Catholic Sentinel photo by Gerry Lewin
Mary Jo Tully and the archbishop pose after Freedom Mass.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Gerry Lewin
Mary Jo Tully and the archbishop pose after Freedom Mass.
‘Respectful presence’
“I distinctly remember meeting Archbishop Vlazny at the breakfast table in Rome in 1989 (he was Bishop Vlazny then). He made it easy to be in his company. His ready friendliness and early-morning cheerfulness stuck in my mind. Eight years later in a noisy Roman restaurant I was on the edge of Archbishop’s conversation with the person across the table from me. To add my two cents, I said, ‘Archbishop.’
“He turned completely around, faced me directly, set both hands on his lap, and gave me his undivided attention. I had nothing of importance to say, but he made me feel I was worth listening to. That moment has stayed with me, too. More than once I have used it to illustrate how deeply we can be touched by the simple gift of respectful presence. This was by no means the last time Archbishop Vlazny touched me with his.
“Of the many gifts Archbishop Vlazny has given his people, these are not the least  — his perpetual good cheer and the way he gently conveys it to the person before him. These are qualities which are hard to forget. They invite imitation.”
 — Baker Bishop Liam Cary, former priest of the Archdiocese of Portland

‘Hope and joy strongly rooted in faith’
“St. Peter’s epistle tells us to ‘Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for  your hope.’ (1 Peter 3:15). In glad times and sad times, Archbishop Vlazny has done that for all of us. Hope and joy strongly rooted in faith are what we see in him every day. Through these years, we have learned that Archbishop’s laughter was not the sound of someone who does not know the gravity of situation but the echo of a hope that rests in the message of Jesus Christ. He has spoken often about discipleship but he waves that banner without words better than anyone I know. The transparent faith and hope that we seek at the Eucharistic celebration are characteristics we see in him every day.
— Mary Jo Tully, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Portland

‘May his spirit remain among us’
“I think we are all most grateful for his upbeat spirit. When his family forwarded to the Catholic Sentinel some pictures of ‘young John,’ the one that impressed me the most was one showing him play accordion. I have always liked music, and whether or not it was Lawrence Welk, I have especially liked accordion music. Most of that music was upbeat. When I saw that photo, I said to myself, ‘I think he will do well,’ and he has. There have been some gloomy days, but Archbishop Vlazny has not let them get him down. A few years ago I had the good fortune to attend a meeting at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago, the school attended by Archbishop Vlazny. The school is in the Chicago suburb of Mundelein, named for Cardinal George Mundelein, third archbishop of Chicago. It is a wonderful campus, not far from the town of Waukegan, Ill., the birthplace of comedian Jack Benny. I like to think that the spirit of Jack Benny is over the whole area, and that the young John G. Vlazny absorbed a good measure of it before ecclesiastical winds wafted him away to Winona and then to Portland. We are most happy he came, and we are reluctant to see him go. May his spirit remain among us.”   
— Msgr. Arthur Dernbach, senior priest of the archdiocese and longtime educator

‘I count it a privilege’
“The ministry and presence of Archbishop John Vlazny as the Archbishop of Portland have been a great blessing not only to the archdiocese but to Catholic Church here in the Northwest. His very pastoral ministry style, his sense of Church, his humor, and his stability and strength in times of considerable challenges in the archdiocese have always been impressive and inspirational to me. On a personal note, he has also been a great friend. I count it a privilege to have served with him as my metropolitan while I was Apostolic Administrator in the Diocese of Baker. In addition, his strong spirituality was a solid foundation for his service as archbishop.  His commitment to fraternity with the bishops of the Northwest has been impressive as well. As he enters retirement, I pray God’s blessings upon him for a well-deserved rest and much peace.”
— Bishop William S. Skylstad, Bishop Emeritus of Spokane

‘High decibel laughter’
“Archbishop John Vlazny’s life and ministry have been marked by selflessness and compassion, humility and joy. In good times and in bad, he has helped his priests and people keep the eyes of their hearts fixed on the Morning Star that never sets.  He is an extraordinary shepherd, brother, and friend, whose presence and care will continue to enrich the Church for years to come. The people of the Diocese of Helena wish him abundant blessings, good health and high decibel laughter for years to come!”
— Helena Bishop George Leo Thomas

