Ez. 34: 11 – 16 (“I myself will look after and tend my sheep”).
2 Tm.: 1: 6 – 14 (“I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that
you have through the imposition of my hands”).
Jn. 10: 11 – 18 (“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down
his life for the sheep”)].
Our beloved Papal Nuncio
Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams,
Our newly installed Bishop,
Bishop Romulo de la Cruz
Immediate Past Bishop of Kidapawan,
Archbishop Romulo Valles of Zamboanga
My Brother Bishops
Reverend Fathers, Brothers and Sisters
Beloved Lay Faithful
Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Good Morning! What a joyful and historical event this is for the Diocese of Kidapawan! Truly this is a day that the Lord has made! After more than a year of waiting, a new bishop is finally installed -- and someone who is really from among you!
Bishop Romy de la Cruz is a Cotabateño and a Kidapawanon. He had three years of high school at Notre Dame of Kidapawan but graduated from Nuling Seminary in Cotabato. Kidapawan was his hometown. It was in Kidapawan where he was ordained a priest 36 years ago (1972) by Bishop Gerard Mongeau, O.M.I, when Kidapawan was still part of the Diocese of Cotabato. He spent ten years as a seminary formator at Nuling Seminary in Cotabato where all Cotabato and Kidapawan seminarians at that time had their seminary college studies. He was the parish priest of Tacurong for three years. In the mysterious way of God’s wisdom, he has finally returned to Kidapawan via Basilan and Antique. And now he is your fifth Bishop.
It is fitting that the Liturgy of the Word of God this morning speaks about the role of a shepherd.
Bishop Romy is your Shepherd, your leader. He is the head of the diocese, “the household of God.” With the priests as his closest collaborators, he teaches you the mysteries of faith. Through the sacraments he leads you to holiness. He provides direction for the diocese. He is the “visible source and foundation of unity” for clergy, religious, and lay faithful (Lumen Gentium [LG], no.23).
Bishop Romy is your Bishop, not through any merit of his own, not because of the many outstanding leadership qualities that he undoubtedly possesses. He is your bishop for only one essential reason -- God’s grace, God’s love. It is in the Holy Spirit that our Holy Father in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI, appointed him to be your Bishop, your Shepherd.
Therefore, always in communion with the Holy Father in Rome, Bishop Romy is “Christ’s vicar and ambassador” among you (LG, no. 27; see also John Paul II, Pastores Gregis, no. 43). God himself has given him that extraordinary grace and power to act in the name and in the person of Christ the Good Shepherd (LG, no. 21). God has given him the fullness of the priesthood (LG, loc. cit.), sharing fully in Christ’s own mission to teach, to sanctify, and to govern. By divine will and by virtue of his Episcopal ordination in Cotabato 20 years ago, he is a successor of the Apostles (LG, no. 20). To him applies the words of Jesus to his Apostles: “He who hears you hears me.” By virtue of their own priestly ordination, the priests of Kidapawan collaborate with him in this same office of teaching, sanctifying and shepherding the people (see Presbyterorum Ordinis, nos. 42 and 44) -- to build up the people of God (see 2 Cor. 10: 8).
Yet Bishop de la Cruz knows fully well that to be your bishop is not so much to be given a title of honor as to receive the grace to serve (see Rite of Ordination of a Bishop, Homily). Honor comes to him when he serves. The word of God to us this morning tells us that a bishop has to follow the way of God’s shepherding: seeking the lost or scattered sheep, uniting the sheep together, binding the injured, healing the sick, bringing them to green pastures, seeking to know them, and willing to lay down his life for them.
He has to do all this not to seek his own glory, his own comfort, his own security, but in order simply to serve -- to serve without self-interest and self-aggrandizement. That great bishop of the ancient Church, St. Augustine, said that the work of shepherding the Lord’s flock is a work of pure love (“Sit amoris officium pascere dominicum gregem,” quoted in John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, no. 24). Hence the Bishop has to exercise in an eminent way that special love of a shepherd for his flock called “pastoral charity.” It is the same compassionate love that Jesus had for the multitude that were like sheep without a shepherd (see Mt. 9: 36).
For this reason Bishop Romy has to remind himself frequently of the instruction that St. Paul gives to the young Bishop Timothy in today’s Liturgy of the Word: “Stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control” (2 Tm. 1: 6-7). Having an office of leadership, the bishop possesses a “gift of power” that has to be exercised as a service of love.
To do this, Bishop de la Cruz will surely follow the example of Jesus the Good Shepherd who in today’s Gospel confidently says: “I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (Jn. 10: 14). This is why, my brothers and sisters, expect Bishop Romy to travel all over the diocese -- from Kidapawan all the way to Tulunan and Colombio in the south, to Kabacan and Pagalungan in the west, to the many barangays of Makilala in the east, and to the mountain parishes of Antipas and Arakan in the north. Hundreds of barangays to visit, thousands of people to meet! To him as a shepherd modeling himself after Jesus the Good Shepherd, the abstract statistics of this diocese have to become faces of concrete people, Christian, Muslim and Lumad, with joys and hopes as well as sorrows and anxieties.
For everyone in this diocese, he has to be Christ’s vicar and ambassador, remaining always in communion with the Holy Father in Rome. More than any one else, he has to be, as the Bishop, the living assurance of God’s goodness and loving presence among the people. And if need be, to the extent of a total donation of his life for the sake of the people! “A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn. 10: 11).
What a heavy responsibility this is for Bishop Romy! This is why, my brothers and sisters, Bishop Romy needs your total support, your continual encouragement, your fervent prayers and your love. He is your Shepherd, your Father. Together with him and under his leadership, God’s family in the Diocese of Kidapawan (clergy, religious, and lay faithful) will be a sign of unity, of justice, of peace and love.
Finally to you, my brother Bishop Romy, on behalf of all the Bishops here present I assure you of our prayers and best wishes. Your Episcopal motto, “crescere in plebem suam,” is taken from that classic religious hymn usually sung for Bishops, “Behold the great priest!” (Ecce sacerdos magnus! See Heb. 10:21). With this motto, crescere in plebem suam, you pray that you may grow in wisdom and love among your people.
But today at this Eucharistic sacrifice of Jesus the Good Shepherd, we pray “crescere tecum plebs tua” – may your people grow with you in God’s wisdom and grace through your Episcopal ministry today, tomorrow and always. God bless you, Bishop Romy! God bless the people of the Diocese of Kidapawan!
+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato
June 19, 2008