New bishop to people of Charlotte diocese: ‘I’m yours now’

Photos by Troy Hull and Patrick Schneider Photography

Atlanta archbishop ordains fellow Conventual Franciscan Michael T. Martin as Bishop of Charlotte

HUNTERSVILLE — Sunlight streamed into St. Mark Church Wednesday – a poignant visual representation of the Holy Spirit – as the Diocese of Charlotte welcomed a new bishop for the first time in 20 years.

Conventual Franciscan Father Michael T. Martin was ordained during a three-hour liturgy that included hundreds of priests and deacons, more than a dozen bishops and one cardinal representing Pope Francis. Bishop Martin succeeds the retiring Bishop Peter Jugis.

Percussion instruments and horns heralded the entrance procession into the Huntersville church and parish hall that were filled with 1,700 ticketed guests, including many of Bishop Martin’s former parishioners from St. Philip Benizi Church in Jonesboro, Georgia, whom he greeted with smiles.

His family, friends, Franciscans friars, and clergy from the Charlotte diocese and multiple states packed the pews for the historic occasion.

“I am so proud of my brother (in Christ). It is an honor to have a role in his ordination liturgy,” said Bishop Martin’s longtime friend and fellow Conventual Franciscan Father Michael Heine. “The smile on his face and the joy of the day truly shows us the Holy Spirit is moving in exciting ways!”

Father Christian Cook, pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Swannanoa, was among more than a hundred priests from the Charlotte diocese in attendance. He said it was his first episcopal ordination as a priest or otherwise.

“Taking part as a priest is very special because the episcopal ordination Mass is apostolic succession on full display. When I was ordained a priest, I made a promise of obedience to Bishop Jugis, but also to his successors,” he said. “So the continuity of the Church, the ordination promises of my priesthood, and the passing down of office of bishop is very comforting. The Church of Jesus Christ is as He made it, for where the bishop is, there is the Church.”

Atlanta Archbishop Gregory Hartmayer, also a Conventual Franciscan and a close friend of Bishop Martin, was the principal celebrant and consecrator for the Mass. He offered a moving homily, highlighting the new bishop’s Franciscan roots, his prayerfulness and humility, as well as their long history together – beginning when the archbishop was a teacher and Martin was a student at Archbishop Curley High School in Baltimore.

Co-consecrators were Bishop Jugis and Cardinal Christophe Pierre, the pope’s ambassador to the United States.

Historic liturgy commences

After the introductory rites, the Liturgy of the Word began with St. Joseph Sister Joan Pearson.

“It is an honor,” Sister Joan said before Mass. “I am a little nervous because this is a really great ecclesial event and I have a tiny little part in it, so I'm humbled and nervous because all of the dignitaries and the people of the diocese are going to see this. But just to be able to proclaim the Word of God is wonderful.”

Deacon Kevin Tran proclaimed the Gospel (Jn 21:15-17), the passage where Jesus asks Peter for a threefold affirmation of his love.

In his homily Archbishop Hartmayer, emphasized the new bishop’s chosen episcopal motto, the words spoken by Jesus to Peter – “Duc In Altum” or “put out into the deep” – referencing the bishop’s call for people to deepen their relationship with Jesus.

“It is the Lord who invites us to put out into the deep as Peter did…” Archbishop Hartmayer said. “Putting out into the deep is an invitation to trust in the Lord at all times. It means relying less on ourselves and more on the One who calls us. The call of Christ, ‘Duc In Altum,’ is a challenge for each of us. With Peter, we can put out into the deep, having caught nothing all day, and see the miracles that the Lord works.”

Archbishop Hartmayer opened his homily by greeting all the bishops and Franciscan friars present as well as the Martin family.

“Episcopal ministry is, first and foremost, a call to a deepened friendship with the Lord Jesus. Cut off from Him, we can do nothing.”

Addressing the bishop-elect, he continued, “You will be even more dependent on the Lord's loving kindness as you step forward in this service of sacrificial loving for the Church, both local and universal as a contemporary apostle. You stand in a continuous line of succession reaching back to those first apostles who became friends with the Lord Jesus.”

“Do all you can to call the people of the Diocese of Charlotte to an ever more loving and joyful friendship with Our Savior. And by your own example, lead your seminarians, priests, deacons and consecrated religious toward a renewed personal relationship with the Lord.”

Ordination rite rich with symbolism

As the ordination rite began, the entire congregation chanted the ancient prayer “Veni, Creator Spiritus” (“Come, Creator Spirit”), invoking the Holy Spirit.

Father Heine and Conventual Franciscan Father Jude Michael Krill presented Martin to Archbishop Hartmayer for ordination in the name of the Charlotte diocese. Then Cardinal Pierre read the apostolic letter from Pope Francis, testifying that Martin should be ordained bishop.

Martin then processed through the congregation displaying the apostolic letter.

All present assented to his election as bishop, proclaiming: “Thanks be to God.”

