Bicentennial a time for renewing, growing in faith

With the liturgical celebration of the Baptism of the Lord last Sunday, our Christmas season has officially ended. But for all of us in the Diocese of Richmond, another celebration is underway — the bicentennial of the establishment of our diocese.

As I have read and learned about our diocese’s history, my mind and heart were filled with profound gratitude, respect and appreciation for those who planted the seeds of our Catholic faith in Virginia and who, through countless challenging times, nurtured it and fostered its growth.

Our diocese and the parishes in which we nourish our spiritual lives are the result of hard work by clergy, men and women religious and laity who took to heart and lived the Gospel.

A noted historic leader who was known for his commitment to non-violence in effecting political change once wrote: “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.” Gandhi’s words certainly apply to the history of the development of Catholic life in Virginia.

The unquenchable faith in the Catholic life and mission of Virginia’s Catholics during the last 200 years has not only altered history but has also shaped it. Consider the impact our parishes, schools, hospitals, care facilities and organizations have had on our communities. Through their generosity in offering time and talent, Catholics have been witnesses of the Gospel, serving those in need, e.g., feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned, caring for the infirm.

Our bicentennial, however, is more than a time for looking back; it is a new beginning for the entire Catholic community — a time for renewing and growing in our faith, continuing to build and improve upon what we have inherited, engaging and evangelizing all whom we encounter. It is a year of opportunities for us — as missionary disciples — to respond to the words of Jesus: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15).

Our bicentennial year is filled with celebrations and events during which we can strengthen our faith and add to the historic legacy of the Church’s life in the years to come.

We will have three regional Masses. The first, this Saturday, Jan. 18, 10:30 a.m., at Sacred Heart, Norfolk, (Eastern Vicariate) will mark the arrival of Bishop Patrick Kelly, our first bishop.

On Saturday, July 11, we’ll celebrate the date the diocese was established with Mass at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond (Central Vicariate). On Sunday, Sept. 27, we’ll celebrate the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul, patron saint of our diocese, at St. Andrew, Roanoke (Western Vicariate).

Three other important bicentennial events are our pilgrimages and the Eucharistic Congress. As we did with our pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington last October, there will be a second pilgrimage on Saturday, May 9, to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore, when we will seek the continued intercession of our Blessed Mother for help in drawing us closer to her Son. The Eucharistic Congress, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Nov. 6 and 7, will include two keynote talks, Eucharistic procession and Mass.

Throughout our year of celebration, please join me in praying our Bicentennial Prayer, individually and in your parish communities, that the inheritance of faith we have received will flourish and be a gift to future generations.

Father of lights,
the radiance of your Son
has guided the advance of the Gospel
across the Diocese of Richmond for two centuries,
strengthening our Church
from the Eastern Shore to the Cumberland Gap.
Grant that the nearness of your Son
may dispel the darkness of our sins,
so that as our love increases more and more,
we may dare more than ever to fearlessly proclaim the word.
Holding fast to the word of life,
may we shine like stars in the world.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

Editor’s note: For more information on the diocese’s bicentennial, go to or call 804-622-5200.

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