Story by S.L. Hansen
(SNR) - August 27 marked the 20th anniversary of Bishop Glennon P. Flavin’s death.
The Diocese of Lincoln marked the occasion in several ways. His immediate successor, Emeritus Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz, was the homilist and main celebrant at the memorial Mass celebrated Aug. 22. The School Sisters of Christ the King – an order founded by the late bishop – hosted a reception afterward at their home near Denton, the Villa Regina Motherhouse.
On Aug. 27, Bishop James D. Conley took to social media that day to request “…[P]ray for the repose of his soul, for his beloved Christ the King Sisters, and for our diocese!”
As the seventh ordinary of the Diocese of Lincoln, Bishop Flavin made a significant impact, guiding the diocese through the turbulent post-Vatican II years. During his tenure, he inspired faithful adherence to Church teaching, raised up many vocations to the priesthood and religious life, kept Catholic education affordable for families, and accomplished much more between his installation in August 1967 and his retirement 25 years later.
Bishop Flavin hailed from St. Louis. He was born in March 1916, the youngest of six children and the second of the siblings to realize a vocational calling to the priesthood. He graduated from St. Louis Preparatory Seminary and Kenrick Seminary, both in St. Louis. In December 1941, he was ordained a priest of the Diocese of St. Louis by Archbishop John J. Glennon.
In the beginning of his priesthood, Bishop Flavin was an algebra teacher and curate of a parish. Several years later, he moved into administrative roles. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of St, Louis by Pope Pius XII in April 1957 and consecrated May 30, 1957 by St. Louis Archbishop Joseph Ritter.
Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen was among the ordinaries who came to St. Louis for the occasion. He preached the homily, noting that it was exactly 40 years from the day that Archbishop Ritter had been ordained.
“Though you good people of the Archdiocese of St. Louis are to take pride in the fact that one of your sons has been raised to the burden of the episcopacy, nevertheless, the very presence of other bishops from other dioceses manifest the fact that the whole world is rejoicing,” he said.
He also spoke on the importance of a bishop facilitating more priestly vocations, a message that Bishop Flavin apparently took to heart. After he was appointed Bishop of Lincoln by Pope Paul VI a decade later, Bishop Flavin greatly increased the number of priestly vocations in the diocese.
Religious sisters were also a priority for the late bishop. In 1973, he invited the Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration (“Pink Sisters”) to leave their crumbling monastery in Texas and take over the bishop’s mansion in Lincoln as their own residence. He, meanwhile, moved to a more modest home.
Bishop Flavin founded the School Sisters of Christ the King in 1976, to serve Catholic schools in the diocese, for the purpose of fostering an apostolic laity.
“He was truly a father to us,” said Mother Joan Paul, C.K., “taking time out of his busy schedule to give monthly conferences, during which he formed us in the particular charism of the community.”
Many faithful Catholics who knew Bishop Flavin can recall his simple but firm faithfulness to the Catholic Faith, and his succinct way of helping others maintain a healthy perspective. He is often quoted as saying, “Pray like everything depends on God, and work like everything depends on us.”
In 2012, the School Sisters of Christ the King collaborated with Msgr. Myron Pleskac (their current spiritual director) and retired University of Nebraska professor Peter E. Mayeux to publish a biography about the late bishop: “Bishop Flavin: Loyal Servant of the King.” Sister Maura Therese, C.K., took the lead on research, working closely with Mother Joan Paul.
“Because he was such a spiritual leader, and also the founder of our community, we wanted to have a resource so people would have a more complete picture of him,” Mother Joan Paul explained.
She said her favorite chapters in the book are “Founder and Father,” and “Knowing the Man.”
“We loved him,” she said. “He inspired us to love and serve our King with both a spirit of sacrifice and a sense of humor.”
Both Bishop Bruskewitz and Bishop Conley have quoted Bishop Flavin when teaching on faith and morals. In March 2014, Bishop Conley’s pastoral letter on contraception, “The Language of Love,” echoed Bishop Flavin’s 1991 pastoral letter, “In Obedience to Christ: A Pastoral Letter To Catholic Couples and Physicians on the Issue of Contraception.”
Mother Joan Paul recalled Bishop Flavin’s motto: Ut Christus Regnet (“That Christ May Reign”).
“If he were here now, his message would be the same,” she said. “We all need to live our life for this purpose: that Christ may reign.”
The sisters’ book is available for a free-will offering from the Villa Regina Motherhouse. Call 402-477-5232 for information. Copies are also available at Gloria Deo in Lincoln.