‘Courage, humility, compassion’
“At our first meeting, the archbishop wanted us to correlate information and come up with three pastoral priorities for the archdiocese to focus on for the next three years. I questioned the archbishop if this wasn’t too ambitious for a large group of people who had never worked together before. He simply said to trust that the Holy Spirit would inspire us. At the meeting, the Holy Spirit did inspire us and we unanimously came up with the three pastoral priorities that still guide the work of our archdiocese nine years later — faith formation, youth and young adult ministry, and multicultural ministry.
“Shortly after I was elected to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council nine years ago, the sex abuse scandal broke and the archdiocese ultimately had to declare bankruptcy in order to preserve our ability to continue our evangelizing mission. Throughout these very difficult days of laying off staff, dealing with lawyers and angry parishioners, and trying to reach out to the victims, the archbishop remained positive and helped heal all us with his love and compassion. I have never met a man who had exhibited as much courage, humility, compassion and love in the face of adversity as this man. He was God’s special gift to all of us in our hour of need, and his calm and loving leadership helped us to go through and emerge from this dark chapter stronger than ever.
“It has been the privilege of my life to have served him and to have been able to support and advise his ministry these last nine years. Throughout the many storms we have gone through he has been the good shepherd who has kept all of us focused on our communion with each other and our evangelizing mission to the world.”
— Clint Bentz, chairman of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and recipient of a papal medal for service to the church
‘His heart is too big’
“When I received the phone call from the Apostolic Nuncio’s Office in Washington, DC in December of 1998 that the Holy Father (Pope John Paul II) wished to appoint me as Bishop of the Diocese of Idaho, I was overcome with joy and happiness not only to be going to the Diocese of Boise but also that I would be a part of the Province of Oregon under the leadership of Archbishop John Vlazny. Having been a bishop for nine years, I already knew Archbishop Vlazny as a man of considerable leadership skills, a man of great faith, a man of great joy, one whose laughter could be recognized in any gathering and people would remark, “Archbishop Vlazny is here somewhere in this room!”  Of course this added to my joy of coming to Idaho and I was delighted when Archbishop Vlazny agreed to be the main celebrant of my installation in Boise as its Seventh Bishop.
“Thirteen years now have gone by since my installation in March, 1999. These years have given me an opportunity to see in Archbishop Vlazny many more qualities and instill in me even more the benefit of working with this great man of faith and vision.  He has been an inspiration to me and to all of us who are part of the Province of Oregon and the Northwest, Region XII. Archbishop Vlazny has loved with a pastor’s heart the priests and people of the Archdiocese of Portland. His presence among you has been a great witness of the person of Jesus Christ. Like Christ he has suffered with you and he has rejoiced with you.  
“Archbishop Vlazny is now coming to a time when our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, will ask him to retire from his administrative duties and retire. I cannot imagine Archbishop Vlazny retiring from his priestly role in your hearts. His heart is too big.  He will remain among you and with you, praying for you and for your continued growth in the Church of Portland. May God grant Archbishop Vlazny many more years of joy as priest and Archbishop, of fullness of life and continued blessings."
— Boise Bishop Michael Driscoll

'Care and concern'
"Your delightful laugh, Archbishop Vlazny, has been contagious and familiar. Your outgoing personality has touched the hearts of every age. Your God-given gifts have accompanied you over the thousands of miles travailed in the Archdiocese of Portland. Through these years of ministry to the people of the Northwest, your care and concern has been consistently witnessed. It has brought comfort to those in need, fatherly support and a strong leadership for our Church.
"Our prayers and reparation support will continue as you begin a new chapter in life. We wish for you God’s benevolent blessing and many years of health, peace and joy.
"Thank you for your support to our Diocesan Religious Community, the Sisters of Reparation of the Sacred Wounds of Jesus."
— Mother Mary of the Angels, S.R.
'My faith has grown deeper'
“Throughout Archbishop Vlazny’s tenure he reveled in the diversity of his flock.  His encouragement for the various Catholic ethnic communities to celebrate their faith while maintaining their culture and heritage did so much to bring those groups out of their shell and into the bosom of the Archdiocese of Portland.  The Our Lady of La Vang Parish feels grateful  to have been guided spiritually and cared for lovingly by the Archbishop.  We pray that God will continue to bless him with good health and happiness in the days to come.
“On a personal front, I feel very blessed to have had the chance to serve on the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council as an appointed member.  I witnessed firsthand Archbishop Vlazny’s abiding faith, keen intelligence, unending kindness and, most important of all, exuberant joie de vivre in the face of tough challenges.  My faith has grown deeper just by listening to him and learning from him.”
— To-Ha Doan

