Father Roberts installed as pastor, Bishop Jugis enjoys homecoming
MONROE — Taking over as a first-time pastor at a parish can be nerve wracking by itself, but when your bishop is a former pastor of that parish – well, that may make those shoes a little bit harder to fill.
This fact was not lost on Bishop Peter Jugis – who served as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Monroe before Pope John Paul II named him bishop of the Diocese of Charlotte – as he installed Father Benjamin Roberts as pastor on July 25, the feast of St. James.
During Mass, Bishop Jugis dutifully took Father Roberts on a tour of the church after the official paperwork was signed, pointing out his responsibilities to the people of the parish. Afterwards, he reminded Father Roberts that being a pastor is a challenging vocation.
"It is a tall order," Bishop Jugis said. Then he added with a smile, "I hope, Father Roberts, you don't tremble in your shoes as a result of all of these responsibilities you are undertaking today," which drew laughter from the congregation.
Then he continued, on a more serious note: "I would not have chosen you for this position, for this office, if I did not think that you were certainly capable."
During his homily, Bishop Jugis spoke about the Eucharist being the center of the parish's life.
"Everything flows from the Eucharist because here we celebrate the love of Christ, Christ's self offering, which we come to receive bodily into ourselves so that we are fashioned more and more into the image of the love of Christ, which we take into the world."
He also illustrated how the Eucharist is like the sun, its rays and warmth emanating outward throughout the entire universe.
With the Eucharist placed at the center of the parish's spiritual life, the rays that burst forth from it "are all the good works of the parish bringing the warmth and the light of Christ into all activities of the parish, into the whole universe of the parish – whether those rays be the rays of care for the poor, or care for the sick, or youth ministry or Hispanic ministry, education of adults, music ministry," and more, he said.
It is "Jesus Himself, the Eucharist, bringing His Truth and His warmth to the parish," he noted.
His remarks were particularly poignant given the backdrop of the banner behind him in the sanctuary: It depicted the Holy Spirit in the form of a white dove swooping across a yellow sun, its rays flowing outward toward the congregation.
At the conclusion of the installation Mass, a joyful Father Roberts addressed the church filled with family, friends, members of the Cursillo community, Charlotte Catholic Women's Group, parishioners from his former parish of Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury, and his new parish community of Our Lady of Lourdes.
"Your Excellency, I am truly humbled that you have entrusted to my care a parish that is so very dear to your heart, a parish that was privileged to call you its pastor," Father Roberts said.
He then relayed a story about how before Mass Bishop Jugis pointed out to him the spot where he stood when he received his appointment as bishop of Charlotte. "As if I wasn't nervous enough," Father Roberts joked.
Father Roberts then expressed his desire to minister to the people of Our Lady of Lourdes Church for some time to come.
"I cannot help but think of the prayer of Jesus as He prayed in the Garden, as He prayed for His followers, 'Father, they are your gift to me.'"
Father Roberts then drew smiles and laughter as he looked at Bishop Jugis, stating, "I look forward to many years, Bishop, I look forward to MANY years of service here, laboring in the vineyard of the Lord with all of you," hinting at his desire to remain in Monroe for a long time.
He concluded his remarks with deep emotion in his voice.
"I ask you to pray for me, and I will pray for you, that together we will recognize the good work that God is doing in this community. Pray that we will be attentive together to the Holy Spirit's call to proclaim the Gospel and bring healing to those who desperately need it. And pray in particular for me, that though unworthy, I may be for you a shepherd after the Heart of Christ."
— SueAnn Howell, staff writer
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