TUCSON, Arizona — Retired Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson expressed in a Jan. 18 message thanks to all who prayed and helped before, during and after his open-heart surgery.

“Please know my deepest gratitude for your prayers and best wishes,” Kicanas said in his message, which was posted on the diocese’s website. “I am deeply aware of how I need others and how their love and concern make such a difference. I am more conscious than ever of my vulnerability and my dependence on the Lord.”

Chairman of the board of the National Catholic Educational Association, Kicanas said, “Since arriving in the Diocese of Tucson in 2001, I have been aware of how blest I have been to serve here. Now I know that even more vividly in the response of so many in our diocese whose prayers, care and overwhelming support I am feeling deeply.”

Kicanas, 80, also gave a thumbs-up to the staff at Banner Hospital in Tucson.

“The experience at Banner Hospital, where the surgery happened, has made me more aware than ever of the dedication and tireless service rendered by our health care workers, the surgeons, nurses, pastoral care workers and staff. They are amazing for their self-sacrificing lives,” he said.

“Open heart surgery is quite an assault on the body, but I am grateful to God for the success of the operation and that I can now be at home. Recovery is slow but consistent thanks to so many who have stepped up to help. It is very humbling to be spoiled so much.”

He also thanked Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger, his successor as Tucson’s bishop.

“Bishop Edward has been so available and supportive, for which I am thankful,” Kicanas said. “I hope in time I can return to serving in our diocese and assisting Bishop Edward in the challenging task of serving as our bishop.”

In his own message Jan. 6, shortly after Kicanas’s surgery, Weisenburger noted that “Bishop Kicanas came through his heart surgery quite well. His surgeon was very pleased and Bishop Kicanas is stable. We have been blessed today! Of course, he has a serious recovery ahead of him and I know that he will appreciate your continued prayers.”

Kicanas said, “All of us face unexpected challenges in our lives, setbacks that we neither desire nor want. But such experiences have a profound effect on our faith and relationships. That has certainly been my experience undergoing this surgery.”

Upon his recovery, Kicanas will still have a full plate, even in retirement. In addition to his NCEA role, he also is a board member of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, and a member of the Committee on Catholic Education of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is a former vice president and secretary of the USCCB.

An at-home recovery period of six weeks is expected for Kicanas.