Catholic Sentinel photos by Bob Kerns
Archbishop Alexander Sample gives the homily at a packed sports dome April 2.
Catholic Sentinel photos by Bob Kerns
Archbishop Alexander Sample gives the homily at a packed sports dome April 2.
The new archbishop of Portland on Tuesday called for a "new Pentecost" that will bring Jesus boldly into the consciousness of the new millennium.  

"We need a new Pentecost, a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit to set our hearts on fire for proclaiming Jesus Christ," Archbishop Alexander Sample told more than 3,000 on hand to take part in his installation as spiritual leader for western Oregon Catholics.  

Archbishop Sample, 52, urged Catholics to "stop the hand wringing" about their beliefs.

"We must move beyond the days of doubting and questioning our Catholic faith," he said. "How will we ever convince the world of Jesus Christ if we ourselves are not convinced?"  

A microcosm of the church filled the University of Portland sports dome to welcome Archbishop Sample. The crowd was made up of guests from other faiths and Catholic laity, cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons and Religious. The liturgy lasted three hours and included English, Latin, Spanish, Vietnamese and Tagalog.

The new archbishop has formed his ministry around the New Evangelization, which seeks to reach Catholics who have stopped practicing their faith by telling the Christian story anew.

In an example of evangelizing, the new archbishop redirected attention from himself to Jesus. "We must keep our eyes always fixed on Jesus," he told the crowd. "It is not about me. It is always about him and we must never lose sight of that."

Citing a scripture reading from Acts, the archbishop called St. Peter "a bold and fearless proclaimer." He told the crowd this is what is needed in the church today. "With hearts filled with joy, love and mercy, we must proclaim the good news," he said.

The archbishop cited Mary Magdalene as a disciple who spread word of the risen Jesus. But in the story of the resurrection from John's gospel, she does not recognize Jesus right away. Scholars have surmised that perhaps she was distracted and preoccupied until the risen Lord called her name. That scene is meaningful for Catholics today, the archbishop told worshipers.
"Are we so distracted, anxious, fearful and preoccupied with the business of daily living that we too have failed to look intently at Jesus, to recognize him, to contemplate his face?" he asked.

Before setting out on the work of the New Evangelization, Archbishop Sample explained, our faith must be strengthened.

"This will require holiness," he said. "We need saints for our own day."

He warned of an "almost unprecedented and radical secularism that seeks to push God out of the picture." It's a "serious problem," he said, when society can no longer conduct a dialogue on something so fundamental as the dignity of the human person.
Archbishop Sample addressed sexual abuse by clergy, which he says has hurt victims and also impeded the evangelizing mission of the church.  

"Some of your pastors have seriously let you down," he said, pledging to help victim-survivors of abuse and to protect children. "We can never express too much sorrow and regret for the harm that's been done."

The church, he said, must carry out its mission "with humility but with a firm purpose."

The archbishop encouraged Catholics to share love with "the poor, the lonely, the forgotten," citing Pope Francis as a good example. He exhorted his flock to protect life "from the womb until natural death" and called for defense of marriage and religious liberty. He pledged to work "hand in hand" with ecumenical and interfaith groups "in promoting the true common good and the dignity of every human person."

To end his homily, he asked worshipers to pray for him.

Space ran out at the arena, forcing officials to open an additional set of bleachers.  

Archbishop Sample, the youngest archbishop in the U.S., was appointed to the Portland post by Pope Benedict XVI on Jan. 29. He succeeds Archbishop John Vlazny, who is retiring at age 76.

The new archbishop thanked Archbishop Vlazny for his "very kind and gracious welcome" and lauded his "faithful and beautiful ministry." That prompted a standing ovation from the grateful crowd.

As the liturgy began, Archbishop Vlazny had welcomed worshipers by making them laugh.

"Well, you came," the retiring archbishop said. "You never know when you might throw a party and no one shows up. More important than that is that he came," he said, pointing to Archbishop Sample, who beamed.

Archbishop Carlo Vigano, papal nuncio to the United States, addressed the new Portland prelate.

"Thank you for answering so generously this call to service," Archbishop Vigano said, explaining that bishops have a role to speak truth to the church and the wider society.  

"An archbishop is a prophet, especially when this culture leaves little or no room for transcendence," Archbishop Vigano said, adding that the church is confident that Archbishop Sample will be "a servant and witness of hope."  

An official letter from Pope Benedict to Archbishop Sample, one of the pope's last appointments, bestowed hope and blessings and mentioned the beautiful rose gardens of Portland.

Mary Jo Tully, chancellor of the archdiocese, presented the apostolic mandate to the college of consultors, a group of priest advisors. Then Archbishop Sample was escorted to the old archbishop's chair, or cathedra, where he sat. The crowd broke into a standing ovation.

As the choir sang "Ubi Caritas" — where charity and love are, God is there — representatives of the clergy, Religious and laity from western Oregon stepped forward. They greeted the new archbishop and were joined by delegates from other Christian communities and other faiths, including Jews and Muslims side by side.  
"This is very exciting to be here to witness this," said Mary Harvey, a leader from the Ladies of St. Peter Claver, an association of African American Catholic women. "This is overwhelming," said Harvey, wearing a white fez and looking out over the crowd.

In total, there were about 50 archbishops, bishops and abbots and 200 priests from the Archdiocese of Portland and other dioceses, including a contingent from Marquette.

Though thousands came, more could watch live via streaming webcast.

Jason Kidd, youth minister at Our Lady of the Lake Parish, was busy working with Christina Polowicz and Jane Price, who were blogging and posting images for on behalf of the archdiocese.

"It's good to be a part of this event, and to help people who couldn't attend witness it," Polowicz said.

The installation took place on the eighth anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II, the pontiff whose ways so appealed to a young Alex Sample that he gave seminary a try in the mid-1980s.

Music for the installation, led by the cathedral choir,  included some Latin and Spanish, but was mostly in English. The new archbishop chanted the eucharistic prayer in clear voice and spoke Spanish at the end of Mass. It was a delegation of Latino Catholics who had gone to Portland International Airport on Easter Sunday to pick up the archbishop and his mother.

Archbishop Sample Monday night gathered in prayer for his first time with his new flock during an hour-long vespers service at St. Mary Cathedral.

“I couldn't be happier," the new spiritual leader told the congregation that included  Cardinal William Levada and dozens of bishops, and scores of priests, Religious, seminarians, deacons and lay people in the church.

He was joined by family and friends, including some cousins he has not seen for two decades.

His mother flew to Portland on Sunday with her son after being discharged from the hospital where she was being treated the past week for an asthma attack.

“We gather tonight to continue to rejoice with the risen Lord," he told the group before commenting on the readings of the day.

His talk lasted for 15 minutes and he never consulted a text or notes once.

Afterwards, at a wine and cheese reception in the Cathedral School gym, he greeted dozens of people lined up to offer their best wishes.

To celebrate his arrival with the Catholic communities of his 30,000 square-mile diocese, Archbishop Sample will celebrate regional Masses on the North Coast, South Coast, in the Southern Oregon Vicariate, in Salem, Eugene and in the Portland suburbs. Dates, times and places will be announced.

Programs for the evening prayer and installation the next day included prominent photos of Pope Francis, smiling and reaching to the crowd from the balcony of St. Peter's Square.