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As Richmond diocese marks 200 years, bishop calls for ‘new springtime’

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CNA Staff, Jul 21, 2020 / 04:52 pm MT (CNA).- Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond, Virginia celebrated the 200th anniversary of the diocese with a call to reflect on grace in moments of hardship.

“For our bicentennial, we ask God to grace us with a new birth, a new springtime for all the faithful here in the Diocese of Richmond,” the bishop said in a recent homily.

“As we celebrate 200 years as a diocese amid a crisis and pandemic, we are reminded as bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated, the entire people of God that we are called to be a people always centered on Christ.”

Knestout celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart July 11. The Mass included the ordination of two priests: Anthony Ferguson for the Diocese of Richmond, and Julio Reyes for the Diocese of Zacatecoluca, El Salvador.

The ordinations had been postponed from an earlier date due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Due to ongoing state restrictions limiting church gatherings to 50% of building capacity, the Mass was attended by 230 people, including 44 priests, according to The Catholic Virginian.

During the Mass, the cathedral displayed the relics of St. Vincent de Paul, St. John Neumann, and St. Katharine Drexel. It also displayed a replica of the apostolic brief, a formal papal letter founding the Diocese of Richmond.

In his homily, Knestout reflected on the various hardships the Catholic community in Virginia has faced over the past 200 years, including shortages of priests, insufficient resources, racism and bigotry, and epidemics such as Yellow Fever in 1820 and the Spanish Flu in 1919.

These challenges are similar to those facing people today, he continued, and Catholics in the diocese now can take heart in the faithfulness of God.

“In good times or bad, God has never abandoned us,” the bishop said. “Moved by this conviction, Catholics respond to the needs around us by making sacrifices for the sake of the Church, for the poor and for the common good by seeking ways to alleviate the pain of others.”

The bishop encouraged those present, especially the newly ordained ministers, to focus not on themselves but on evangelization and service to those who are vulnerable.

“As we grapple with the [coronavirus] pandemic and political and cultural turmoil, we are strengthened to serve others and give witness to our faith,” he said.

As Christians, Knestout said, we are called “to seek our center not in any idea, any ideology, any movement, any activity, any club, any association, any tribe, any nation – not to find our center there but to find and hold our center in Christ.”

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