On first anniversary as archbishop of Washington, Archbishop Gregory expresses thanks to local Catholics
May 21, 2020
Marking his first anniversary as the archbishop of Washington, Archbishop Wilton Gregory on May 21, 2020 offered a special message of thanks to local Catholics that was posted on the Archdiocese of Washington’s website and on its social media.
In the message, Archbishop Gregory wrote, “Anniversaries are invaluable occasions to remember the past and how good God has been to us – to me! My first anniversary here falls a few days before Pentecost, which I view as a wonderful sign of providence and grace. During this year, I have vividly seen first-hand how much the love of the Holy Spirit fills our archdiocesan family.”
The archbishop also noted that, “The year has seen many great joys and, certainly more recently, some unique challenges. Thanks be to God that through it all, ‘We are the Lord’s.’ It is a comfort to know that as we continue on our pilgrim journey, there is still more for us to discover because love is an inexhaustible gift that continues to deepen, the more it is shared.”
He closed his anniversary message by saying, “Thank you so very much for your support and prayers as I pray for you and your family.”
The message was designed in the form of a card, with a heading that reads, “A Blessed Year Together,” and it also featured a collage of photos of Archbishop Gregory greeting a variety of people across the Archdiocese of Washington surrounding the words “Thank you for your very warm welcome.”
On April 4, 2019, Pope Francis named Archbishop Gregory as the new archbishop of Washington, succeeding Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who had served as archbishop of Washington from 2006 to 2018. Archbishop Gregory became the seventh archbishop of Washington and the first African-American prelate to serve in that role.
Archbishop Gregory, who is now 72, had served as the archbishop of Atlanta from 2005 until his appointment to Washington. He was installed as archbishop of Washington during a Mass on May 21, 2019 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Archbishop Gregory, a native of Chicago, converted to the Catholic faith as a sixth grader at St. Carthage School in that city. He was ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1973 and served as an auxiliary bishop in Chicago from 1983 to 1994, when he was appointed as bishop of Belleville, Illinois, where he served until Pope John Paul II named him as the new archbishop of Atlanta in December 2004, and he was installed to lead that archdiocese in January 2005.
While leading the Diocese of Belleville, then-Bishop Gregory was elected as the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2001. During his service as president of the USCCB from 2001-2004, the crisis of sex abuse by Catholic clergy escalated, and under his leadership, the nation’s bishops implemented the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”
Archbishop Gregory’s motto as a bishop is “We are the Lord’s.” At his May 21, 2019 Mass of Installation as the new archbishop of Washington, Archbishop Wilton Gregory encouraged Catholics of the Archdiocese of Washington who had endured the storm of the clergy abuse crisis to trust in Jesus, who had calmed the stormy seas as He rode in a boat with His disciples.
“He is here when the seas are calm, and He is here during every moment of uncertainty, anger, fear and shame,” Archbishop Gregory said in his homily at the Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, adding that Jesus “invites us to place our trust in Him… He wants nothing more than for us to trust Him to bring us back safely to shore and even be bolstered by the trials that we have endured.”
By March 2020, people in the Washington area and across the country faced another storm, as the coronavirus pandemic left sickness, death and economic suffering in its wake. In the month and one-half since COVID-19 has swept through the country, Archbishop Gregory again encouraged his flock in the Archdiocese of Washington to remember that Christ is always with them.
In a March 12 statement when he announced that Catholic schools would close and public Masses would not be celebrated in Catholic churches in the archdiocese for the time being in accordance with government recommended restrictions to prevent the spread of the deadly virus, Archbishop Gregory said, “We are profoundly saddened that we are not able to celebrate our sacraments as a community for the time being, but we know Christ remains with us at all times – specifically in times of worry like this… May the peace of Christ settle any anxieties and fear we may have. Let us continue to pray for the people whose lives have been impacted by the coronavirus as well as those who continue to care for them.”
In a May 15 letter to priests, Father Daniel Carson, the Archdiocese of Washington's vicar general and moderator of the Curia, said public Masses may resume starting Monday May 25, in local jurisdictions that have lifted COVID-19 restrictions, and priests were also sent recommendations for how to proceed safely with Masses using precautions, including Massgoers wearing facemasks and keeping social distances in pews. At that time, nearly all the jurisdictions in the Archdiocese of Washington - which includes the District of Columbia and the five surrounding Maryland counties – were maintaining coronavirus restrictions, including limits on the sizes of public gatherings.
In a video message to local Catholics on May 15, Archbishop Gregory noted, “In these past months, in the face of the coronavirus health emergency, we have experienced challenges and hardships unlike any we have ever faced as a nation, a people, or a Church. Our best and smartest first response – as in all things – is to turn to the Lord who comforts us and strengthens us. Our Lord walks with us and guides our way forward.”
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