Most Reverend Michael McGovern installed as ninth Bishop of Belleville

BELLEVILLE — Father Michael G. McGovern, a former pastor in the Archdiocese of Chicago, became the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Belleville on July 22.

Bishop McGovern, 56, said he chose the motto “Vos autem dixi amicos,” or “I have called you friends,” as an expression of the relationship between Christ and the church, and the relationship that must exist between members of the faithful.

The phrase comes from John 15:15, when Jesus tells the disciples to love one another as he has loved them.

 “As I ponder the mysteries of our faith in Jesus, I realize more deeply that the event that makes it possible for us to be faithful friends of Jesus Christ is his death and resurrection,” said Bishop McGovern, whose appointment was announced April 3.

Bishop McGovern, who most recently was pastor of St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in Old Mill Creek, reflected on the Gospel reading for the day, the feast of St. Mary Magdalene.

Mary Magdalene and St. Peter were bonded together in a deeper friendship in Christ by his death and resurrection, Bishop McGovern said.

“As that friendship spreads out in the community of the church, that friendship of Christ extends to us,” he said. “Through our friendship with him, we can be brothers and sisters to one another in our world today and until the Lord comes again at the end of time.”

About 250 people attended the ordination and installation Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Belleville. It was also broadcast live on Eternal Word Television Network.

Thirty bishops, two dozen priests, representatives from each parish and a number of Bishop McGovern’s friends and family attended in person.

Cardinal Cupich served as the principal consecrator. He was joined by co-consecrators retired Auxiliary Bishop George J. Rassas of Chicago and Bishop Edward K. Braxton, bishop emeritus of Belleville.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C., a former bishop of Belleville, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, were among the dignitaries who attended.

All of those present wore face coverings, with Cardinal Cupich and Bishop McGovern donning plastic face shields as well to distribute Communion.

Because of the state’s coronavirus guidelines, each parish was able to send only two representatives to St. Peter Cathedral, which has a usual capacity of 1,400.

Some parishes drew names out of hat, while in others, the pastor selected representatives.

Cardinal Cupich began the ceremony by noting the “very unusual circumstances as we gather today to ordain Bishop Michael McGovern, but nothing can take us away from the joy that we feel in welcoming a new shepherd to this local church.”

The ordination and installation Mass came on the feast of St. Mary Magdalene.

In his homily, Cardinal Cupich used Mary Magdalene as an example of humility and of the importance of laity to the church.

“Mary Magdalene’s simple gesture of devotion to our Lord should serve as a reminder to all leaders in the church to remain humble and respectful of the many ways ordinary people manifest their thirst for God, and to be particularly attentive to how the Risen Lord may be working through them to reveal how he is making all things new, and even more so how he is calling us to more fully understand the deposit of faith entrusted to us,” Cardinal Cupich said. “This faithful disciple of Jesus, this lay woman, called to be the first witness of the risen Lord as the new creation, the apostle to the Apostles, stands as a reminder today as we ordain you, Bishop McGovern, to value the many ways lay women and men contribute to our ministry and of our obligation to foster their gifts.” 

Cardinal Cupich spoke about Pope Francis’ call to treat the poor, not as objects or docile recipients of charity and sympathy, but to recognize them as people, subjects who have the power to change history.

“Being attentive to the poor and those on the margins must always be at the core of a bishop’s ministry, not because of their need but because of our need, for when we appreciate the poor as subjects we discover their power to evangelize us and the whole church,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Cupich also thanked Bishop Braxton for his many years of service to the church.

“I want to add my appreciation, especially noting your leadership on the important issue of racial justice,” the cardinal said. “You have rightly raised your voice in a way that has stirred the hearts of many and inspired your brother bishops.”

In reading the papal bull, or official letter of appointment issued by Pope Francis, French-born Archbishop Pierre said that Bishop McGovern had distinguished himself as a parish priest.

He also noted Bishop McGovern’s fondness for St. Ignatius of Loyola.

“St. Ignatius would often write to the Jesuit missionaries exhorting them to ‘Go and set the world on fire.’ May you do just that,” Archbishop Pierre said.

The rite of ordination included the laying on of hands by Cardinal Cupich and the co-consecrators. The gesture was repeated by all bishops present.

Cardinal Cupich presented Bishop McGovern a bishop’s ring and miter, and a crosier. The crosier is the “sign of your pastoral office and keep watch over the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit has placed you as bishop to govern the church of God,” Cardinal Cupich said.

During the prayer of ordination, Deacon Kevin Templin and Deacon Richard Hudzik held a Book of the Gospels over Bishop McGovern’s head.

Bishop McGovern requested that the Book of the Gospels be open to John 20:1-9, the account of Easter morning, which he called the “core of the Catholic faith.”

At the end of the Mass, Bishop McGovern expressed thanks for the friendship of those present.

“I am grateful for your friendship,” he said. “I am grateful for the many ways that Christ has given me his friendship. And today as we celebrate this ordination and installation, I will continue to try to grow in that friendship with Jesus Christ with your help, with your prayers, your support, your challenge, and your advice.”