Toledo’s eighth bishop installed in ‘magnificent’ ceremonyWritten by Tom Konecny | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Most Rev. Daniel E. Thomas was installed as the eighth Roman Catholic Bishop of Toledo on Oct. 22, promising to follow the example of devotion to Jesus Christ set by the late pope, St. John Paul II, whose papal inauguration took place 36 years ago that same day.
The installation took place inside a filled-to-capacity Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral on Collingwood Boulevard, and was broadcast live on TV, radio and Internet both locally and nationally.
Catholic leaders from across the United States were in attendance, including New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Archbishops Carlo Maria Viganò, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, and Cincinnati’s Dennis Schnurr were the installing bishops.
Former Toledo Bishop and current Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford and Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, along with Schnurr and Viganò, all concelebrated the Mass, with Thomas serving as the main celebrant.
Thomas, the former auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia, offered the homily and used a chalice and paten his parents gave him upon his 1985 ordination. St. John Paul II used the chalice and paten during a private 1995 Mass in Philadelphia, and Thomas frequently mentioned the former pope in his homily.
Thomas was overcome with emotion and had to pause when speaking about St. John Paul II, who during a Philadelphia visit was found prostrate alone, praying in front of the Eucharist after a long day when most had already retired for the night.
He also delivered a message to Pope Francis, via Viganò: “Please tell Pope Francis that we love Christ, we love the church and we love him.”
Thomas also thanked his Toledo predecessor, Blair, who is now serving the Diocese of Hartford, Connecticut, as archbishop.
“Thank you archbishop, for 10 years of fidelity, apostolic zeal and witness,” Thomas said. “We are grateful.”
In addressing his fellow priests, Thomas referenced a rectory-owned stained glass window depicting Jesus as the “Good Shepherd,” and offered:
“I love you. I can’t wait to get to know you and I can’t wait for you to get to know me. The task of each bishop, together with the people, is to announce the good news and proclaim Christ. My dear brother priests, I am one with you in the priesthood. I pray that we may always be one in heart and mind in the priesthood.”
Thomas offered similar words of comfort to everyday lay Catholics, hoping to work together for Jesus.
“I love you, and I hope that in your daily lives as husbands and wives, moms and dads, sons and daughters, each day you will live in Christ so that together we might announce the new evangelization,” Thomas said.
The rosary, a popular form of Catholic prayer and meditation long promoted and beloved by previous popes, was also referenced by Thomas.
“To pray the rosary is to hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and his mother,” Thomas said. He also pledged to add a depiction of the relatively newer Luminous Mysteries to the Cathedral; the five mysteries focusing on the public ministry of Jesus were added to the Rosary by St. John Paul II in 2002.
He also specifically addressed the youth and elderly, asking the youth to be his “wings” and the elderly the “roots” of his ministry.
Thomas said he first considered becoming a priest at as young as 7 years old, but the thought of becoming a bishop never entered his mind, even as a young adult.
“Never,” he said. “I certainly thought of being a priest. The one thing that I kept in my heart was being a priest. I answered that call as a senior in high school.”
Thomas was born and raised in Philadelphia, and attended Catholic schools through high school. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, and later a licentiate in sacred theology in 1989 from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
He was ordained a priest in Philadelphia in 1985 and served as a parish priest until 1990, when he was assigned to serve the Holy See as an official of the Congregation for Bishops, the section of the Roman Curia that coordinates the selection of candidates for the episcopacy. There he also served as adjunct spiritual director at the Pontifical North American College seminary in Rome.
In 1995 he was named Monsignor by Pope John Paul II, who in 2005 also named him a Prelate of Honor. That same year he returned to Pennsylvania as a parish priest, and in 2006 was ordained auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia.
Thomas has also served on several archdiocesan boards and remains a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, the Ad Hoc Committee on Catechism and the Committee on Divine Worship. He is also a member of the National Advisory Council for the Saint John Vianney Center in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, and the Episcopal Advisory Board for the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors.
Impression of Toledo
The Diocese of Toledo differs from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in many ways, the greatest of which may be the need for a reliable vehicle if Thomas plans to visit the diocese’s 319,907 Catholics as he intends.
In Toledo, he shepherds a flock smaller in size, yet much more widespread.
The Diocese of Toledo measures 8,222 square miles across 19 counties, compared to Philadelphia’s 2,202 square miles in just five densely populated counties; Toledo’s diocesan population is 1,465,561 residents, compared to Philadelphia’s 4,050,793.
Parishes and priests are also easier to come by in America’s fifth-largest city. Toledo has 124 parishes and 159 priests, compared to Philadelphia’s 235 parishes and 523 priests.
Toledo has 58 diocesan elementary schools and 10,778 students; Philadelphia has 128 schools with 45,613 students.
Certainly no two dioceses are the same, but Thomas said he embraces the switch in locale and believes Toledo and Philadelphia are more alike than it first may seem.
“I had an experience of moving to a foreign country,” he said. “Those differences weigh in comparison.”
Once, Thomas said, while having dinner in Italy with his parents and friends, his mother expressed regret for not being able to speak the local language. An Italian friend countered with an assurance that instantly made the world seem smaller: “No, no, we speak the language of love. We are a family of faith.”
A bishop for others
While the new bishop’s primary focus is to serve those who are Catholic, he is in a sense here for all of Northwest Ohio. Thomas said he was sent by Pope Francis to serve the local church — the Toledo Diocese — by caring for those who are Catholic and helping them “to get to heaven.”
But he also hopes to work with other denominations and share in the task of spreading the Gospel.
“For everyone else, [the bishop is] charged to proclaim the Gospel and be the face of Christ,” Thomas said. “My outreach is to every single person. The reality is my task is to treat them all as Christ would treat them.”
As for now, he said he’s excited to have a busy schedule, meet as many people as he can, learn the area and eventually enjoy some of the local sights, including Tony Packo’s, where he has already been asked to sign a hot dog bun.
“The best advice I was given when I came to Toledo was ‘Just be yourself,’” Thomas said. “Be the person God intended you to be.”