By: Dominique Johnson
Grateful and humble, the Sixth Bishop of the Diocese of Juneau, Andrew E. Bellisario, C.M., addressed his new congregation asking for their support as he began his ministry as their new shepherd. Bishop Bellisario was ordained October 10, 2017 at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Juneau, three months after being appointed by His Holiness Pope Francis in July.
The celebration took place in the presence of the Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States; Anchorage Archbishop Paul D. Etienne; his predecessor Dallas Bishop Edward J. Burns, 9 other bishops and 30 priests from around the country, including many of Bishop Belisario’s Vincentian brothers. As the procession made its way through the church the soon to be ordained bishop was greeted by a joyous congregation.
Father Pat Travers, who served as Diocesan Administrator since the departure of Bishop Burns in February, requested Bishop Bellisario, to be ordained Bishop of Juneau. Following Father Travers request, the Papal Nuncio addressed the congregation and Bishop Bellisario. He shared that he was struck by the mission statement of the Diocese of Juneau and he believed that Bishop Bellisario, as a Vincentian would, “go beyond the service of the calling.” The Nuncio then thanked Father Travers for his service as Diocesan Administrator, before reading the letter from Pope Francis naming Bishop Bellisario the new shepherd of the Diocese of Juneau.
Following the reading of the Apostolic Mandate Bishop Bellisario showed the papal bull to the Bishops, priests and deacons in attendance, then to the congregation gathered in the church.
During his homily Archbishop Etienne, the Principal Consecrating Bishop, shared with Bishop Bellisario that God created him with unique talents and gifts.
“It is God who qualifies us as ministers of the new covenant. It is God who has now chosen you as a successor to the apostles, and by God’s will, the grace of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, you will do your best work”
“I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me,” Archbishop Etienne said quoting St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians and added, “even walk in the footsteps of Bishop Ed Burns!”
The Archbishop concluded his remarks saying, “Walk each day in the presence of Our Lord and Our Lady, as you walk in the midst of God’s holy, faithful people, and God will take care of the rest.”
Then following an examination by Archbishop Etienne, Bishop Bellisario laid prostrate, on a blanket provided to him by members of Alaska Native community, before the Blessed Sacrament for the Litany of the Saints.
The gift of the Holy Spirit, for the Office of Bishop, was then conferred on Bishop Bellisario with the laying on of hands by the bishops present for the ordination. The Book of the Gospels was then placed on the head of the Bishop to signify that the faithful preaching of the Word of God is the pre-eminent obligation of every Bishop.
Archbishop Etienne then anointed the new bishop’s head with sacred chrism before presenting Bishop Bellisario with his ring, miter and crosier and leading him to be seated in his cathedra, the Bishop’s chair.
Bishop Bellisario then received the Kiss of Peace from each of the bishops present as acceptance into the College of Bishops.
After Communion, Bishop Bellisario briefly addressed the congregation, thanking all who traveled to attend the Ordination Mass, thanking all the bishops, priests, deacons, Sisters of Charity, family and friends who made the trip to Juneau.
He continued his first address as bishop sharing the stories of how his parents, the children of immigrants, each grew up putting other people’s needs ahead of their own and how those values were passed down to his sister and himself.
One example he gave was how his mother was the hotdog chairwoman at his school and how she made sure every child regardless of their ability to pay, got a hotdog, chips and a popsicle. Years later, while shopping at J.C Penny’s a woman approached his mother and thanked her for feeding her when no one else would.
Bishop Bellisario concluded saying that one day all of us will be together again before Christ at the last judgement and we will say: “when did I tend to your needs…when did I buy you a hotdog, a bag of chips and a popsicle, and Jesus will say whenever you did that for the least of my brothers, you did it for me. Thank you, mom and dad, for teaching me that.”