LINCOLN (SNR) – As he was introduced as the next bishop of the Diocese of Lincoln, Bishop James D. Conley was warmly greeted by priests, religious and faithful laity during a press conference Friday, Sept. 14.
His predecessor, Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz, took the podium first, saying, "It is with indescribably great joy and overwhelming happiness that I can announce today that the bishop of Rome, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI… has appointed his excellency, the Most Reverend James Douglas Conley as the ninth bishop of Lincoln."
"I am honored and humbled to stand with you today," Bishop Conley said as he addressed the crowd.
Noting that it was the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the bishop continued, "The cross is at the heart and center of the Christian life. Jesus Christ conquered sin and death through his suffering on the cross, his death, and his resurrection — the Paschal Mystery. St. Thomas Aquinas reflected that: ‘there is nothing to unify God and the soul but the cross.’ So today, I pray that we may be united with our Blessed Mother Mary at the foot of the Cross."
Bishop Conley was enthusiastic as he described his admiration for the diocese and its leadership over the last 125 years. He commended the priests, religious and laity for their faithfulness, assuring everyone of his eagerness to become part of the diocese’s faithful community of believers.
"Together we have one aim: that all men and women will come to know Jesus Christ, will live in the abundance of his love and will become holy as our Father in heaven is holy," he stated. "I am dedicated above all else to this noble mission. I am grateful to know that I can already count on your prayers and your collaboration."
Addressing priests, Bishop Conley said, "I look forward to forging the bonds of fraternity and friendship with you. I am honored to know you as brothers in the vineyard of the Lord."
The prelate also commended men and women religious for their service and witness. "I am grateful for your prayers and for your ministry, particularly the prayers of our cloistered contemplative sisters who pray for us unceasingly," he said.
Bishop Conley spoke of his interest in getting to know the faithful laity.
"I am eager to share life in Jesus Christ with you through the sacraments, particularly in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist," he said. "I am eager to work alongside you in the New Evangelization, as members of the Body of Christ."
With some good-natured musings about remaining loyal to his alma mater, the University of Kansas, while cheering for the locally favored Nebraska Cornhuskers, Bishop Conley noted that he has spent most of his priesthood working with young people, a role he plans to continue in the Diocese of Lincoln.
He also assured those living in rural areas of his admiration and affection for agricultural communities.
Bishop Conley’s episcopal motto was taken from his spiritual patron, Blessed John Henry Newman. Cor ad cor loquitur means "heart speaks to heart."
"I hope that as our hearts speak with one another, all of us may encounter the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ," the bishop said.
"I want to get to know the life of the diocese," Bishop Conley said while addressing questions put to him by members of the media. "When a new bishop comes to a diocese, the first thing he does is get to know the diocese."
When asked what changes he intends to make, Bishop Conley demurred. "I’ve always held the Lincoln Diocese in high regard. I’m not going to mess around with that."
Now, Bishop Conley will spend the next two months preparing to become the Diocese of Lincoln’s bishop. Plans are currently underway for Bishop Conley’s installation, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 20 at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln.
With the announcement, Bishop Bruskewitz becomes Bishop Emeritus of the diocese. He will remain Apostolic Administrator until Bishop Conley’s installation.
As required by Canon Law, Bishop Bruskewitz sent a letter of retirement to the Holy See when he turned 75 years old Sept. 6, 2010. It is not uncommon, however, for the Holy Father to delay his acceptance of such letters for a year or two until another man is ready to take the position.
Bishop Bruskewitz intends to continue to live in Lincoln, offering practical and pastoral support to Bishop Conley in much the same way Bishop Glennon Flavin helped Bishop Bruskewitz when he came to the diocese in 1992.
"I’m sure that the entire diocese of Lincoln joins me in welcoming and congratulating Bishop Conley and telling him how honored and flattered we are to have him as our spiritual shepherd," said Bishop Bruskewitz. "I know that also all of us promise our prayers and dedicated support."
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Bishop Conley Addresses Lincoln Diocese
Press Statement of Bishop James D. Conley
Blessed John XXIII Diocesan Center in Lincoln, Sept. 14, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Your Excellency, Bishop Bruskewitz, my brother priests, consecrated men and women in religious life, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Good morning and thank you for being here! I am honored and humbled to stand with you today. There is nothing more important for a bishop than the care of souls.
Today, Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has asked me to come to Lincoln to serve as your new shepherd, to lead and guide the people of this diocese as your ninth bishop. I am honored to begin my episcopal ministry here in Lincoln during the 125th anniversary year of this great diocese.
Together we have one aim: that all men and women will come to know Jesus Christ, will live in the abundance of his love and will become holy as our Father in heaven is holy.
I am dedicated above all else to this noble mission. I am grateful to know that I can already count on your prayers and your collaboration.
Today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The cross is at the heart and center of the Christian life. Jesus Christ conquered sin and death through his suffering on the cross, his death, and his resurrection -- the Paschal Mystery. St. Thomas Aquinas reflected that: "there is nothing to unify God and the soul but the cross." So today I pray that we may be united with our Blessed Mother Mary, at the foot of the cross.
