Joy, hope fill cathedral at installation of Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha

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By Dave Jolivet, Anchor Editor

FALL RIVER, Mass. — The early fall New England weather provided the perfect backdrop for a day filled with joy, hope and anticipation as the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Diocese of Fall River welcomed the installation of the eighth bishop of the 110-year-old diocese, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V.

Bishop da Cunha was named the Bishop of Fall River by Pope Francis on July 3 to succeed the retiring Bishop George W. Coleman, who shepherded the diocese for the past 11 years. Bishop da Cunha, a priest of the Society of Divine Vocations, was at the time Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J. He came to Newark from his home in Riachão do Jacuípe, Bahia, Brazil, in 1978 when still a vocationary student, at the request of the Vocationists’ superior general.

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, OFM, Cap., of the Archdiocese of Boston and the Metropolitan Archbishop, Cardinal Emeritus Theodore McCarrick of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., more than 20 bishops, scores of priests and hundreds of lay people, including three of Bishop da Cunha’s sisters who traveled from Brazil, and many faithful from the Archdiocese of Newark, filled the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in Fall River on September 24 for Bishop da Cunha’s formal installation.

As the seemingly endless line of priests, bishops and cardinals processed into the cathedral, members of the Neocatechumenal Way played guitar and sang Spanish hymns across the street to welcome the new shepherd of Fall River.

Bishop da Cunha was welcomed at the cathedral doors by Cardinal O’Malley. Following an introduction to the College of Consultors, the cathedral rector, Father John C. Ozug, presented Bishop da Cunha with a crucifix and holy water to bless himself and the capacity cathedral congregation.

Former Fall River Bishop Coleman welcomed his successor: “Over the years we and our families came here from many countries; from Europe, Africa, North America, South America, and Asia,” he began. “We speak in many tongues. We are one in the faith and the love of Jesus Christ, Who, through His Church, teaches us to live in peace with all people and to work for the development of a true civilization of love.

“From my personal experience, Bishop da Cunha, I can assure you of the generous prayers of the priests, the religious and laity of this wonderful diocese.

“Through the intercession of Mary, mother of the Incarnate Word, we pray that your ministry among us may lead us to a deeper faith in her Son and a more fervent charity for each other. Welcome to the Diocese of Fall River.”

Cardinal O’Malley evoked laughter from the new bishop and the congregation when he said, “Bishop da Cunha, 21 years ago I was sitting in that hot seat,” referring to the blistering hot day on which he was installed as Bishop of Fall River at the same cathedral in 1992.

“We are grateful to have Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States, here and grateful for his generous service to the Church in our country, where he makes Pope Francis’ love and solicitude present to us in so many different ways.

“I wish to express my admiration and gratitude to Bishop Coleman for his faithful, loving service to the people of the Diocese of Fall River.

“We are all excited to welcome Bishop da Cunha to this marvelous Diocese of Fall River. You will find here a fine presbyterate; wonderful, dedicated deacons, religious and laity, to say nothing of the great Portuguese food and beautiful beaches.”

Archbishop Viganò and Cardinal O’Malley escorted Bishop da Cunha to the cathedra, the cathedral chair, symbolizing the bishop’s apostolic authority. The cardinal handed Bishop da Cunha his crozier and the new bishop sat in the cathedra for the very first time, to extended applause.

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The newly-appointed bishop thanked all his brother priests for their attendance, as well as the religious and faithful in the congregation. “I want to thank Cardinal O’Malley for presiding at this installation ceremony,” he said. “I want to thank Archbishop Viganò for being here and representing our beloved Pope Francis among us. Your presence means so much to all of us. It shows our unity with the Successor of Peter.

“Today I give thanks to the Lord for the gift of the Diocese of Fall River, for the gift of its faithful people. I thank the Lord for entrusting to me the mission of leading His people on the journey of faith and the path to holiness.

“What a blessing for me to have my three predecessors here with us: Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin [retired Archbishop of Hartford, Conn.], Cardinal O’Malley, and Bishop Coleman. I want to acknowledge in a special way Bishop Coleman for his gracious welcome and kindness to me. We wish you well in this new stage of your life. Ad Multos Annos.”

Bishop da Cunha referred to the Liturgy’s first reading when the Lord said to Abraham, “Go forth from your land, your relatives, and from your father’s house to a land I will show you,” and Abraham did as the Lord directed.

“I heard those words 36 years ago on the Second Sunday of Lent, the day I left Brazil to come to the United States,” he continued. “I gained a new understanding of those words then. But today I heard them again in a newer context, a newer reality — but still one in which the Lord calls me — indeed, calls each of us — to embrace the mission He is entrusting to us.”

He also referred to the Gospel reading about Mary and Martha. “Even though Martha complained that Mary was not helping her, I think it safe to say that the two of them got along pretty well,” said Bishop da Cunha. “How about the Marthas and Marys in us and among us? Do we get along and live peacefully with each other?

“We have here such a rich diversity of gifts, of Spirituality, of devotions. Can we live in harmony despite our differences? Our cultural differences, our different styles of devotions and Spirituality, even our theological or ecclesial views should not divide us. On the contrary, they should be a reason to celebrate our diversity, which enriches us all as Church.

“I feel so grateful today that the Lord and Pope Francis gave me this beautiful gift: the opportunity to serve the Lord and His people here in the Diocese of Fall River. My brother priests and my brothers and sisters, I pledge to you today to use all the gifts God gave me; to use all the graces He will continue giving me, to serve you and to do it faithfully and joyfully. We shall walk together in faith and hope, sharing our faith with each other, praying for one another always trusting in the Lord’s words and the promise He made to us: ‘Sufficit Tibi Gracia Mea.’ ‘My grace is enough for you.’”

Following the Liturgy and the final blessing, the huge congregation again broke into extended applause as the new shepherd of the Diocese of Fall River left the cathedral.

Busloads of faithful then traveled from the cathedral to White’s of Westport for a welcoming reception for Bishop da Cunha; first by invited guests from each parish, and then by faithful from across the diocese who requested a ticket to meet and greet the new bishop. 

© 2017 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing  †  Fall River, Massachusetts