'Beloved archbishop'
“It has been a great pleasure having Archbishop John Vlazny with us for these many and trying years. The Hispanic community feels blessed for having had a true father in our archbishop. I was privileged to serve at many Masses with him, but there was something special about the celebration on Cinco de Mayo. I could feel the strong connection between the Hispanic community and their bishop. At these events I could hear and feel the love, support and guidance from our main priest of this archdiocese.  We had the health care mandate that he asked us to monitor and be aware of on the homily of last Cinco de Mayo. This period of hard work and suffering in our Hispanic community is lightened by the support of our beloved archbishop.”
— Deacon Jesús Espinoza
'Caring and happy attitude'
“Archbishop Vlazny will be missed for his caring and happy attitude that he gave out to the people. One thing that stood out for me was his sincerity and his gentle voice.  St. Patrick Church in Independence was honored to have Archbishop Vlazny celebrate the 100th parish anniversary in the year 2010. He was entertained with a guitar group from 4-H which consisted of 45 local youth. It will always be a memorable experience for the youth because they felt his respect and attentiveness when he listened and showed his appreciation for their music. Our eternal gratitude goes to Archbishop Vlazny for supporting the Neocatechumenal Communities at our parish and other parishes around Oregon.  We thank him for the love of God and for the church. He will never be forgotten.”
— Elena Pena of St. Patrick Parish, Independence

'A shepherd after the heart of Christ'
“As one who has served this archdiocese as a priest for seven of the 11 archbishops, and now as bishop for the last five archbishops, I think I have a unique appreciation for our successors of the Apostles, guiding and leading the Church during very difficult times.
“This Archdiocese has truly been blessed over it’s 165-year history with good, holy and devoted archbishops, and Archbishop Vlazny has had the awesome task of following in the footsteps of his nine predecessors, including the last two, who now as cardinals, will soon be voting for the next pope.
“The motto of this year’s Archbishop’s Appeal is “Teach, Bless and Serve,” words that could well summarize our archbishop’s ministry. He has translated these words into action as he has placed emphasis on discipleship, evangelization and stewardship. He has involved all in the Church’s mission and recently quoted the Vatican II document on the Apostolate of the Laity: “...the laity likewise share in the priestly, prophetic and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own share in the mission” of the Church.
“Archbishop Vlazny has truly been a shepherd after the heart of Christ, not only to the priests and Religious of this historic archdiocese, but to young and old alike, to the various ethnic and cultural groups, and to the far-flung parishes and vicariates.
“Retirement for an archbishop is the beginning of a new dimension of his service in the Church. Our baptismal call to holiness, our confirmation commitment to service, and our call to ordained ministry do not stop with retirement, and I do not foresee that there will be much letup in the whirlwind of priestly and episcopal ministry of Archbishop Vlazny.
“We pray that God will bless our newly retired archbishop with many more healthy and happy years as he continues to teach, serve and bless our lives by his presence among us in his much deserved retirement. Ad multos et felices annos!”
— Auxiliary Bishop Kenneth Steiner

'Going to miss him dearly'
“God’s path is perfect, and we are on that path. Although at times we don’t understand, as time passes we begin to understand; including when an era comes to an end and we look back, everything makes sense and it is then that we value most what was lived.  
“I still remember Archbishop Vlazny’s installation Mass; he began singing the Spanish refrain from the hymn of Our Lady of Guadalupe, “Being Guadalupano, being Guadalupano, is essential,” and he ended his homily the same way. Then I could see what was coming to our archdiocese in terms of care and service to the Hispanic community. Archbishop Vlazny is a man with a profound pastoral sense; he is a shepherd who makes himself close to his people; a teacher who has taught us much though his own life, his attitude, his strength, his good nature, his optimism, his sense of humor, and his warmth as a person. I believe that the Hispanic community is going to miss him dearly, especially for his ability to communicate in our language.
“Personally, I have learned a lot from him; I can safely say that in all the Eucharistic celebrations I have witnessed presided by Archbishop Vlazny, both in Spanish and English, I have learned something new about my faith, due to the wisdom with which he speaks and the ways, so subtle, that he encourages and motivates us to live our faith.  For me it has been an honor and a privilege to have walked with Archbishop Vlazny during this 16 year journey of service to God in the Church of Western Oregon. I am glad that he is staying with us in Oregon; we will have him close as he continues to walk with us under the guidance of our new pastor.”
— Raul Velazquez, director of Hispanic ministry for the Archdiocese of Portland