Reflecting on three years as a shepherd
It’s hard to believe, but three years have already passed since I received a call early one Monday morning to inform me that I had been named a bishop. As it took a while to get used to being called “Fr. Reed” back in 1985 when I was ordained to the priesthood, so it took some time to get accustomed to people coming up to me and saying, “Hello, Bishop Reed” or “Your Excellency.” However, every so often, someone will call me Fr. Reed, and I find it both nostalgic and comforting.
You might be wondering: Am I further removed from the people now? I sure hope not, because one of my duties as an auxiliary bishop — that is, an assistant to the chief shepherd of our archdiocese, Cardinal Seán O’Malley — is to be a pastor of a parish, actually a collaborative of two parishes and a parochial school. I pray that I live up to that role, and I’m grateful every day for Fr. Jean Pierre Aubin, who serves as administrator of the collaborative and cares for the daily operations, as well as Fr. John Healy, who brings to the priesthood his unique history of a dual vocation as a widower, father, and grandfather.
Over these past three years, I’ve had a chance to reflect on the phenomenon of “vocation.” I now see three distinct vocations in my life so far: the one that came with my Baptism, which all of us share — the vocation to holiness; the call to the priesthood; and now the vocation of being part of the college of bishops. All of this is part of God’s mysterious plan.
This past June I was honored to take part in the 2019 Eucharistic Congress in Atlanta. This occasion allowed me to bring to bear my communication skills, but more importantly to stand in solidarity with some 30,000 of the baptized. On many occasions during that Corpus Christi weekend, I was deeply moved by the holiness and commitment of so many men and women, boys and girls, united, as we were, in our Catholic faith.
All of this is part of God’s mysterious plan.
Another thing I sometimes think about is the long tradition in which I find myself. The bishop who ordained me a bishop was himself ordained by a bishop, who was also ordained by a bishop, and so on, right back to one of the apostles, who was commissioned by Christ himself. There is an unbroken line of succession, and that is why the Catholic Church is an “apostolic” Church as we say in the Creed: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.
It is in this way that the faith is handed down and guarded. It is the bishop who is most responsible for the preservation of that faith, the doctrine, the teaching of Christ. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the bishop guards his flock from error in belief. It is primarily for this reason that we refer to the bishops of the Church as our shepherds. A good shepherd will not allow his flock to fall into error or be led astray by false teaching.
When I was ordained as a bishop in 2016, I was privileged to wear the pectoral cross of Ven. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. This was very meaningful to me because in addition to my other duties, I have been affiliated for some 14 years with the CatholicTV Network as well as having oversight for a weekly Catholic newspaper, a parish bulletin company, and a printing company. Since September 2017, I’ve served as editor-at-large of Catholic Digest.
Archbishop Sheen had a long career as a radio and television evangelist. I hope and pray each day that, like him, I can be a kind of shepherd of these various tools of communication, to help people who tune in to our programming or who use our products better understand what it is we believe and to be inspired to deepen their faith in Jesus, who is our only hope.
It is the bishop who is most responsible for the preservation of that faith, the doctrine, the teaching of Christ.