A Time of Humility and Grace

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Father David BonnarWhen the pandemic unleashed itself on our nation back in March of this year, my superior at Our Sunday Visitor, Gretchen Crowe, encouraged me to write an occasional blog to speak about what was happening from the perspective of a parish priest. There is much that I have shared in this venue that I hope in some way has helped you the reader, especially parish priests, in what has been for all of us a very unusual time.

During each week, I prayerfully consider what it is God wants me to share with you. Each week, it seems, God has blessed me with words. When there were no words, there were images, experiences or memories that eventually engendered words. Even when I was transferred in July to form a new parish from two merged parishes, the Lord continued to bless me with words. His grace never stopped coming to me. Thank you, Jesus!

This past week, however, has been a challenging one when it comes to finding words to share, because I now find myself amid yet another transfer and more change. It all began with a telephone call on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, at 1:40 p.m. This call happened on the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, which is, of course, the cathedral of Rome. There are calls, and then there are calls. This was one of those life-changing calls. It came in the ordinary but was so extraordinary.

When the phone rang, I looked and discovered it was someone calling me from Washington, D.C. I received the call by saying, “Hello.” The person on the other end reciprocated and then identified himself as the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre. My heart began to race, wondering why the papal representative was calling me. The archbishop asked me if I was alone, which I was. Then he said, “You may want to sit down to hear this news.” I sought out a chair. And then he said, “The Holy Father has appointed you bishop of Youngstown.”

Upon hearing these words, I was stunned and speechless. I did not know what to say. At one point, I asked myself if this was happening. In the meantime, the good archbishop kept saying, “Hello, hello?” I said, “Hello.” And then he said, “You do accept, don’t you?” As hard as it was to speak even one word given the shock, I said, “Yes, archbishop, by the grace of God and in total humility I accept.”

I cannot begin to tell you how overwhelming I felt then, and even more so now. It is so humbling to be chosen by the Holy Father to be a successor to the apostles. All I ever wanted to be was a parish priest.

What made this matter even more challenging is that I could not speak with anyone about it until the announcement was made. I was permitted to speak to my bishop, Bishop David Zubik. He was so comforting and offered words to me when I had nothing but awe and wonder. He said, “Dave, just let the Spirit take over.” And then he prayed with me over the phone.

On Sunday afternoon of this past week, Bishop Zubik visited with me privately at my residence and presented me with a zucchetto, which I will need to get used to wearing. He gave me a gift bag of things I will need as a bishop. More than anything else, Bishop Zubik gave me peace and comfort in what has been a surprising time. He completed his visit by praying with me in the private chapel of the parish house. Together we prayed for the Church of Pittsburgh and the Church of Youngstown. Please pray for me as this is so humbling. And yet, I cannot wait to roll up my sleeves, get my lunch bucket and go to work to serve the clergy, religious and faithful of Youngstown.

BISHOP-ELECT DAVID J. BONNAR has been appointed bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown, is editor of The Priest and is pastor of 16 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.

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