Bicentennial provided inspiration, bishop says

Frances and Gerald Scott were among the participants at the closing bicentennial Mass. Masks and social distancing were required. (Photo/Whitten Cluff)

Time of ‘hope, renewal’ for diocese


Almost one year after it officially began with the celebration of Mass at Sacred Heart, Norfolk, on Jan. 18, 2020, the bicentennial of the Diocese of Richmond came to a close, Sunday, Jan. 17, with the celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond.

What a difference a year made.

The opening Mass had pews filled with worshipers, including 20 deacons, multiple choirs led the singing, and 42 priests concelebrated with Bishop Barry C. Knestout.

For the closing Mass, a congregation of approximately 150 people was masked and socially distant, an organist and cantor provided the music, a deacon was a present and a priest concelebrated with the bishop.

Valery Bates, left, listens as cantor Lauren Tompkins sings Psalm 87 during the closing Mass for the Diocese of Richmond’s bicentennial celebration, Sunday, Jan. 17, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. (Photos/Whitten Cluff)

In his homily, Bishop Knestout noted the difference from one year to the next.

“Personal and social stress have accompanied all we have done this year, even if we have tried valiantly to keep things as normal as possible,” he said.

Noting the diocese “celebrated” its bicentennial “in the heart of this upheaval and uncertainty,” the bishop continued, “We have done so with confronting the failures of the past and trying to make recompence. We have done so through special effort at service to the poor and with hymns and prayers.”

Bishop Knestout listed events that had gotten the country’s attention over the last several years, i.e., clergy abuse crisis, the pandemic, civil unrest in cities following the killing of George Floyd.

“I mention all this because, even amid all this sorrow, this was a year for us that brought hope and renewal. We continue to address the faults of the past and look to the future with renewed energy and focus,” he said. “This jubilee has given us inspiration to further the mission of the Church and to encourage the wider acceptance of the Good News and the salvation God offers to the world in Our Lord’s paschal mystery.”

Quoting the opening words of the Second Vatican Council’s “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” — “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.” — Bishop Knestout explained how followers of Christ are to live those words.

Bishop Barry C. Knestout delivers his homily during the closing Mass for the Diocese of Richmond’s bicentennial celebration, Sunday, Jan. 17, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. The bishop said the jubilee provided “hope and renewal” for the diocese. (Photo/Whitten Cluff)

“We are called to live a paradox — to be in the world, but not of the world, to grow in holiness as citizens of heaven, yet work for the common good as citizens of our nation. We are to live in mercy and act with justice. We are to love God and neighbor, as well as our enemies. We are to live our life in God’s kingdom as already present, but not yet fully realized,” he said. “When we do so, when we live the paschal mystery, when we daily die with Christ and rise with him, we witness a change in the world because we experience a change in our own hearts. “

Celebrating the Mass for Mary, Mother of the Church, Bishop Knestout noted that the Gospel, John 19:25-34, reminds the faithful that Christ gave Mary “to be our Mother, by her example and prayers, to be the one who nurtures us into the eternal life given to us by her son’s paschal mystery.”

He continued, “In our passage through this world’s changes and challenges, as we walk through this vale of tears, we turn to her today and every day, especially in these days when the grace God offers is so much needed for our lives and for our nation. We ask for her intercession and the help to encounter her Son – to move into our next century and this third millennium in joy and hope as the touchstones of our daily interaction with the world.”

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