Says he has seen diocese blessed by ‘continuing influx of new peoples’
BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
First sung by the cantor, and then repeated by the congregation, the refrain “Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, yesterday, today and forever,” flowed through St. Stephen Cathedral during the vespers (evening prayer) service on Feb. 17, 2020, in celebration of Bishop William F. Medley’s 10th anniversary of his episcopal ordination.
The cathedral’s interior lights dimmed and lit candles were held by the congregants filling the pews as the cantor chanted a prayer: “This night, look upon your servant William whom you chose as a pastor to watch over your flock.”
The multilingual liturgy included songs and prayers not just in English, but also in Spanish, Burmese and Swahili – a point which Bishop Medley emphasized in his homily, translated into Spanish by Deacon Chris Gutiérrez.
“What marvels God has wrought that faithful believers from these countries – where it is not always easy to be Christian as a tiny minority – are today going forth to evangelize the world,” said the bishop, who on Feb. 13 had returned from a pastoral visit to India and Myanmar (also known as Burma).
The bishop said that after he was called from his native Archdiocese of Louisville to serve western Kentucky in 2010, he “faced an awesome learning curve.”
Bishop Medley stated that Catholicism in western Kentucky is a “story of pioneer Catholics spreading across this vast region bearing little more than their faith and striving to build churches and schools.”
“Very soon I realized the extraordinary blessings being visited upon our diocese – indeed our nation – by the continuing influx of new peoples,” said the bishop. “Peoples today who often do not look like the descendants of Europeans who came to America as a land of promise and hope and opportunity.”
The bishop said this is a sign that God “surely dwells in this land.”
He said that after 10 years of serving as the bishop of the Diocese of Owensboro in Kentucky, “It is indeed a humbling moment in my life and priesthood to come to this temple, this cathedral, built of human hands and representing the temples built of human lives and to know that I was called to serve you as your bishop.”
“And this night,” he added, “I stand with deep gratitude that God and you have permitted me the blessings of 10 years.”
Bishop Medley said that 10 years ago, as his head was “spinning” with the attention of becoming a bishop, his greatest inspiration was Mary, the Mother of God.
“The Mighty One has done great things for me. Holy is God’s Name,” said the bishop, quoting Mary’s Magnificat upon visiting her cousin Elizabeth.
Bishop Medley said Mary’s words, “Holy is God’s Name,” have been his motto as bishop, “lest I ever should forget that God is the source and giver of all good gifts.”
Following the homily, the Congolese Choir of Holy Spirit Parish in Bowling Green sang the traditional song “Ma Isha Yangu Yesu Nitakufuataee Mahali Pote (Jesus I’ll Follow You All My Life),” with the additional verse “For giving us Bishop William Medley, what shall I give you?”
The Magnificat – a standard part of Catholic evening prayer – was sung in the form of the “Magnificat” song by David Haas. It was the same piece played at Bishop Medley’s episcopal ordination 10 years prior on Feb. 10, 2010.
The intercessions were offered in three languages – Spanish, English and Burmese – and the Our Father was sung by the Burmese Choir of Holy Spirit Parish. And as another nod to Bishop Medley’s work in welcoming all cultures within the diocese, Deacon Gutiérrez presented the bishop with a plaque listing all of the prayers and sacrifices offered by the local Latino community for the bishop.
Fr. J. Patrick Reynolds, vicar general of the diocese, invited all of the priests present to gather around Bishop Medley in the cathedral sanctuary, extend their hands and pray a blessing over him.
Prior to the end of the service, Fr. Reynolds also shared a few remarks for the occasion of the bishop’s anniversary.
Fr. Reynolds said the bishop has a “heart of a pastor” because he was a pastor for many years in Louisville.
“Our bishop is a good listener,” said Fr. Reynolds, adding that Bishop Medley is known to “reflect, weigh” and consult with others before making decisions, but then he makes the decision “with no wavering afterwards.”
Fr. Reynolds said many in the diocese know the bishop best from when he celebrates the Sacrament of Confirmation – having confirmed approximately 4,000 young people to date.
He said that the bishop’s tradition of reading the letters from the confirmandi and visiting with them before the Confirmation Mass, “that personal time, is creating a harvest for the future.”
“Thank you, Bishop Medley, for your great devotion and love of your diocese, of your priests, and of your people,” said Fr. Reynolds.
Originally printed in the March 2020 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.
Copyright © 2020 Diocese of Owensboro/The Western Kentucky Catholic