The love of Christ impels him | Bishop Mark Rivituso hopes to model the Good Shepherd in his episcopacy

Teak Phillips | TeakPhillips@archstl.org

Calling upon the model of Jesus the Good Shepherd for guidance, Bishop Mark S. Rivituso told the faithful of St. Louis he looks forward to serving the Church as the Archdiocese of St. Louis' newest auxiliary bishop.

"May I always conform my heart to the humble heart of the Good Shepherd, so that with you we can build up the Church in holiness and promote a greater peace and goodness for all we serve in our communities," he told those who came to his episcopal ordination May 2 at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.

The rain and overcast skies that lasted nearly a week — resulting in flooding through much of the St. Louis area — had departed. The crisp, clear blue sky was a welcome reprieve for the nearly 1,000 people who came to the ordination, which lasted two and a half hours.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson was the principal consecrator, with Auxiliary Bishop emeritus Robert J. Hermann and Bishop Edward M. Rice of Springfield-Cape Girardeau as co-consecrators. Also in attendance were Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, Archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia and former archbishop of St. Louis; and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, along with numerous other bishops and priests from the archdiocese and across the country.

Archbishop Pierre presented the apostolic mandate, a hand-scripted scroll and the official document from Pope Francis that calls the bishop to ordination. The document also noted his honorary appointment as titular bishop of Turuzi, a city in the Roman province Proconsularis, now northern Tunisia.

During the Mass, Bishop Rivituso was presented with the Book of Gospels as a symbol of his commission to evangelize. He also was invested with a ring — a gift from his mother Rosemary, featuring an image of the Good Shepherd — symbolizing his fidelity to Christ and that he is wedded to the Church; a miter — given by his friends Msgrs. Kevin Callahan and Patrick Hambrough and Father William Thess — which signifies the bishop's role as a herald of truth; and a pastoral staff — featuring images of the Blessed Mother and Good Shepherd — as a sign of his ministry as a spiritual shepherd.

In silence, Archbishop Carlson lay his hands on Bishop Rivituso, invoking the power of the Holy Spirit and anointing him with sacred chrism. One by one, the co-consecrators and other bishops processed forward in the sanctuary to impose hands, signifying that the ordination is a collegial act.

In his homily, Archbishop Carlson said the new bishop must be "courageous" like St. Athanasius, whose feast day was the same day of the ordination. The doctor of the Church was a champion for the faith at Council of Nicea, the first ecumenical council of the Christian Church, and from where the Nicene Creed originated.

"It will be your duty not only to walk with the people you serve — to accompany them — but also to walk before them showing them the way to the Father, like Christ the Good Shepherd," Archbishop Carlson said.

Above all, he called on Bishop Rivituso to be "a man of prayer — like Christ you must live in constant inner contact with the Father, with your soul open wide to the grace of the Spirit, bringing to the Lord Jesus your own needs, and the needs of the people you serve, as well as your joy and the joys of others — assisting Christ's light to shine in the world," Archbishop Carlson said.

Among the honored guests in attendance were Bishop Rivituso's 87-year-old mother, Rosemary, and his six siblings: Gus, Christina, Cindy, Carolyn, Lisa and Marilyn. Rosemary Rivituso teared up several times during the Mass. "It was very spiritual," she said. "I'm very proud. I hope that he does the work, and spiritually, I hope it makes him grow, even if he's already number one to me."

On the morning of his ordination, Bishop Rivituso started the day with a Holy Hour and 6:30 a.m. Mass at Annunciation Parish in Webster Groves, where he resides. A regular group of daily Massgoers at the parish joined him for Mass, and the group had a small celebration afterward.

"He always comes out and talks to us every morning after Mass," said parishioner Mariann Wedel. "We call him BE (for bishop-elect). He's so joyful, prayerful, reverent and humble. But he's also down-to-earth."

Not long after the news of his appointment, a few of them took him out to breakfast at Steak 'n' Shake, presenting him with his first "miter" — a paper placemat made into a makeshift bishop's hat. "We even gave him a crayon to decorate it," joked parishioner Sharon Hodapp.

Among those waiting in line for the bishop's blessing and photos after Mass was Mary Baumer of Holy Trinity Parish in St. Ann, who's known Bishop Rivituso since he was an acolyte at the former St. Gregory Parish. She still gets together with him on occasion for lunch and said he will make a great bishop.

"We're so proud of him and my hope is that he will flourish and become the bishop we expect him to be," said Baumer.

Above all, Bishop Rivituso said he is looking forward to continuing to be present to the faithful and help them connect with their faith in his new role. He added that he hopes he will inspire others to share that love for the faith with others, too. "We must show that we care and bring Jesus into others' lives by taking that opportunity to be present to people." 

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