April 24, 2009

Two archdiocesan priests witness the installation of Archbishop Dolan

By Sean Gallagher

On April 15, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan stood outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York as some 800 priests processed by him at the start of the Mass during which he would be installed as the 10th archbishop in the 200-year history of the New York Archdiocese and assume, arguably, the most prominent position of leadership of the Church in the United States.

If he knew a priest passing by, he called out his name or shared some short message with him.

Eventually, Msgr. Mark Svarczkopf walked by. The pastor of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood, he was a friend of Archbishop Dolan when both were seminarians together at the Pontifical North American College in Rome in the mid-1970s. Mgsr. Svarczkopf also served at the seminary as an administrator from 2000-2002 when then- Msgr. Dolan was its rector.

When Archbishop Dolan saw his old friend, he said, “Mark, I prayed your rosary this morning.”

He was referring to a rosary that Msgr. Svarczkopf had given him in 2002 when then-Msgr. Dolan had been chosen to become an auxiliary bishop in St. Louis.

Msgr. Svarczkopf had received the rosary from Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara when he was on his deathbed in 1992.

Archbishop O’Meara had chosen then-St. Louis seminarian Tim Dolan to assist him when Pope Paul VI ordained him a bishop in 1972. At the time, he promised to ordain Dolan a priest, a promise that he fulfilled in 1976.

Bishop O’Meara was serving as an auxiliary bishop in the St. Louis archdiocese when he ordained then-Father Dolan as a priest of that local Church.

Before Archbishop O’Meara had the rosary, it had belonged to Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, who served for 15 years as an auxiliary bishop in New York. The two archbishops collaborated together closely in their ministry in the American branch of the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith.

“It was pretty neat to know that [Archbishop Dolan] still uses it every day,” Msgr. Svarczkopf said. “I’m sure that rosary had a lot of hours already in St. Patrick’s Cathedral because that’s where Fulton Sheen would have spent a lot of time.”

Processing along with Msgr. Svarczkopf was Father Jonathan Meyer, administrator of St. Anne Parish and St. Joseph Parish, both in Jennings County. Father Meyer had been a seminarian at the North American College when Archbishop Dolan was its rector.

The Vespers service in the cathedral the night before and the installation Mass on April 15 were moving liturgies for Father Meyer.

“There were many times when I started weeping,” Father Meyer said. “Because I know him as a father figure, I know how genuine he is. I know how gentle he can be. At the same time, I know how strong he is in his faith and in his preaching and in his no-nonsense attitude.

“And my heart was just filled with joy that he was being made the father of such a pivotal diocese in the United States.”

As joyous as the occasion was for both priests, it almost didn’t happen. Msgr. Svarczkopf’s car broke down on the Pennsylvanian Turnpike on their way to New York. After securing a rental car, the two arrived at St. Patrick’s Cathedral just in time for the start of the Vespers service on April 14.

“I literally ran in my cassock, carrying my surplice and my stole, about four city blocks,” Father Meyer said. “I ran in and out of people. It was raining. I talked to cops, trying to get in through the barricades, showing them my ticket.”

Once there, both priests rejoiced in where Pope Benedict XVI had brought Archbishop Dolan, their friend and mentor.

“He will tackle the big issues,” Msgr. Svarczkopf said. “And he will do it with a spirit that will bring people together rather than dividing people because he will be a good trumpet of the truth.

“And the truth is something that the Church is always seeking, and the truth—once people of good will see it—will bring them together.” †

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