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Bishop Justice

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A message from the bishop-elect: “How good the good God is to allow us to work together'
December 17th, 2008
By Auxiliary Bishop William J. Justice

When Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the representative of the Holy Father in the United States, called me on April 2 of this year, his first words were, “How is the weather in San Francisco?” I had a suspicion that was not the real reason he was calling although it did raise my anxiety level wondering what his next statement might be. It was, “The Holy Father is calling you to be an Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco.”

My anxiety turned into shock, fear, humility, joy and surrender to the grace of God as I said, “I accept the Holy Father’s appointment.” Those emotions are still with me today although the reality of that phone call is slowly sinking into my consciousness as I prepare for my episcopal ordination on May 28 at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

As I am able to contemplate the fact that I will be alongside Bishop Ignatius Wang as an auxiliary bishop of San Francisco, I am aware of how excited I am at being a bishop in my almost native area. My parents, Ann and Bill Justice, moved to San Mateo in 1946 where my father began his 30-year career as a professor at the College of San Mateo. Luckily they brought me with them! I was only four years old. San Mateo is my hometown - where I went to school and received First Communion at St. Matthew Parish and confirmation at St. Gregory Parish. I graduated from Junipero Serra High School and entered the seminary in 1960.

I was ordained a priest in 1968. All my assignments have been in San Mateo County and San Francisco, though as a deacon I served for one month in Marin County at St. Isabella Parish. Until I became vicar for clergy for the Archdiocese in March, 2007, I had served as a pastor of three different parishes for a total of 22 years.

This local experience, this reality that this is my home, binds me so closely to all of us who make the cities, towns and rural areas of the Archdiocese our home. And I am privileged to have the opportunity to continue the priestly ministry that Lord Jesus has called me to, now as a bishop, here among you in the place we all call home.

And what gifts and challenges we have!

The immense diversity of our Archdiocese is one of the greatest examples of St. Paul’s declaration that in Jesus, “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, male and female, slave and free person. We are one in the Lord.” It is the joy and challenge of this family we call the Archdiocese to live what we are: One in the Lord. Together we are called to daily put into practice our unity in Christ.

The cry of our fellow residents of the counties of the Archdiocese for an end to violence and alienation is increasing. All around us it continues for the care of our youth and our seniors, for just and humane treatment of immigrants, for respect for life from beginning to end. It is calling us to listen and respond out of the mercy of the Gospel. How good the good God is to allow us to work together as we respond in the grace of the Lord to the needs of his people.

This appreciation for the gifts we have as Catholic Christians in the Archdiocese and seeing the challenges we face as part of those gifts echoes the theme and reality of the visit of our pope to our country last month, “Christ Our Hope.” The joy, hope and reconciliation he unleashed was tangible. The Lord is truly risen and he is among us, calling us, embracing us, and challenging us to live as his people. I am grateful to be a part of it with you.

People who have helped me to be able to say “Yes” to the Holy Father’s appointment are the wonderful parishioners who I have served, especially the parishes where I have been pastor: Saint Peter Church in San Francisco, All Souls Church in South San Francisco, and Mission Dolores Church in San Francisco. I also thank members of the Cursillo Movement, the Movimiento Familiar Cristiano, the Engaged Encounter and CYO for their faith-filled example. I was fortunate to be a chaplain at many of their activities in the years before I became a pastor. The members of the Permanent Diaconate also influenced me as I have watched their outstanding commitment to the Lord become concrete in their service to God’s family.

The wonderful people of the Hispanic Community have been an enormous gift to me over the past 40 years of priesthood. They still are helping me to deepen my trust in God and in being a person of heart. And they have helped me to speak Spanish!

Finally, my parents’ deep, Irish Bostonian Catholic faith showed me the love of a merciful God. Father James O’Malley taught me the joy and healing power of being a priest. The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at St. Gregory School allowed me to sense that a vocation is a joyful gift of God. And the six priests of my priest support group have for 29 years challenged and supported me in my growth as a priest.

So a new journey begins for us. I, as a member of this beautiful area for 62 years, now called to serve in a new way my fellow brothers and sisters, promise you my prayers, my presence and my love. Please remember me in your prayers and together under the leadership of Archbishop Niederauer, let us celebrate the gifts we have as an Archdiocese and serve the Lord as our patron St. Francis wishes: to be an instrument of God’s peace. God’s mercy endures forever! Christ is our hope.

Most Reverend William J. Justice

Auxiliary Bishop-elect of San Francisco

From May 23, 2008 Auxiliary Bishop Justice issue of Catholic San Francisco.



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