On a night when bone-chilling cold gripped Chicagoland, incoming Archbishop Blase J. Cupich predicted, “We will probably end up rattling some bones” during his first homily at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.
Monday’s night’s Mass, which was followed by a reception, marked the start of a three-day celebration that saw Cupich installed as the ninth Archbishop of Chicago. He officially started his duties Tuesday.
“Notice that the spirit evoked brings about a rattling of the bones, not to assemble skeletons as individuals, but as a vast army,” Cupich said. “There is a dryness in many people’s lives because they have little experience of being connected in society. For them, the only economy that counts is one that depends on connections they never had and never will.
“So many are left unconnected because of poverty spread across generations, racism or not having mentors to guide and inspire them about the value of education, hard work, and the self-discipline needed for personal stability.”
Cupich succeeds Cardinal Francis George, who is retiring as he battles cancer. He served as the spiritual leader of more than 2 million Catholics since 1997.
Cupich, 65, was the bishop of the Diocese of Spokane, Wash., when he was selected by Pope Francis to succeed George.
Cupich went on to laud the charitable works he has witnessed since arriving in Chicago.
“Already, in the short time I have been here, I have been edified by the great work so many of you are doing through various charities, apostolates, labor unions, the business community, government programs, schools, volunteer and civic groups and you should be encouraged to know that helping people get connected, experience being a part of society, is where God is active, working and gracing you in your dedicated ministry and labors. You are using your connections to help those disconnected and that is the work of God,” he said.
Local pastors and religious leaders are impressed with Cupich.
“He seems to be open and outgoing,” said the Rev. Wayne Svida, the pastor of Our of the Ridge parish in Chicago Ridge. “I think he’s a little bit more to the people.”
For example, Svida said, an Our Lady of the Ridge parishioner sent Cupich a congratulatory note shortly after he was named the new archbishop. Cupich replied a few weeks later with a thank you card that included a handwritten note.
“I thought that was very nice,” said Svida, who attended Monday’s night’s service.
Cupich led off his remarks on Monday praising Cardinal George for his service the archdiocese.
“On behalf of all of us, all those whose faith and lives have been enriched by your witness and your ministry, I want my first words on this occasion to be ‘thank you Cardinal Francis George.’
He also thanked those who attended the Monday’s service when Cupich knocked three times on the front door of the cathedral, in accordance with tradition, before being ushered in to receive the archdiocesan stole.
“For me it is quite humbling as I come to offer servant leadership to this local church to be associated with lay women and men, clergy, religious and bishops who continue to have an enormous impact in society,” Cupich said.
Cupich will celebrate six welcome Masses throughout the diocese starting in January, beginning Jan. 8 at St. Rita High School, 7740 S. Western Ave., Chicago.
The Rev. Tom McCarthy, St. Rita’s chairman of the board, expects Cupich to do well in Chicago, but asked people not to compare him to his predecessor.
“I hope people don’t compare the two. It’s kind of unfair,” McCarthy said.
Ultimately, McCarthy said, Cupich’s task is “to bring people closer to Jesus.”
“Let him be our pastor, our leader,” McCarthy added.
Cupich said he does not have a detailed agenda because having one would be a disaster.
“No, the agenda has to be God’s, which is beyond our imagining and our abilities. And unlike our priorities, God’s agenda has staying power, it endures,” he said.
Cupich also reached out to young people throughout the diocese.
“There are others who feel little sense of belonging and stability. Many youth have no dreams, no real aspirations, no sustaining hope. And so they turn to a destructive world of drugs, gangs and lethal violence.
“There are no easy answers to this, but I am aware that good people within our parishes and in the city are working imaginatively to address this issue. I admire the creativity of bringing gang members together for sports and in other venues to ease growing tensions. I believe that shoring up and strengthening family life and education are also essential ingredients.”