Monday, September 15, 2008

Mass of Ordination for Bishop John LeVoir

UPDATE: Pictures of the event can be found here.

Today was a big day for the Diocese of New Ulm. Today our fourth bishop John Marvin LeVoir was ordained and installed. I mentioned in an earlier post that the timing was so bad for me that I could not attend. Well, I took some time off work and went.

The Mass was held at the civic center in New Ulm. This is to say we had Mass in a hockey arena. In the 50 year history of our diocese this is the first time a bishop as been ordained here. There were about 2,100 people in attendance and there is no way we could have gotten that many people into the cathedral.

The arena was sparsely decorated. Red and white streamers covered the ceiling to try to make it look less like an athletic facility. The bishop's chair was brought from the cathedral and sat to the left of a long altar. The altar was covered in white and had a dark red covering in the middle. Four candles were lit in front of the altar and the two large processional candles sat one on each side of the altar. The only crucifix was the processional cross. To the right of the stage on which the altar sat was a brass ensemble, and organ, and a large choir made up of members from all around the diocese.

Prior to the start of Mass the choir sang several music pieces including my favorite Ave Verum Corpus. A Bell choir also performed. The only problem was that I could not hear the music because the 2,100 people were talking so loud they drowned out the music. Bummer.

Mass began with a long processional. At the beginning of the processional three women ministers for other ecclesial communities vested in their particular vestments entered. There was nothing I could find that told me what community they belonged to so I can't tell you that. The procession continued with priest and deacons from both our diocese as well at that of St. Paul and Minneapolis. There were about twelve to fourteen other bishops who entered including: H.E. Pietro Sambi, the Papal Nuncio for the United States, H. E. John Nienstedt, the Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who was today's principal consecrator, Co-consecrators H.E. Peter Christensen, Bishop of Superior and H.E. Fredrick Campbell, Bishop of Columbus, Ohio. The only other bishop that I recognized was H.E Richard Pates, Des Moines, Iowa. I would love to know who the other bishop attending were so if anyone knows please leave me a comment.

After the processional, Archbishop Nienstedt incensed the altar and then made the sign of the cross to begin Mass. At the beginning he asked if there was a papal mandate to consecrate Fr. LeVoir as a bishop. Archbishop Sambi then read a letter from Pope Benedict elevating Fr. LeVoir to bishop. After the letter was read it was shown to the college of consultors for the diocese of New Ulm, the assembled bishops, and the people who gave their assent to the document with applause.

Mass began. The deacon of the word chanted the Kyrie, the Gloria was sung, and the Archbishop Nienstedt chanted the opening prayer. The first reading was read in English, the psalm was sung in both English and Spanish. The second reading was read in Spanish and the Gospel was proclaimed by the Deacon of the Word.

The first reading was from the Book of Jeremiah Chapter 1 where the Lord speaks to Jeremiah about being a prophet. This reading was selected by the new Bishop. The second reading and the Gospel follow the readings selected for the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Archbishop Nienstedt began his homily by singing O Sanctissima.

O Sanctissima

O Sanctissima O Piissima
Dulcis Virgo Maria
Mater amta intemerata
Ora ora pro nobis

English Translation:

O most holy, O most lowly
Sweet Virgin Mary
Beloved Mother, undefiled
Pray, pray for us!

Other verses:

Tota pulchraes O Maria
Et macula non est in te
Mater anmata intemerata
Ora ora pro nobis

Sicut lilium inter spinas
Sic Maria inter filias
Mater amata intemerata
Ora ora pro nobis

In miseria in angustia
Ora Virgo pro nobis
Pro nobis ora in mortis hora
Ora ora pro nobis

As he sang many of the priests and bishops joined in with him. Singing to open and close his homily is a sort of signature for the Archbishop. I truly hope that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis enjoys him. In his homily,the Archbishop essentially passed the keys to the diocese over to Bishop LeVoir. He closed his homily with another verse of O Sanctissima.

After the homily, the archbishop questioned Fr. LaVoir about his willingness and readiness to be Bishop, then the Litany of Saints was sung by the choir and Fr. LaVoir lay on the floor prostrate. After the Litany, it was time to get down to the business of consecrating a bishop. Archbishop Nienstedt, seated at the cathedra of New Ulm (for the last time) prayed the prayers and then began with the Laying on of Hands. Fr. LeVoir knelt as the Archbishop placed both hands on his head and prayed. When he was done each of the co-consecrators did the same. Finally, each of the bishops attending also laid their hands on him.

After the laying on of hands, the Book of Gospels was opened and held pages down over his head, while the Archbishop prayed payers of ordination. What a wonderful image this was. It was as if they were pouring the words of God right into his head. When this was finished, the Archbishop anointed him with a generous amount of sacred Chrism oil.

After the anointing, it was time for the Bishop to receive the symbols of his new positions. First his ring, then his miter, and finally, his crosier. With the new bishop fully vested, Archbishop Nienstedt got up from the cathedra of New Ulm. The new bishop took his place on the cathedra of New Ulm.

Bishop LeVoir then celebrated the Eucharist for the first time as Bishop of New Ulm. He used Eucharistic Prayer #1 which is my favorite. I may have mentioned that before. He has a wonderful chanting voice. Some things that really struck me were that there were so many priests taking part in this Mass that when the words of consecration were spoken you could hear them all praying. It was very powerful moment. I find it almost electrifying when a large group of priests celebrate Mass together. The Lord's Prayer was chanted by everyone and it was beautiful. Another powerful moment

Communion took a long time with some 2,100 people and it was offered under both kinds which surprised me with a crowd so large.

When communion was done the Bishop was escorted around the room to offer his first blessing to the people. When this was done the closing prayer was chanted, the Bishop took some time to thank everyone and then offered the final blessing and dismissal.

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