DALLAS — Seeking the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe and vowing to exhaust himself for Jesus Christ by working side-by-side with his new flock, Bishop Edward J. Burns was installed as the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Dallas at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe on February 9.
With three cardinals — including Bishop Burns’ predecessor, Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell — and dozens of bishops and priests from throughout the country in attendance, as well as his family, Burns was greeted by a jubilant crowd of well-wishers outside the cathedral during the procession.
Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio welcomed Burns to Texas, saying that he was coming to a vibrant and faithful area of the country and that his brother bishops would be holding him in prayer as he begins his new ministry.
Since 2009, Burns had been the bishop of the Diocese of Juneau, Alaska, a 37,600-square-mile expanse of territory in southeast Alaska, but one of the smallest dioceses in terms of parishes and Catholics. It has approximately 10 parishes and 10,000 Catholics out of a total population of 75,000. It has one Catholic school with approximately 40 students enrolled.
The nine-country Dallas Diocese, in contrast, is home to more than 70 parishes, 15,000 students in diocesan and private Catholic schools and 1.3 million Catholics. Several parishes eclipse the entire population of Catholics in the Diocese of Juneau.
After Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States, read the letter from Pope Francis that named Burns the new shepherd in Dallas, Burns took it around the altar to show Farrell, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington and Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, other bishops and priests.
He then walked down the steps of the altar to the sanctuary. He went over to his mother, Geraldine, before walking to an overflow area of the cathedral complex where 400 cheering faithful were watching via a closed-circuit feed.
The bishop said that Pierre had encouraged him to show the people of his diocese the document that was signed by the pope.
“There was a day when I would receive a note from my mother in order to show it to the teacher,” the bishop said in his homily. “Today, I have a note from the pope to show it to my mother.”
He also told Farrell, the seventh bishop of Dallas who is now the prefect of the dicastery for the laity, family and life at the Vatican — that he would build on his great work and leadership in the diocese. The Dallas Diocese recently completed a $125 million capital campaign, has consolidated four diocesan elementary schools into academies, and has seen the renovation of numerous parishes and schools.
Burns, 59, also talked about his first impression of Juneau and that he had many questions when he arrived. “Can you imagine how many questions I will have here?” Burns said.
In Juneau, he said, no roads connected his parishes and the only way to reach them was by boat, commercial flights or “float planes.” He said that in one parish, Mass began 20 minutes after he or another priest arrived via float plane and compared it to church bells ringing, signaling the start of Mass. And although there were fewer Catholics than in other dioceses, their spirit and love of Christ was fervent, he said.
In Dallas, he said he would commit himself to working with Catholics, other denominations and civic leaders.
“I pledge that by God’s grace I will do my best in shepherding this local church,” he said. “I will ask that we continue to invite people to gather with us in the celebration of word and sacraments. How do we invite them? Whether it’s by float plane, church bells, texting or tweeting, whether it is through the parish bulletin, we will invite them to be with us because Christ calls us to be one body, a community of believers.”
Burns, who was raised in the Pittsburgh area, was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Pittsburgh June 25, 1983. He is a former executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation in Washington, serving in the post from 1999 to 2008. Pope Benedict XVI named him a monsignor in 2006.
Burns returned to Pittsburgh in August 2008 as rector of St. Paul’s Seminary and director of the diocesan preordination formation department and office for vocations.
Pope Benedict named him bishop of Juneau on January 19, 2009. He was ordained a bishop March 3, 2009, at St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh and installed in Juneau April 2, 2009.
In Dallas, he told the faithful on February 9 that a new chapter has started in the diocese.
“It is my goal to be with you, to work with you side by side as we advance the mission of the church and the Gospel message,” he said. “I am humbled to be your shepherd. With you, I hope that we ask all the right questions, how we can better serve our brothers and sisters.
“Secondly, we will always stay close to our Holy Father, Pope Francis, the successor of St. Peter, and thirdly, we will exhaust ourselves for Jesus Christ,” he said. “To do all of this, we will strengthen our hearts, our minds, our very lives in the celebration of the word and shared in our nourishment with the Eucharist.
“What we will do is turn to the church, for the sacraments which sustain us as disciples and we will pray with confidence through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe that the Lord will bless our endeavors and give the success to the work of our hands.”