Mass of thanksgiving marks Bishop Loverde's golden jubilee

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It's a statement that Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde has repeated many times over the 16 years he's been the bishop of Arlington: "I'd be a priest all over again in a heartbeat."

That sentiment was expressed again Nov. 7 at a Mass of thanksgiving at All Saints Church in Manassas celebrating the 50th anniversary of the bishop's priestly ordination.

Parishioners from across the diocese joined priests and religious who came on a rainy afternoon to be a part of the Mass to thank the bishop for his service.

The combined choirs of the Arlington Festival Choir, All Saints Choir, Arlington Diocesan Choir and the Cathedral of St. Thomas More Choir, along with Director Rick Gibala and Cantor Julia Atwood, provided musical accompaniment to the Mass.

In his homily, Bishop Loverde recalled his Dec. 18, 1965 ordination in Rome on a cold Saturday morning at St. Peter's Basilica. The celebrant laid his hands on each of the men telling each he was a priest forever.

Continuing with the symbolism of the laying on of hands, Bishop Loverde recalled Pope Benedict XVI's Chrism Mass homily on Holy Thursday 2006. The pope was speaking on the mystery of the priesthood:

"At the center is the very ancient rite of the imposition of hands, with which He took possession of me, saying to me: 'You belong to me.'"

Pope Benedict said that priests are under God's protection.

"'You are kept safely in the palm of my hands, and this is precisely how you find yourself in the immensity of my love. Stay in my hands, and give me yours,'" said the pope.

The bishop concluded his homily with a thank you.

"Today, I truly give thanks to God for calling me to the priesthood," said the bishop.

He asked the congregation to pray for him.

After Communion, Father Thomas P. Ferguson, vicar general and moderator of the curia, gave a reflection on the bishop's 50-year ministry.

Father Ferguson joked about the nature of the reflection.

"I certainly don't want to say anything that sounds like a eulogy; after all, Bishop, this is not your funeral," he said.

Father Ferguson said also that his reflection was not a farewell address because, as the bishop frequently said, he's not going anywhere.

The reflection was a prayer of thanksgiving, said Father Ferguson.

He invited the congregation to close their eyes.

First, Father Ferguson thanked God for the Eucharist. Then he thanked God for Bishop Loverde, "who guides and guards the flock of your church of Arlington with a shepherd's care."

The bishop, he said, has served as God's apostle in the church in communion with the successors of Peter.

The bishop has shared St. John Paul II's zeal for evangelization and retired Pope Benedict XVI's teaching of the faith and encouragement of Catholic schools and faith formation programs.

The bishop also reflected on Pope Francis' plea to help the needy through his support of Catholic Charities.

Father Ferguson reflected on the bishop's encouragement of purity of body through his pastoral letter "Bought with a Price" and his evangelization letter "Go Forth with Hearts on Fire." For the life and ministry of Bishop Paul Stephen Loverde, who loves us all faithfully in the Heart of Christ, we thank you, Lord," said Father Ferguson.

As the congregation left the church to meet the bishop at the parish center, they offered their thoughts.

Holy Martyrs of Vietnam parishioner Hai Tran said that although he does not know the bishop personally he wanted to be part of the celebration.

"It was wonderful," he said. "(The bishop) truly cares for the church."

Chancery employee Clarissa Maciel said she came to honor the bishop.

"He's a wonderful man and priest," she said.

Minnie Taylor, a parishioner of St. Raymond of Peñafort Church in Springfield, was excited to meet Bishop Loverde. She got one of four tickets available in her parish for the Mass.

"I was excited to be a part of this," she said. "Maybe I can get a blessing from him."

At the reception, long lines of people waited patiently to meet Bishop Loverde. Some came alone, others with family members. All wanted to share in the experience and shake the hand of a "priest forever."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015