(The following is the text of Bishop Barry C. Knestout’s remarks at a Dec. 5 press conference at the Pastoral Center in Richmond, Virginia, on the morning when it was announced that Pope Francis had appointed the Washington auxiliary bishop to be the new bishop of Richmond. His installation Mass will be on Jan. 12.)

Psalm 127 says: “If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor,” so I ask your indulgence for a moment for me to implore the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful; enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth. O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit instructed the hearts of your faithful, grant us by that same Holy Spirit to be truly wise and ever to rejoice in your consolation, through Christ our Lord. Amen

Thank you.  Please allow me a few minutes to offer some reflections on this day.

I thank our Holy Father, Pope Francis, for his trust in naming me bishop of Richmond.

I am honored to serve the Church in Richmond, which has a long and revered history of faith, and I will be blessed to serve the faithful across the beautiful and richly diverse Commonwealth of Virginia.

As this announcement goes out regarding my appointment, I would like to recognize a number of people who had an important impact on my life and formation as a man, a priest, pastor and bishop.

First, with great affection and special gratitude, my parents, who have given me life and formed me in the faith.

My mother Caroline, still strong at 90 years, has shown me throughout my life the profound importance of prayerful reflection and familial love.

My father Thomas, at rest in the Lord, taught me the importance of service to the Church, with charismatic energy and generous diaconal service.

All my brothers and sisters, Janice, Rose, Julie, Bob, Tim, Tom, Mark (Father Mark, here present) and Brian who as you might suspect do a great job of keeping me humble!

Second, to the three archbishops who I have had the unique privilege of assisting throughout my priestly life, and who provided rich examples of totally immersed, dedicated priestly service to the Church.

First, I had the honor to serve Cardinal Hickey, a spiritual father to me, who taught me the importance of “carefulness” in the best sense of the word.

Care in the large matters of faith and shepherding – and in the small details of priestly service to those God has entrusted to our care. He provided oversight with a steadfast hand and gentle spirit.

I also had the privilege to serve Cardinal McCarrick – who taught me the importance of a missionary spirit and attentiveness to the dignity of each person, particularly those in need.

Finally, I have had the great honor for the past 10 years to serve Cardinal Wuerl.  He has taught me so much over the years.  Serving Cardinal Wuerl – who is renowned as an accomplished catechist and devoted priest – has been an experience of learning, formation, and growth more than words can express. Indeed, I would compare the years in service to Cardinal Wuerl as a graduate level education, which most have never had the privilege to experience.

This education has been replete with a myriad of experiences – some of them exciting and exhausting – many of them exhilarating and enlightening.

For example:

  • Assisting in hosting the visits of both Pope Benedict in 2008 and Pope Francis two years ago.
  • Participating in an Archdiocesan Synod and its implementation.
  • Working with my brother priests and the talented lay men and women who serve the cardinal in the broad mission of our Church, including educating our children, serving the poor, reaching out to young adults, embracing our diversity, and teaching the faith – and much more.

Cardinal Wuerl has taught me the importance of seeking the best from myself and the people around me who serve the mission of the Church, to proclaim the faith, to celebrate the sacraments and to serve in charity. For this, I am profoundly grateful.

Now as I embark on my service as bishop of Richmond – I reflect on Pope Francis’ words to the bishops of the United States during his visit here in 2015 when he reminded us to “be pastors close to people, pastors who are neighbors and servants.”  The Holy Father went on to say:

“We are bishops of the Church, shepherds appointed by God to feed his flock. Our greatest joy is to be shepherds, and only shepherds, pastors with undivided hearts and selfless devotion…and we need to preserve this joy.”

I was born, raised, educated and formed, all within a few miles of the nation’s capital, in the “bubble” that is Washington, a place of paradox, which one president famously noted had both Southern efficiency and Northern charm.

The Church of Washington has also been Mother to me, both in personal and faith formation.  The people of the Church of Washington have manifested the best of charity, community and patriotism. They have manifested the faith of the Church in a profound, diverse and beautiful way.

Now I am called away from the place that, like my parents, formed me, to a new home – which I embrace with all my heart.

I am honored to begin serving in the Church of Richmond, which has a long and revered history of steadfast faith. For 197 years the diocese has been led by men of happy memory who served with faith-filled wisdom and skill. I recognize especially Bishop Frank DiLorenzo, may God rest him, who served this diocese with devotion, steadfastness and a pastor’s heart. 

I also want to acknowledge Msgr. Mark Richard Lane for his sensitive and wise pastoral leadership as diocesan administrator for these last four months following Bishop DiLorenzo’s passing. 

The faithful of the diocese are profoundly grateful for your service.

In a time when we are challenged by many divisions, my hope and prayer is for the Church of Richmond to be a strong voice for unity and charity – an impactful example of reconciliation for those who are divided – a model of solidarity among the neglected, poor and forgotten – and a communion among those who are painfully separated brothers and sisters.

With the grace of our Lord, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, seeking the maternal intercession of Our Lady, my firm hope is to bring prayerfulness, familial love, charitable service, missionary zeal, and dedicated priestly oversight to my new role as your shepherd.

These are significant goals, but with God’s help, the Church makes progress along the way of our lifelong pilgrimage to the fullness of God’s Kingdom.

This past weekend, the Church entered into the Advent Season. In the readings from the First Sunday of Advent, we receive encouragement to remain “awake” and watch with joyful anticipation for the fulfillment of God’s promises.

We don’t see clearly how, or in what way, God’s promises will be fulfilled in us. Because the future is unknown, we may at times become anxious and hesitant about moving toward and receiving those promises.

We stand on a foundation of faith, remembering God’s goodness in the past, through many joys and sorrows. “Hope,” which is so much a part of this season, is “faith-reaching” into the future, into that cloudy unknown. Living confident that these promises are already being realized in us.

So today, let us begin a journey together, moving with hope, toward the fulfillment in us of God’s promises of the fullness of life and love.