Archbishop Hartmayer then asked the bishop-elect nine questions to affirm he is prepared to: 1) discharge this sacred duty until the end of his life, 2) remain “faithful and constant” in proclaiming the Holy Gospel, 3) maintain without change the “deposit of faith” that the Apostles have passed along down through the ages, 4) “build up the Church as the Body of Christ,” 5) “remain united to it within the Order of Bishops under the authority of the successor of the Apostle Peter,” 6) guide the People of God “as a devoted father,” 7) “be welcoming and merciful to the poor,” 8) “seek out the sheep who stray,” and 9) pray unceasingly for the People of God.

Archbishop Hartmayer then invited everyone to pray for the bishop-elect, who prostrated himself as the congregation chanted the Litany of Supplication (commonly called the Litany of the Saints).

Archbishop Hartmayer, followed by the other bishops, laid hands on the head of Bishop-elect Martin, a gesture that the apostles themselves used to invoke the Holy Spirit as they appointed successors.

Craig and Kathleen Lewis, parishioners of St. Ann Church in Charlotte, said they were honored to attend the ordination, noting that they also attended the ordination of Bishop Jugis and installation of his predecessor, the late Bishop William Curlin.

Kathleen Lewis recalled what she found moving about all three historic occasions.

“It really struck me that hands have been laid from the time that there were hands that touched Our Lord,” she said. “Those hands touched a man’s head and those hands and so forth, all the way to the hands that were on Bishop Jugis. And it will be the same today, that’s the reality of apostolic succession. To be there, to see that is a privilege – it really is.”

Two deacons placed an open Book of the Gospels over the head of the bishop-elect while Archbishop Hartmayer prayed the Prayer of Consecration, together with all the consecrating bishops – illustrating that preaching the Word of God is a bishop’s primary duty.

Then Archbishop Hartmayer anointed the head of the new bishop with sacred chrism, handed him the Book of the Gospels, placed the episcopal ring on his finger and the miter on his head, and gave him the crosier (pastoral staff) – symbols of the office of bishop.

With visible emotion, Bishop Martin then took his seat among the group of bishops. The ordination rite ended with a fraternal kiss of peace from Archbishop Hartmayer and all the bishops who were present, sealing Bishop Martin’s admittance into the College of Bishops.

A stirring conclusion

The Mass then continued with the Liturgy of the Eucharist with Bishop Martin’s mother and three sisters bringing up the offertory. Bev Martin was the first to offer the gifts, beaming as she presented the bread for Communion to her son. His sisters Jeanne, Judy and Ellie followed.

“It’s a little overwhelming, but honestly it’s very deserving and he’s going to be a wonderful, wonderful bishop,” sister Judy Ercole said afterward. “And the people are going to adore him.”

Added sister Jeanne Martin, “They don’t know how lucky they are.”

Communion followed amid beautiful chants and hymns. Before the end of Mass, newly ordained Bishop Martin processed through the aisles of the church and parish hall again to give the congregation his first episcopal blessing. Returning to the altar, he offered concluding remarks in Spanish and English.

Starting with a tribute and applause for Bishop Jugis, Bishop Martin said he looks forward to having him as a brother bishop in the diocese. He also thanked Cardinal Pierre, noting his kindness when he informed Bishop Martin of his new assignment as well as his “beautiful French accent.”

He also thanked Archbishop Hartmayer, who had referenced in his homily how they first met each other when the new bishop was an eighth-grader. He thanked him for his faithful example and his friendship of 50 years. He thanked his Franciscan family as well as his mother, sisters and late father.

Then he threw open his arms and said, “That’s it. I’m yours now. May God bless you all.”

Sacred items at St. Mark Church connect Conventual Franciscans with Diocese of Charlotte

St. Mark Church’s ambo, altar and “reredos,” depicting the descent of the Holy Spirit located in the back of the church, held special significance during Bishop Michael Martin’s ordination at the Huntersville parish. Each is from the chapel of the Conventual Franciscan seminary St. Anthony-on-Hudson in Rensselaer, New York, which was in operation from 1912 to 1988. St. Mark’s former pastor, the late Monsignor Richard Bellow, requested the sacred items when he was overseeing the building of St. Mark Church in 2009.

Monsignor Bellow, who was a Franciscan priest early in his ministry, studied and received formation at the Franciscan seminary where the sacred items originated and always felt a special connection to them during his nine years as pastor of St. Mark, because they combined his Franciscan priesthood and his later ministry as a priest of the Charlotte diocese. He requested the sacred items when the Huntersville church was under construction.

Now they hold added significance as the Word of God was proclaimed and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was offered during the ordination of a Franciscan priest as Bishop of Charlotte.

Atlanta Archbishop Gregory Hartmayer, OFM Conv., the principal celebrant of Bishop Michael Martin’s ordination, and Conventual Franciscan Father Michael Heine, one of the new bishop’s priest attendants, also studied at St. Anthony-on-Hudson.

“Many, many friars prayed before that altar and proclaimed the Word from that lectern for years,” Father Heine said. “When the friars saw that today, it touched their hearts knowing that there’s a great connection between the friars and the Diocese of Charlotte.”

Read the full story, see photos and watch video from the Catholic News Herald.

Republished with permission.