By Most Reverend James V. Johnston, Jr.
Ed. Note: Following are Bishop James V. Johnston’s remarks to chancery and Catholic Charities staff upon his appointment as Bishop of Kansas City – St. Joseph.
It is with faith and trust in the grace and love of Jesus Christ and in God’s providential designs, that I accept the appointment of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to be the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. I am very humbled and honored by the Holy Father’s appointment to be your next bishop. Pope Francis is known for surprises and he certainly gave me one several days ago when I was informed by the apostolic nuncio of his decision. I will do my best to live up to the trust that he has placed in me and be the best bishop I can for you.
I pledge to serve you with generosity, kindness, and charity. I will strive to be a good shepherd to you so that we can, together, live the truth in love and be effective witnesses to the Gospel of salvation and the beauty of our Catholic Faith. I look forward to working with our priests and deacons, our consecrated women and men religious, and with all of our wonderful lay women and men. Every one of us has an important place and mission within the Church, which comes through our baptism. I am eager to join all of you in putting our focus and passion on loving Jesus, serving Jesus, and sharing Jesus.
One of the challenges of the Gospel, and one that Pope Francis has made a key theme of his papacy, is to not be an inward-looking Church. Our energy and identity is to be in mission mode: to be mindful of the poor, the lost, those hungering and thirsting physically and spiritually, of those needing healing, including people who have been harmed by those within the Church. I am eager to join all of you in this mission that Jesus has entrusted to us. I look forward to learning more in the days ahead about the Church in northwest Missouri, my new home, and to become a part of God’s family here.
I want to offer thanks to several people. I begin with Archbishop Naumann: thank you Archbishop for the wonderful care that you have given to this Church of Kansas City-St. Joseph over these past six months as the diocesan administrator. Your gentleness, goodness, and wisdom have been invaluable during this time. I am truly grateful to you as well for the help you have already given me, and I look forward to being your neighbor.
I wish to also thank Archbishop Carlson, our Metropolitan Archbishop of St. Louis, for his fraternal support and assistance.
I thank God for the Diocese that I will be departing, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. The 7 ½ years in southern Missouri were some of the best years of my life, and I will always love the wonderful people of this great diocese. I thank the clergy, religious, and laity for their love for me. I will truly miss all of you.
Finally, I want to thank the people of this Church, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. You have recently been through uncertain and often difficult days. I am grateful to you for your strong faith and commitment, for your love for the Lord and His Church, your Church.
One item in my biographical information that I want to expand upon is my own family. I want you to know how much my family means to me, and how big a part of my life they remain. My parents, in particular, are the ones that helped me to receive the gift of faith, and I owe so much to them. My two sisters and brother and their families are also my dearest friends, and we love each other very much. They and their children, my nieces and nephews, enrich my life. They are wonderful, good people and I look forward to introducing them to you. My dad has Parkinson’s disease and so we are uncertain if he can travel.
Finally, I ask all of you to pray for me and for our diocese. Pray for our priests—the good men who serve you in our parishes. I ask the special intercession of our diocesan patrons: Mary, Mother of God and the Immaculate Conception; Saint Joseph her spouse; and Saint John Francis Regis. I entrust my ministry as a bishop to the love and protection of our Blessed Mother, Mary, as I accept this important ministry as your shepherd.
My Episcopal motto is taken from 2 Corinthians 5:14: “the love of Christ urges us on.” As I prepare to join you as part of this family of faith that is the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, let’s draw our strength and confidence from the truth that Jesus Christ loves us, aids us, and never leaves us.