Lincoln is known as a place of holy priests, holy and numerous seminarians (44 seminarians currently in formation), holy religious, and holy families. The Lord has also blessed this diocese with holy bishops, courageous shepherds after the heart of Jesus. The leadership of Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz over these past 20 plus years has been an incredible grace to this community. He has been a true champion of the Catholic faith and he has been a personal hero of mine for years. All of us owe him a great debt of gratitude.
The state of Nebraska, with its capital city here in Lincoln, is also well known for its steadfast defense of the unborn, civil and religious liberty, traditional marriage between a man and a woman, and strong family values. I am not yet the Bishop of Lincoln - but I am already proud of the people of this great state.
Although I come from Kansas -- and I will remain a Jayhawk basketball fan forever -- I am excited to come to Husker country. At least we are in different conferences now! Having been on the receiving end of football dominance for years, I am happy now to be on the other side of the ball. I’m looking forward to beating Arkansas State tomorrow!
I also understand that some of the best Kolaches in the world are produced in this diocese – down the road in Prague and in Wilber.
My life as a priest is already connected to the history of this diocese. As a priest of the Diocese of Wichita, I served under the leadership of Bishop Michael Jackels and Bishop Thomas Olmsted, both men chosen as bishops from the ranks of the Lincoln presbyterate.
As auxiliary bishop in Denver, I read about the legacies of Archbishop James Casey and Bishop J. Henry Tihen (whose pectoral cross I am wearing) - both men who served first as bishops of Lincoln and then of Denver.
And because of the strong friendship between Bishop David Maloney, the bishop who received me into the seminary, and Bishop Glennon P. Flavin, a true giant in the history of the Diocese of Lincoln, many of the priests of Lincoln were seminarians with me at St. Pius X Seminary in Erlinger, Kentucky, and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
And so to my brother priests, you will be my closest collaborators in ministry here in the Diocese of Lincoln. I look forward to forging the bonds of fraternity and friendship with you. I am honored to know you as brothers in the vineyard of the Lord. I look forward to renewing old bonds of friendship from our seminary days, and to getting to know many of you for the first time.
Brothers, we depend on one another for the salvation of souls, which is our primary mission.
Men and women religious -- your consecration serves the whole Church. You witness to the Kingdom of God through your vows. You are a sign of the universal vocation to holiness. I am grateful for your prayers and for your ministry, particularly the prayers of our cloistered contemplative sisters who pray for us unceasingly.
My dear laymen and women -- I look forward to spending time with you and your families, getting to know you and your communities. I am eager to share life in Jesus Christ with you through the sacraments, particularly in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. I am eager to work alongside you in the New Evangelization, as members of the Body of Christ.
I became a Catholic as a young man during my undergraduate years at the University of Kansas. I was raised a Presbyterian and after I was ordained a priest, I had the privilege of receiving both my mother and my father into the Catholic Church. Because of my conversion experience during those college years, I have a heart for evangelization.
As we begin this special "Year of Faith" called by our Holy Father I look forward to sharing our faith with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are not Catholic, and with those in their student years -- who so often hunger for a real encounter with the Risen Lord.
Most of my priesthood has been spent working with college students, both as a university chaplain and a theological instructor. I know the University of Nebraska Newman Center has a stellar reputation. That important apostolate fills me with joy.
I also have a great love and appreciation for agriculture and for the rural life. After I graduated from college I moved out to north central Kansas, just a few miles south of Superior, and began truck farming with a few college friends. I fell in love with the beautiful rhythm of rural life and the wonder of God’s creation. It was from there, and from that experience, that I discerned a call to priesthood and left for the seminary.
My episcopal motto is taken from my spiritual patron, Blessed John Henry Newman. The motto is "heart speaks to heart" (Cor ad cor loquitur). I hope that as our hearts speak with one another, all of us may encounter the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.
Of course, today I want to thank my family. My father died in 2006, and I remember him today. My dear mother is my constant support. You are going to love my mother – she still plays golf at 84! I also want to thank my sister and brother-in-law and their family.
And I want to thank, in a special way, our Blessed Mother, under her title of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the Diocese of Lincoln. She is our life, our sweetness and our hope. Of course, I wish to consecrate my ministry here in Lincoln to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I want to thank Bishop Bruskewitz for his leadership and for welcoming me so warmly to the Diocese of Lincoln. I am also grateful to those who have aided me today in Lincoln. I want to thank Archbishop Viganò, the Apostolic Nuncio in the United States, for his help and service to the Church.
I also want to thank Archbishop Samuel Aquila and the clergy and faithful in Denver. In a particular way, I would like to thank Archbishop Charles Chaput, the former Archbishop of Denver and currently the Archbishop of Philadelphia. Archbishop Chaput formed me and shaped me as a bishop and I will be forever indebted to him for that.
And I am especially grateful to our Holy Father for his confidence in me by naming me the ninth Bishop of Lincoln.
I promise you my prayers, and I promise to give all that I am to the people of Southern Nebraska. I will count on your prayers and the grace of God.