Pope Francis often mentions that we should be open to surprises — God’s surprises. “The Spirit is the gift of God, of God our Father, who always surprises us; the God of surprises…. He is a living God, a God who abides in us, a God who moves our heart, a God who is in the Church and walks with us; and he always surprises us on this path…. God surprises us whenever he calls and asks us to put out into the sea of history not only with our nets but with our very selves” (Homilies May 8, 2017, and May 9, 2019).
On more than one occasion, Monday has been a day of surprises for me. One Monday morning in March 2004, I received a call from the pope’s representative in this country, the papal nuncio, informing me that I had been named the Bishop of Ogdensburg. Five years later, on still another Monday morning in 2009, a call from the papal nuncio brought me to Syracuse.
On Monday, May 27, of this year, there was yet another surprise. While driving to Onondaga Lake Park for a walk my phone rang. It was the papal nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre. The call this time was the notification that the Holy Father had accepted my letter, written on my 75th birthday nearly a year ago, submitting my resignation as a diocesan bishop as required by Canon Law. That news was not a surprise. I had been expecting a call for some months whereby my resignation would be accepted and my successor would be named. The surprise was who my successor would be: Father Douglas Lucia.
When the nuncio called, he told me that I knew my successor and as I anxiously waited to hear who it would be, I was surprised that Father Douglas Lucia, with whom I had lived and worked in Ogdensburg, would be my successor. I am delighted with the choice and assure the bishop-elect of my prayers and best wishes as he prepares to assume leadership of our beloved diocese.
Father Lucia and I have known each other for many years. When I was a priest in Buffalo, he was a student at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora. I also knew him when he served as secretary to Bishop Gerald Barbarito in Ogdensburg. When I was named to Ogdensburg, Father Lucia continued in that role for a few years. It was Father Lucia who met me at the garage door the night before I was announced as the Bishop of Ogdensburg and ushered me into the bishop’s home. He also came to Syracuse and stayed with me the night before my installation as Bishop of Syracuse.
Father Lucia has had a variety of assignments and experiences during his 30 years of priestly ministry. Early in his priesthood, he worked at a parish in a neighboring Canadian diocese as well as serving as a parochial vicar and pastor in a number of parishes in the Ogdensburg Diocese. He has worked in the Tribunal, Chancery, Vocation Office, and as Director of Worship. He studied Canon Law in Rome, and brought his considerable talents to work in all areas of the Diocese of Ogdensburg.
I am confident Father Lucia will be a good and gifted pastor to all here in the Diocese of Syracuse. I wish him well assuring him of my daily prayers as he prepares to assume his new duties.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.