Detroit – Upon taking his seat as the Archbishop of Detroit at his installation Mass Jan. 28, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron dedicated himself anew to his flock, and encouraged all Catholics of the archdiocese to rededicate themselves to the wisdom of the Gospel.
A shepherd speaks
During his homily, Archbishop Vigneron asked those gathered at the installation Mass to embrace the wisdom of the Church, which, contrary to the world, espouses the giving of oneself entirely out of love for God. Here’s what he said to those present…
To the lay faithful...
“Today is just the right day for all the faithful of the Archdiocese of Detroit to embrace again the wisdom of the Gospel and to promise again what was promised at their Baptism: that they renounce the empty show that passes as wisdom in this world and that they will place all their hope for real happiness in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and the life of the world to come which is already lived in the communion of the Church.”
“Please teach this wisdom (that which leads to Christ’s sacrificial love) to your children by what you say, and most of all by the way you live. This wisdom of the cross is the greatest gift you can give to those whom you love so dearly.”
To youths and young adults...
“You are at a moment in your own life’s journey when each day you are becoming ever more powerfully aware of your capacity to give and receive love… Let Christ’s wisdom about love direct and form this talent, which is blossoming in your hearts and mind, for God is the author of your wanting love, and his wisdom is the only plan for truly fulfilling that desire.”
To ordained ministers...
“The world’s hostility to the wisdom that we preach often brings us trials, and so we need the mutual support and encouragement that come from our fraternal communion in our pastoral ministry.”
At 24 minutes after the 2 p.m. start of the installation Mass, Archbishop-emeritus Cardinal Adam Maida ushered his successor to the cathedra, the bishop’s chair, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
“With faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God in my heart, I do accept the pastoral care of the people of God in the Archdiocese of Detroit,” said Bishop Vigneron, as part of the installation ceremony.
As he sat down in the cathedra -- the moment at which he officially became Detroit’s archbishop -- he was greeted by thunderous applause from the hundreds of priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful who filled the cathedral for the occasion.
The 10th chief shepherd, and fifth archbishop, of the Detroit diocese, Archbishop Vigneron is the first who was born in, and ordained a priest for, the archdiocese.
More than 200 priests from throughout the archdiocese and more than 25 bishops from throughout the country were on hand for the installation liturgy. Among the bishops were Cardinals Maida, Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, and Francis George, OMI, archbishop of Chicago. Metropolitan Nicholas, head of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Detroit, was also on hand, as was Bishop John Cummins, whom Archbishop Vigneron had succeeded as bishop of Oakland.
After taking his seat at the cathedra, Archbishop Vigneron accepted his crozier -- or pastoral staff -- from the cardinal. He then stood to the cheers of the congregation and, with a smile on his face, waved to the congregation.
During his first homily as chief shepherd of Detroit -- alternating between English and Spanish -- Archbishop Vigneron called the occasion an opportunity for the entire local Church, numbering 1.4 million Catholics, to renew its Christian identity.
“The installation of a new bishop is always an occasion for him to be renewed in his identity and mission,” Archbishop Vigneron said during his homily. “But it is this graced moment not just for him but for his particular Church and all her members as well.”
Reflecting on the ministry of St. Thomas Aquinas, Archbishop Vigneron talked about true wisdom leading to Christians making a “total gift of self.”
Speaking in turn to fellow clergymen, the lay faithful, parents and young people, he emphasized the example of Christ’s complete wisdom in the giving of Himself on the cross -- an act misconstrued by unbelievers as weakness and foolishness.
The newly installed archbishop admonished the congregation to seek God’s wisdom, as opposed to the misguided priorities of the world.
“Today is just the right day for all the faithful of the archdiocese to embrace again the wisdom of the Gospel and to promise again what was promised to them at their baptism: that they renounce the empty show that passes as wisdom in the world and that they will place all their hope for real happiness in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and the life of the world to come which is already lived in the communion of the Church.”
The archbishop also warmly thanked Cardinal Maida, on behalf of the entire congregation, for his nearly 19 years of service as chief shepherd of Detroit.
At the close of Mass, Archbishop Vigneron spoke more informally, thanking the congregation for welcoming him, bishops and religious leaders for greeting him, and those who put the liturgy together.
He also gave special thanks to those who traveled from the Diocese of Oakland, Calif., to see his installation -- about 15 people in the congregation stood at his request.
He drew laughs, stating that the priests of Oakland believe “they’re giving me back, with value added.”
Archbishop Vigneron’s family was in the front row of pews during the ceremony. The archbishop stopped to kiss his parents during the recessional, during which the congregation also offered their applause.
“We’re just elated,” said his father, Elwin, after seeing his son installed as Detroit’s archbishop. “We’re just ready to bust out we’re so proud, so happy to have him back here. That was hard on us for him to leave and go to Oakland. … This is much better.”
Archbishop Vigneron’s sister, Patricia Maxwell, added that the Mass was emotional for the family.
“Everything was just so beautiful and moving,” said Maxwell. “And everybody here just seemed to be so receptive. We’re just so glad to have him home. He’s a humble, holy man.”
The new archbishop’s family members weren’t the only ones proud to claim ownership of their son. Members of Archbishop Vigneron’s childhood parish in Ira Township were on hand, as well.
“It’s amazing, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity. I’m very awed, and grateful to be here,” said Immaculate Conception parishioner Kelly Lovati, 41. “We just watched history.”
Lovati added that she loved the archbishop’s homily and could “listen to him all day.”
“It just shows that he’s very intelligent, yet he’s very down to earth and in touch with what our needs are as a community,” she said.
Matthew Hood, an 18-year-old parishioner of St. Joseph Parish in Lake Orion, said he’s been impressed by Archbishop Vigneron’s writings and accomplishments. As he’s discerning a priestly vocation, he said he was thrilled to be there for the new archbishop’s installation.
“Bishop Vigneron seems like he’ll be a great shepherd for the archdiocese,” said Hood. “He seems like he’s very compassionate, caring and concerned for his people. It seems like he really has all aspects of the diocese in mind.”
Sr. Maria Helena Farah, a Sister of the Holy Cross in Detroit, says her order -- which she describes as “semi-contemplative” -- is hoping to work together with the new archbishop to further the Church in the city.
“We’re looking forward to getting to know him and working with him (for) a renewal of the diocese,” said Sr. Farah, adding that she wishes for him “all the blessings of the Holy Spirit and a great communion between the priests and religious of the diocese.”
Others in the congregation brought different hopes for the ministry of Archbishop Vigneron. Grace Varga, 77, a parishioner of St. Edward on the Lake Parish in Lakeport, said she’d seen Archbishop Vigneron at confirmation and jubilee celebrations when he was an auxiliary bishop, and she wishes him the best in his new post.
“(I pray) that he just has the insight to make this diocese grow, and for people who are not in the Church anymore -- to bring those people back,” said Varga, who was at the Mass with her husband, Stephen.
Following Mass, hundreds showed up at Sacred Heart Major Seminary for a reception to welcome the new archbishop into his leadership role.
Though the installation Mass was broadcast on Catholic Radio and on the Catholic Television Network of Detroit, Archbishop Vigneron still expressed a desire to meet more Catholics in the archdiocese. He already has begun a series of Masses in various parts of the archdiocese to re-introduce himself to the local Church. A list of the Masses can be found at www.aodonline.org.