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Archbishop Schwietz celebrates anniversary with Mass and memories

By Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross — Oblate Archbishop Roger Schwietz, the seventh bishop of Duluth and now archbishop of Anchorage, Alaska, said it was a “strange feeling to be back here in this pulpit.”

“It’s so good to be with you,” he added, as he began his homily at a Mass celebrating the 25th anniversary of his episcopal ordination at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth Feb. 2.

Archbishop Schwietz

Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross
Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz presides at Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral in Duluth, where he was ordained a bishop 25 years ago. Joining him at the anniversary Mass were Bishop Paul Sirba and priests of the Duluth Diocese and Alaska.

He was joined by Bishop Paul Sirba, by a priest and seminarians who traveled with him from Anchorage and by a small group of diocesan clergy. (Many priests from the Duluth Diocese were on retreat.)

Archbishop Schwietz, who served as bishop in Duluth from 1990 to 2001 and has served Anchorage for the past 15 years, said the day’s reading from the prophet Malachi, which promised that the Lord would come to his own Temple, must have seemed difficult to understand.

“So God in his own marvelous way creatively fulfills the prophecy,” he said, with the Lord becoming “one of us, taking on our human nature.”

This was for a purpose: to suffer and die for us and thus to conquer death. But the mystery continues, the archbishop said, in that he chose the Twelve Apostles — weak, ordinary men — to continue his work, and even more mysteriously that he continues to carry on that mission of shepherding and guiding the church in ordinary people today.

“The magnitude of that trust of the Lord, that mystery of God continuing to work the work of the Good Shepherd through ordinary human beings, really hit me when I received the call from the apostolic nuncio on the 12th of December in 1989 informing me that I had been chosen by Pope John Paul II to shepherd these people in this local church, the Diocese of Duluth,” he said.

“Of course at first I didn’t believe him,” he added. “I thought it was one of my brother Oblates pulling my leg.”

He said the magnitude of that trust hit him in an even more profound way in the Cathedral in Duluth when he was ordained, and in the days leading up to it as he reflected on how his service as a priest at St. Thomas in International Falls and at the West End parishes that became Holy Family in Duluth had been God’s preparation, along with his work alongside previous bishops Paul Anderson and Robert Brom.

“And I’ll never forget when Archbishop Roach poured the Chrism over my head and down my neck and all over me that indeed was a great act of God, that God was here,” he said.

He said that something similar is working out in each of our lives.

“As we look back at our lives, we realize more and more that there are no surprises for God, there are just different ways that he works in us and through us, in a very careful and loving way,” Archbishop Schwietz said.

He said his heart was filled with gratitude and asked for prayers that he will continue in his ministry of “fidelity to the truth and compassion toward God’s beloved people.”

“And I pledge my prayers to you always,” he said.