Cardinal Pierre, Archbishop Vigneron welcome Detroit native back home as archdiocese's 32nd auxiliary bishop
DETROIT — The Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament was abuzz with those wishing to celebrate and welcome Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton as the 32nd auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit on Nov. 7 during a special Liturgy of Welcome and Inauguration of Ministry.
Hundreds of lay faithful, priests, deacons, religious and his fellow bishops — including Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron and Cardinal Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States — gathered together for the 2 p.m. Mass, followed by a reception at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.
“As always, when the Holy Spirit gathers God's people together, we rejoice and celebrate the resurrection of the Lord’s Passover mystery by which we have life,” Archbishop Vigneron said at the start of the Mass. “But today, the special joy is to celebrate the inauguration of Bishop Monforton’s ministry here in the archdiocese, and so we offer this Holy Eucharist with him and for him.”
The liturgy was attended by friends, family and well-wishers from both the Archdiocese of Detroit and the Diocese of Steubenville, where Bishop Monforton has served for the past 11 years.
During his homily delivered in both English and Spanish, Bishop Monforton, who is a Detroit native, exclaimed that it is “good to be home,” declaring that the Church's witness to Christ’s love is “all for Jesus.”
Both Archbishop Vigneron and Bishop Monforton implored Cardinal Pierre, Pope Francis' delegate to the United States, to assure the Holy Father of the "spiritual closeness" of Detroit Church's to the Petrine ministry.
“It is Jesus who establishes a disciple (Peter) as 'rock,' the first pope in a Church established by Jesus Christ himself,” Bishop Monforton said. “It is Jesus who empowers us fellow disciples to unleash the Gospel in southeast Michigan and beyond — all for Jesus.”
When the faithful unleash the Gospel, they celebrate the joy of the Gospel, Bishop Montforton added.
“To be all for Jesus is to unleash the Gospel, and to unleash the Gospel begins with three simple words: encounter, encounter, encounter,” Bishop Monforton said. “We cannot share someone we do not know.”
Bishop Monforton used an example to demonstrate the necessity of teaching and learning the Gospel, saying when he visited Catholic schools in the Diocese of Steubenville, he would make a point to eat lunch with the students and answer their questions.
"One year, I went downstairs when the students were eating and I sat down with the second-graders. They looked at me with eyes wide open as if to say, 'The bishop eats?'" Bishop Monforton laughed. "I picked up my hot dog, and just before I bit into it, the 7-year-old gentleman in front of me said, 'Remember to chew with your mouth closed.'
As the congregation chuckled, Bishop Monforton brought the point home.
"But he had to learn that from somebody," Bishop Monforton pointed out. "And that's what we're meant to be (as Christians). We're meant to be contagious with the Holy Spirit. That is to unleash the Gospel. When we unleash the Gospel, we celebrate the joy of the Gospel, and who knows what positive influence we may be with others we encounter."
During the Mass, Cardinal Pierre read the apostolic mandate from Pope Francis making Bishop Monforton the newest auxiliary bishop of Detroit. After being presented with the mandate, Bishop Monforton processed through the cathedral to show the mandate to the clergy and faithful.
In his address, Cardinal Pierre conveyed the pope’s own spiritual closeness and affection for the people of Detroit.
“In a homily last Friday, Pope Francis recalled the very first words with which Pope Benedict described himself following his election: ‘a humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord,’” Cardinal Pierre said. “Pope Francis said, I quote, ‘Indeed, Christians, especially the pope, the cardinals, and the bishops, are called to be humble laborers, to serve, not to be served, and to put the fruits of the Lord's vineyard before their advantage.'”
Addressing Bishop Monforton, Cardinal Pierre said Bishop Monforton's many years of episcopal ministry have shown him the truth of these words.
“From your work in parishes to teaching high school to serving as a cardinal’s secretary to being a seminary rector, and most recently your 11 years as bishop of Steubenville, you have been a laborer in the Lord's vineyard by continuing to live your episcopal motto: ‘Faith Comes From Hearing,’” Cardinal Pierre said. “You will listen both to the voice of the Holy Spirit and to the people of God in order to serve this local Church in the manner to which our Lord is now calling you.
“Be assured, then, of the comforting joy of the Gospel, which will accompany both you and the members of the faithful in your ministry in the archdiocese,” Cardinal Pierre added.
Cardinal Pierre, of France, joked that he "always likes coming to Detroit" to pronounce Archbishop Vigneron's name, which he emphasized in reading a translation of the papal decree of Bishop Monforton's appointment.
“It is with fatherly love that we direct our attention to the needs of the flock of Detroit whose ordinary, our venerable brother Allen Henry Vigneron, not very long ago requested that he be able to enjoy the assistance of an auxiliary to help in the governance of the life of the archdiocese,” Cardinal Pierre read. “Accordingly, we think of you, venerable brother, who in our judgment is suitable for undertaking these new pastoral responsibilities.”
Both Archbishop Vigneron and Bishop Monforton congratulated Cardinal Pierre on his recent elevation to the College of Cardinals by Pope Francis, which took place Sept. 30.
At the end of Mass, Bishop Monforton thanked all those present, particularly Cardinal Pierre, Archbishop Vigneron and his brother bishops, for joining in the celebration.
“I am delighted to serve you as one of your auxiliary bishops. I am yours,” Bishop Monforton said. “And in the words of St. Augustine of Hippo, ‘For you, I am a bishop, and with you, I am a Christian.’ Amen.”
As he begins his ministry, Bishop Monforton will serve as episcopal moderator for the Archdiocese of Detroit's South Region, which includes Monroe County and parts of Wayne County outside of the city of Detroit, where he mentioned he's looking forward to being "neighbors" again with his mother, Virginia.
Current Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Gerard W. Battersby, who currently serves the South Region, will become moderator of the Northwest Region (Oakland and Lapeer counties). Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Cepeda, who currently serves the Northwest Region, will serve the Central Region (the cities of Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park) with assistance from Msgr. Charles Kosanke. Auxiliary Bishop Robert J. Fisher will remain episcopal moderator of the archdiocese's Northeast Region, which includes Macomb and St. Clair counties, as well as Grosse Pointe.