “I thank you for your generous welcome to the Order of the Bishops,” he said.
Raica thanked family, friends, brother priests and deacons, those in consecrated life, those in various movements of the church, as well as the people of the Diocese of Gaylord for their encouragement, inspiration and prayers.
He recognized the passing of Gaylord’s first bishop, His Eminence Cardinal Edmund Szoka, eight days earlier. Raica recounted that upon the public announcement of his appointment as bishop, the cardinal told him he would love Gaylord and its “beautiful, faith-filled people who love Christ our Lord.” Gaylord’s first bishop promised its fifth they would love him, too. “I trust his words will ring true,” he said. As if in affirmation, the congregation applauded.
As he begins his episcopal ministry, Raica asked patience of the estimated 66,000 Catholics living within the 21-county Diocese.
“These blessings (the experiences of his priestly ministry) … and oftentimes unexpected challenges … have enabled me to see that Christ loves us, indeed loves each of us individually, more than we can ever imagine. He is with us!”
Raica shared a quote from St. Augustine, bishop of Hippo whose feast day coincides with Raica’s ordination day: “ ‘So I hope the fact that I have been brought together with you gives me more pleasure than my having been placed at your head...’ ”
Quoting St. Augustine further, he said, “ ‘To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances; to seek Him, the greatest adventure; to find Him, the greatest human achievement.’ ”
“ … We were and are found and loved immensely by Christ,” said Raica. “Having encountered Christ, may we live the abundance of life to which we have been called.”
A photo gallery of pictures from Vespers and the Ordination Liturgy may be viewed here.
By Chris Grosser. Chris is a freelance writer/editor based in Gaylord and a member of St. Mary Cathedral. You can reach her at email@example.com.