FORMAL REMARKS - NEWS CONFERENCE
St. John the Baptist Cathedral
Bishop-elect Gregory John Hartmayer, OFM Conv.
Good morning everyone. Thank you for coming this morning. Pax et Bonum!
As you can imagine, since I received word that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI appointed me the 14th Bishop of the Diocese of Savannah, my head and my world have been spinning in opposite directions. I am extremely grateful to Pope Benedict for his confidence in me as the bishop of Savannah.
My first thought that I want to share with you is that I am continually impressed with God's sense of humor and His incredible ability to surprise.
I sincerely want to take this moment to thank God for yet another blessing in my life. I feel very fortunate to stand here before you in front of this magnificent and historic Cathedral under the patronage of St. John the Baptist.
I am most grateful to my bishop, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who is the Metropolitan Archbishop of Atlanta. He is an extraordinary person. He is a compassionate bishop and a loving shepherd to the priests and the people of the Atlanta archdiocese. I feel so fortunate to have served under him. He has been a genuine mentor and a trusting friend.
Last week I spent two days with Bishop Kevin Boland. They were work days, but with both of us having an Irish background, we interspersed our work with many stories. Before we knew it, it was time for another cup of tea. What a delightful man! The priests and the people of Savannah love him. I can tell you without question, he loves you too. I have very, very large shoes to fill. Bishop Boland has been a priest in the Diocese of Savannah for more than 50 years. Thank you, Bishop Boland, for your generous ministry to the priests, deacons and the people of this Diocese. Savannah will always be your home.
I have been a Conventual Franciscan Friar for 42 years. I am the second Franciscan bishop of Savannah. I bring with me a spirituality of simplicity and joy. St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order, had a unique love for all God's creatures because he saw the reflection and the imprint of God on each and every one of them. For almost 800 years, the Franciscans have been preaching about the love and mercy of God. This friar and son of St. Francis will continue that mission of evangelization here as bishop of the Diocese of Savannah.
I am sure that most of you are aware that in September of 1597 five Spanish Franciscan Friars were martyred in the resort islands of the coast of Georgia. They were martyred because they taught the Native Peoples that a Catholic Man could not divorce and they could have only one wife. These gentle sons of St. Francis suffered and died for love of the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony, and so became heroes of the Catholic faith. Four centuries later, the cause for canonization of the five Franciscan martyrs has been submitted to Rome by the Diocese of Savannah. Maybe I could help move their cause along!
As the bishop of Savannah, I look forward to sharing a life of Faith with all of you. Together, we will walk the talk on our Faith journey. We will break open the Word together and we will share the Eucharist together. We will welcome those new to the Catholic Church, we will feel God's infinite mercy together, we will celebrate the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and together we will pray for and anoint the sick, bury the dead and remember all those who have gone before us. Together, we will bless the brides and grooms and we will witness God's Grace at work in those ordained as Deacons and Priests. And we will pray that more will answer God invitation to serve in the ministries of the Church.
I cannot wait for the privilege of sharing those moments with the people of the Diocese of Savannah.
We must never forget the contribution to civil and human rights made by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a native son of the State of Georgia. We must continue to carry the torch of freedom and protect the rights of all people regardless of their color or creed. We must continue to welcome the stranger into our churches and into our communities and safeguard the dignity of every human person.
I look forward to meeting and working together with the priests, consecrated religious and all the laity of the parishes in the 90 counties of South Georgia. I think I am going to need a helicopter instead of a car to get to all those counties!
Finally, I ask that all who are ill or homebound and those who cannot be with us during these days of joyful celebration, to please pray for me from their home or from their bed. I will remember the sick at every Mass I celebrate and I ask for your prayers as I begin my life as the bishop of Savannah; this wonderful gift from God.
May the Lord grant you His peace.