By Bishop Stephen J. Berg
Editor’s Note: The following reflection is taken from Bishop Berg’s homily at the solemn vespers on the occasion of the commencement of the 75th Anniversary of the Diocese, Sunday, February 26, 2017.
We are here to begin a celebration of 75 years of grace and blessing. A year of reflection, celebration and prayer begins this evening. Our first Bishop, Joseph Clement Willging, was installed in this chair, in this Cathedral of the Sacred Heart 75 years ago this week.
As we have begun to review the history of the past 75 years, we see that the Diocese of Pueblo has a unique history. It spans the mountains, the high desert, plains and the valleys. It entails a history of trading, mining and refining, agriculture, ranching, service and a strong Catholic faith. It entails missionaries, priests, sisters and settlers bringing the faith to the rural trails, paths of commerce and to the often forgotten and neglected pockets of people in the wilderness. There is a sense of wonder here.
In reflecting how this all ties together symbolically, I think of roses. The image of roses are the symbols of our co-patrons, Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Therese. The rose of the Little Flower of the Child Jesus, and the roses of our Lady of the tilma of Juan Diego, who gathered the roses which became her lasting image.
Allow me to think about roses for a minute. In my career as a nurseryman in Texas, many years ago, I became interested in the culture of roses. I grew them. I learned how to nurture them, prune them, cultivate them, and I visited a nursery which had been established by a gardener, a horticulturist, a professor at Texas A&M who travelled the United States and discovered forgotten roses. These roses are known as “found” roses, roses of great antiquity which had been left to nature, and which had survived for hundreds of years with little thought and no care. They are in old fields, gardens, by the sides of the road, in out-of-the-way places.
The gardener found the roses, took cuttings and analyzed samples of their DNA. He established their genetic lineage and where the roses came from. Did you know that all roses are traced to four lineages, either to England, Spain, France or Persia?
The gardener brought hundreds of these varieties together and began to propagate them. They are now gloriously available to those who understand and appreciate their unique value.
Quite simply, “found” roses are “tough” roses. They have never been hybridized, nor selected nor developed for their longer shelf life or glamorous symbolism. They are not hothouse roses grown merely to be cut and sold, but as they have survived they have not lost their scent, savor, nor their character and they quite likely have serious thorns! They attract bees beyond the capacity of hybridized flowers and form communities of their own.
I ask you to consider these found roses as symbols of our Diocese - the roses of Our Lady and the Little Flower, of the people and missions of our Diocese. In our 75 years as a Diocese, we are constantly being “found” where we have grown and in our world today. We ask ourselves, “How is God ‘finding’ us and how does he call us to grow?”
We are then, this year, planning our future together, bringing forward a new plan for our diocese where, mindful of the gifts of our past, we look forward anew to our future.
We are found as God’s children, according to the established values of our faith and tradition, in respect for the dignity of each life and vocation, to renew ourselves as proclaimers and doers of the Word, celebrating, communicating and sharing the Good News of Salvation: The Good News of our Father, who has sent our Shepherd Jesus Christ.
Our reading from Revelation tells us this evening, “I saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God.’”
After 75 years we rejoice and give thanks for our blessings and we open ourselves up to how we will grow, to grow where we have been planted. We open ourselves again to being taught about Jesus - to know, love and serve him as he dwells here, in this land. For he has planted us, he has found us and we are founded in him.
In this beautiful diocese of people who have worked and sacrificed for 75 years, we open ourselves again to the miracle of mercy, joy and love. Let our future be blessed, united in the Truth, and one with Christ in our beautiful garden.