Bishop Bonnici and Bishop Espaillat Ordained at Joyous Cathedral Mass

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Auxiliary Bishop John Bonnici and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Espaillat were ordained bishops at a Mass for the Ordination of Bishops at St. Patrick’s Cathedral March 1.

“Move over New Orleans, New York, not New Orleans, is the place to be as we, with gusto, celebrate God’s goodness in giving us two new bishops, John Bonnici and Joseph Espaillat,” said Cardinal Dolan, who served as principal ordaining bishop and celebrant, in opening his homily with a reference to Mardi Gras, the day before the beginning of the season of Lent on Ash Wednesday.

“Joy is abundant as we welcome them and pray with them and for them,” the cardinal said. “This joy is enhanced by the presence of their dear families, who we congratulate as well, thanking you dear families for sharing with the family of the Church a son, brother, grandson, nephew and cousin. Thank you and congratulations, dear families.”

Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus John J. O’Hara and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Gerald T. Walsh were principal co-ordaining bishops. 

Concelebrants were the many archbishops, bishops and priests in attendance including Cardinal Joseph Tobin, C.Ss.R, Archbishop of Newark, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, as well as fellow New York Auxiliary Bishops Peter J. Byrne, Gerardo J. Colacicco and Edmund J. Whalen; and New York Auxiliary Bishops Emeritus Dominick J. Lagonegro and Josu Iriondo.

In his homily, Cardinal Dolan acknowledged the presence of Archbishop Borys Gudziak and Bishop Paul Chomnycky of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

“We’re realistic in that our joy is dented a bit by the situation in Ukraine, and in a very special way Archbishop Borys Gudziak and Bishop Paul Chomnycky, both brave Ukrainian Catholic bishops here in the United States, we want to let you know of our love, our supplication and our unity at this moment of trial for yours and our dear Ukraine,” said Cardinal Dolan in drawing a 45-second standing ovation.

The cardinal used the closing moments of his homily to refer to the Gospel of John and spoke of friendship and unity that has no boundaries of time and space.

“I call you my friends, Jesus whispers to you Bishop-elect for a few more seconds Bonnici, Bishop-elect Espaillat as you will now remind the Church that we’re all called to friendship with Jesus,” he said. “No wonder this Mardi Gras is especially one of joy for us all.”

The homily followed the presentation of Bishops-elect Bonnici and Espaillat to Cardinal Dolan and the reading of the apostolic letters from Pope Francis by Archbishop Pierre, calling the Bishops-elect to episcopal ministry. 

The homily was followed by the Promise of the Elect in which the Bishops-elect declare their resolve to uphold the faith and to discharge their duties with fidelity, and the Litany of Supplication where the Bishops-elect lay face down in the sanctuary as names of saints were sung in prayer.

In the Laying on of Hands and the Prayers of Ordination, Cardinal Dolan placed his hands on the Bishops-elect without speaking and was followed by the bishops all doing the same to signify the unity of the Apostolic College.

Cardinal Dolan anointed the heads of Bishop Bonnici and Bishop Espaillat, presented each with a Book of the Gospels, placed a ring on the right hand of the newly ordained bishops and presented them with a miter and crosier.

“Receive the Gospel, and preach the word of God with all patience and sound teaching,” said Cardinal Dolan in presenting the Book of the Gospels.

After the closing prayer, the newly ordained bishops walked through the aisles of St. Patrick’s to offer blessings to all before delivering their first remarks as bishops. They thanked their family, friends, brother bishops and priests, and God.

“I come in front of you today truly humbled and joy filled,” Bishop Bonnici said. “First I wish to express gratitude to Almighty God for allowing me the privilege of the call he offered to serve God’s people.”

Bishop Espaillat said, “We could not be here without Almighty God and I'm so indebted to him for his love because God truly is a Father.”

Bishop Espaillat, who chose to use “He knows what He is about” as his episcopal motto, closed his speech by speaking directly to Cardinal Dolan, brother bishops and priests, and the people of the archdiocese.

“Your Eminence, sincerely from the bottom of my heart, I continue to look forward to learning from you,” he said. “My brother bishops and priests, I look forward to accompanying you and to being accompanied by you. My faithful of the Archdiocese of New York, I look forward to walking alongside you, and my faithful people of the Bronx, whom I will serve as the epsicopal vicar, as they say in the hood, ‘It’s a new day, let’s get it.’”

Bishop Bonnici requested prayers for Bishop Espaillat and himself after discussing his episcopal motto of “To Jesus Through Mary.” These words were written to him by Mother Teresa, now St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whom he met as a seminarian in Rome.

“It wasn’t simply to Jesus through Mary,” he said. “It was to Jesus through Mary along with your brother priests, along with your bishops, along with your family and the people of God because throughout the past 30 years I have been honored to serve so many of you as your priest, as your pastor and by listening to your stories, by allowing me the opportunity to learn about your lives, I discovered and continue to discover new ways to make my way to Jesus through Mary. 

“I’m grateful to each and every one of you, my brothers, my bishops and you, the people of God.”

Pope Francis appointed Bishop Bonicci and Bishop Espaillat as auxiliary bishops for the archdiocese Jan. 25, with the announcement coming from Archbishop Pierre. Cardinal Dolan announced the appointments at a Mass that morning at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. 

Bishop Bonicci, ordained in 1991, has been pastor of SS. John and Paul and St. Augustine parishes in Larchmont since last July and served as pastor of St. Columba in Chester, 2008-2021, and St. Philip Neri in the Bronx, 2002-2008.

Bishop Espaillat, ordained in 2003, has served as pastor of St. Anthony of Padua parish in the Bronx since 2015 and was pastor of St. Peter’s, Yonkers, 2009-2012.

Hector Serrano and Demaris Vazquez are both parishioners of Holy Cross in the Bronx and returned to St. Patrick’s for the first time in many years.

“I’m very thankful to be inside here,” said Ms. Vazquez, 60. “This is my first time here in so many years and it was very beautiful and touching. I’m still very touched by it. You could feel that the Holy Spirit was in here.”

Serrano said the tickets they received from the parish were a gift from God and believes Bishop Bonnici and Bishop Espaillat will serve the people of the archdiocese very well.

“Hopefully under the guidance of the Lord, they’re going to do very well,” he said.

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