On the eve of retirement, Bishop Paul S. Loverde expressed gratitude and great joy for the 17 years he has spent as Arlington’s shepherd and especially thanked his brother priests “who have been such great co-workers with me all these years.”
He also acknowledged the deacons, religious and lay faithful of the diocese. “It’s been a great joy for me to have been here as the bishop, a true gift from the Lord,” he said. “Not that everything has been perfect, because no life is perfect. But if I put everything on a scale, I have to say that the scale goes way up here to the good.
“I have great, great memories of being here,” said the bishop, who expressed special gratitude for the occasions that he was able to ordain priests. “That’s probably one of my greatest joys as a bishop. We have about 72 priests in the diocese that I’ve ordained,” he said.
“Confirmations are still another great joy for me,” the bishop said. “It’s never boring. Every one is like the first.”
The tremendous growth of the diocese means that people have worked together to develop parishes, a new high school and other new initiatives, he said, including the gathering of different cultures. “It truly has become a multicultural diocese,” he said. “So for all of these and many other gifts that have been mine since I’ve been here, I’m extremely grateful.”
Bishop Loverde said there is a part of him that is sad, recalling the line from the preface of the Mass for the Dead, “Life changes, it does not end.”
“There will be a change in my life,” he said. “I’ll go to retirement, but I’ll still be a bishop. I’ll still be doing many episcopal and priestly things. But it will be different, and that brings certain sadness.”
Bishop Loverde said he will miss the staff and the familiarity with people. “And also I’ll miss, as strange as it sounds, the schedule. Yes, sometimes it’s very, very packed, but nonetheless, it gets me out. I get to see people. It will be different.
The bishop said there is expectation when a new chapter opens. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to assist our bishop, but also do spiritual retreats and spiritual direction for people and to help out in parishes.”
The bishop said he will miss the proximity of walking across the parking lot from the St. Thomas More Center in Arlington to his office in the chancery building. “I’ll miss the center itself,” he said. “It’s been my home for seven years. I’ll miss being right next door to the cathedral. Those things I’ll miss. But I have great memories and they’ll be with me.”
He expressed a special word of gratitude to his immediate staff, those people who he worked closely with on a daily basis. “But we have a larger staff (at the chancery) and every one of them, in my estimation, contributes to the good of this diocese, not just the good of the administration,” he said. “Everyone here works so hard to that effect. I want to say thank you.
“I have often said, and I’ll repeat it here, that I am most blessed among bishops because I have the greatest staff that any bishop has anywhere, certainly in the States, and I would say in the world,” Bishop Loverde said. “I am pleased that the new bishop will come and inherit a great staff. So I want to say thank you with all my heart.”
Discerning a religious vocation
When asked what advice he would give someone considering a religious vocation, Bishop Loverde, “I would ask them to begin to pray on a daily basis. Go to holy Mass if they can every day but as often as they can and obviously on Sunday. In other words, have a devotional life that’s really alive and personally alive with the Lord.”
He then would invite them to talk with a vocation director, such as Father J.D. Jaffe in the Arlington Diocese, the head of a religious order or the vocation director for a religious community.
If strong interest still exists, then he would encourage them to enter the seminary or novitiate for a period of discernment. “I feel strongly that people should go and test it out because you can’t test it out in the world,” Bishop Loverde said. “The culture is adverse.”
He said a religious vocation is similar to growing a young plant. “You need to give it the right amount of food and light, and protect it from adverse conditions. If not, the plant will die. And that’s how it is with the seeds of vocations. You have to nurture them.
“The best place to start is to be in that environment,” he said. “You can’t lose. It’s win-win. Either you discern that God wants you and you continue, or you discern God doesn’t want you in that vocation. Now you know something for certain. It’s not there He wants you. But also you receive the wonderful formation in the faith and also a good education that will carry you throughout your life.
“I am about to join a group of retirees, so to speak, although on the one hand I don’t intend to retire,” said Bishop Loverde who plans to stay active. “I have heard from everyone who has retired, especially retired bishops, that it is a great change because in one sense, being a bishop, the head of a diocese, it is very, very busy every day. All kinds of people wanted to see you, or needed to see you, and the day after you end your service as the head of the diocese, it’s very quiet. You have to learn how to adjust.”
The bishop said that’s true for all retirees. “You have to learn how to adjust. You worked hard at a job. The job ends, now you’re home. That means a readjustment for a husband and wife sometimes because now there’s a new factor — the husband is home all the time.
“ I’ll have to learn how to adjust to a different style of life.
“When lay people retire,” the bishop said, “they retire from a job, a career, a profession, but they go back to a family. For a bishop, this has been my family. This has been my whole life.
“When I end this, I don’t go back to that kind of situation. I go to a brand new situation, which will be, in God’s providence, wonderful. But it’s new. It will be different. In that sense it’s a question mark. How will it be? But I trust God, as I ask all retirees to trust God. He’s leading us. This is a new chapter. Let’s write it well and live it well.”