SCRANTON — Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant of the Mass of Thanksgiving and Sending Forth for Bishop-elect Jeffery J. Walsh on Tuesday, Feb. 15, at 12:10 p.m. in the Cathedral of Saint Peter.
Dozens of the future bishop’s brother priests from the Diocese of Scranton concelebrated the joy-filled Eucharistic liturgy, which saw the venerable cathedral filled with family, friends, religious and lay faithful who were in attendance to offer prayerful best wishes for Bishop-elect Walsh prior to his embarking on a new chapter in his life of service to the People of God — as the new bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord, Mich.
The episcopal ordination and installation of Bishop Walsh as the sixth prelate to serve the faithful of Gaylord will take place on Friday, March 4, at 2 p.m. in the diocesan Cathedral of Saint Mary.
In welcoming the throng for the Mass of Sending Forth, Bishop Bambera began by stating the crowd was by far the largest gathering in Saint Peter’s Cathedral since the onset of the global pandemic nearly two years ago.
“We owe it all to the grace of God and to our dear brother, Father Jeff Walsh,” the Bishop remarked, leading to a rousing applause.
Noting that the special noontime gathering was being offered in thanksgiving for the blessing and gift of the Bishop-elect to his home diocese, Bishop Bambera said, “We give thanks for his ministry, that has obviously touched so many of us and in so many and different ways. And we send him forth with our love and most especially our prayers as he assumes a new role of service in the Church of Jesus Christ and in ministry to the faithful to the Diocese of Gaylord.”
Serving as homilist for the Mass, Bishop-elect Walsh quipped that he felt sorry for anyone who came to the Cathedral that day expecting a brief, midday Mass.
“I am so grateful for everyone who is here,” the future Gaylord Bishop expressed, stating he believed such a liturgical celebration on his behalf would never occur, as he expected to live out the rest of his priesthood serving the Scranton Diocese.
“Let me begin my offering my gratitude to everyone, especially Bishop Bambera and all in the Diocese of Scranton who invited me to come and celebrate this Mass,” Bishop-elect Walsh remarked. “This is a helpful way for me to have closure, to see so many familiar faces and to give thanks to God for the blessings I’ve had as a priest here over the last 27 years.”
The Bishop-elect graciously thanked the numerous faithful in attendance who traveled from within the diocese and beyond, indicating the many parishioners and laity he had come to know through his many parochial assignments.
In an emotional expression of gratitude to women and men religious he ministered with over the years, Bishop-elect Walsh said, “I thank especially my brother priests and deacons I have had the joy and privilege of serving with. I am most grateful for your witness.”
The future bishop stated, “I am filled with a heart of gratitude,” referring to the Gospel of Saint John proclaimed earlier that emphasizes the gift of Jesus’ love for all. “That has been such a comfort to me.”
He shared with the congregation how he was naturally overwhelmed with emotions upon first learning of the tremendous responsibility that comes with shepherding a diocese. “I was just praying and it came to me that God was saying, ‘I’m giving you this assignment out of love; receive it in love and exercise it in love.’”
“That brought me some peace and consolation that it’s all about love,” Bishop-elect Walsh shared. “Love casts out fear. I came to understand the true meaning of those words in Scripture.”
The Mass of Thanksgiving and Sending Forth concluded with closing remarks and a final farewell by Bishop Bambera.
“Father Jeff has always been willing to set out in faith into the unknown,” the Bishop said, adding that the 56-year-old priest’s latest and most challenging of journeys in well underway. “This is one more opportunity for him to do what he has done throughout his priestly ministry: to place his hand in the hand of God and to follow the Lord Jesus who calls him to serve His Church as a bishop.”
Bishop Bambera extolled the Bishop-elect’s unwavering willingness to always trust in God, as reflected in the motto he has chosen for his new episcopacy — “Divine Providence.”
“Father Jeff, we send you forth with great pride and we thank you not only for your faithful service to this local Church, but also for reminding all of us that whatever our state in life may be, by your example and your resolve, we know what we are called to do and be disciples of Jesus Christ.”