Auxiliary Bishops Offer Real Presence of Our Lord
by Archbishop John J. Myers

Archbishop provides background on decision made by Holy See

Sister Milagro Quesada (center), a Daughter of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, and Archbishop John J, Myers (left) shared a joyful moment last June when it was announced Bishop-elect Manuel A. Cruz had been named as a new auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Newark. Sr. Milagro knew Bishop-elect Cruz during his childhood days in Cuba. The episcopal ordination for Bishop-elect Cruz will be celebrated Monday, Sept. 8, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Newark.

Every once in a while, especially as we come close to the day of an episcopal ordination, someone asks me about what is involved in selecting an auxiliary bishop. How does the process start? What are the steps that a diocese must follow? Does an auxiliary bishop always come from the diocese where he has served as a priest? Does the pope actually choose an auxiliary?

But before I explain the process, and why Pope Benedict XVI chose Bishop-elect Manuel A. Cruz to serve this local Church of Newark in a new ministry as auxiliary bishop, I think it is important to speak about the role of an auxiliary bishop.

An auxiliary bishop is a bishop whom the Holy See assigns to assist the resident bishop or archbishop in the pastoral care and administration of a diocese. The auxiliary bishop has the fullness of Holy Orders, can administer the sacraments, especially Confirmation, and serves as the bishop's representative at various functions.

In a large archdiocese such as Newark, an auxiliary bishop often is responsible for a defined territory, such as a county, or may be responsible for a special area of ministry.

Because a bishop is supposed to be the head of a diocese, every auxiliary bishop is given what is called a "titular diocese," a diocese that at one time in the history of the Church existed, but that is now part of a larger diocese in a different part of the world. In the case of Bishop-elect Cruz, for example, his titular diocese is called Gaguari, which is in Asia.

The majority of the auxiliary bishops of the archdiocese over the years have come from the local presbyterate of Newark, but not always. For example, Bishop Joseph Francis and Bishop David Arias had been in ministry in other parts of the country when they received the call to serve in Newark. Both also were priests of religious communities, rather than diocesan priests. Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha is a member of a religious community, although his entire ministry has been within the archdiocese.

Two years ago I petitioned through the Office of the Nuncio-the Holy See's representative to the United States-for the Holy Father to name an auxiliary bishop, so that each county of the archdiocese would have a regional bishop who could serve the needs of the people in that region. At that time, we had only three auxiliaries.

Rome granted me that permission and I submitted to the nuncio the names of three priests, including then-Msgr. Cruz, and the reasons why I felt they were worthy of consideration for the office of bishop. The nuncio's office forwarded my request to the Congregation for Bishops, the administrative department of the Roman Curia responsible for matters dealing with most bishops of the Latin Rite. During this office's review, it was possible that the names of other worthy priests could be considered.

At the end of its review, the congregation agreed with my request and presented it to the Holy Father to consider. The Holy Father had the option of accepting the nomination, naming someone entirely different for the office, or declining the request. We received word in May of this year that the Holy Father indeed had accepted my request to elevate Msgr. Cruz to the office of auxiliary bishop.

Since becoming Archbishop of Newark seven years ago, I have had the privilege to seek four new auxiliary bishops and each of them-Bishop da Cunha, Bishop Thomas A. Donato, Bishop John W. Flesey and now Bishop-elect Cruz-had been my personal choice to serve in this special, critical ministry. In addition to service in different parishes within the archdiocese, each has worked in specialized ministry-in developing vocations, in pastoral care, in ethnic ministry, in education-and the Holy See shares my conviction that the archdiocese is richer because of them.

When I first announced this past June that Bishop-elect Cruz was to be our newest auxiliary bishop, I said that, throughout his life as a priest, he has continued to provide the very real presence of Our Lord at times when it is most needed. I feel similarly about each of our four auxiliary bishops. They are exceptional priests and teachers of the faith. In all that they do, they embody the words of Saint Francis of Assisi, who said: "Preach the Gospel; use words only if necessary." In their every action and thought, they seek to be true successors of the Apostles and servant leaders to the Church and her people.

As we take this time to celebrate the episcopal ordination of our newest auxiliary, Bishop Manuel Cruz, let us rejoice that this great archdiocese continues to foster deep and abiding vocations to the priesthood, and many good and faithful priests worthy of the office of bishop.

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