Just two days before he departed the Archdiocese of Washington for his new post as the 13th bishop of Richmond, Virginia, Bishop Barry Knestout offered his goodbyes at a Jan. 6 farewell Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

An auxiliary bishop in this archdiocese for nine years, Bishop Knestout said it was fitting that his farewell Mass be offered at the National Shrine, where Cardinal James Hickey ordained him a priest on June 24, 1989.

“It was here where I was ordained a priest almost 29 years ago,” Bishop Knestout said. “And I think of so many memories and recollections and so many graces I have received here.”

Paraphrasing the words of St. John the Baptist (John 3:30), “I must decrease so He might increase,” Bishop Knestout said the Church’s celebration of the manifestation of Christ at the Solemnity of the Epiphany was an apt time for his departure from the Archdiocese of Washington.

“My job as a bishop is to go out and call others to lift their eyes to see the great things God has given us through Jesus Christ,” he said.

Seminarians from the Diocese of Richmond who are currently studying at the Saint John Paul II Seminary in Washington were altar servers at the Mass, along with seminarians from the Archdiocese of Washington.

Among the several hundred people who attended the liturgy were representatives of men and women religious and members of parishes where the bishop formerly served.

Following the Mass, Bishop Knestout greeted well-wishers who gathered in the shrine’s crypt level to say a fond farewell to the bishop.

“He’s a very good person and we’re going to miss him very much,” said Louisa Robertson. “Our loss is Richmond’s gain. “

Mae O’Brien said she wanted to wish Bishop Knestout well in his new assignment and to thank him “for his homilies, which he seemed to speak from his heart. I always felt like he was talking directly to me.”

 “I hope the people down there (in Richmond) know they are getting a good guy,” said Nick Kakris.

Msgr. Walter Rossi, rector of the shrine, noted that the basilica “is honored to host the Mass of farewell for Bishop Knestout.”

“I have had the good fortune of knowing and working with Bishop Knestout since we were both younger,” the rector said, telling the bishop that “as you begin your new ministry, you have the prayers of us here at Mary’s Shrine, and you have a home here.”

Bishop Knestout asked for prayers from those at the Mass and them that he was “excited” about his new post and “I look forward to the challenges and blessings” of serving as the bishop of Richmond.

“I will miss the people here,” he said. “But, I choose to say ‘farewell’ and not ‘goodbye.’ ”