Lincoln Diocese welcomes Bishop Conley as ninth bishop
By S.L. Hansen
Southern Nebraska Register,
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 at Blessed John XXIII Diocesan Center in Lincoln 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 Rev. 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 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,” which 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.”
Bishop Conley borrowed Bishop J. Henry Tihen’s pectoral cross from the Archdiocese of Denver archives for the Sept. 14 press conference formally announcing his appointment because both shared ties to Wichita, Denver and Lincoln.
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 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.”