Cardinal DiNardo calls on Texas Episcopalians
Feb 18, 2008
Malcolm Gee of Texas City seemed just a little bit nervous at Moody Gardens on Friday night — and with good reason. He was at the head of a 150-yard long procession that included hundreds of Episcopal priests and deacons drawn from throughout the Diocese of Texas, along with one Roman Catholic cardinal, Daniel N. DiNardo.
(The Daily News, February 17, 2008) GALVESTON — As the diocesan council convened, Gee was leading this line of notables with an ancient banner from the first Episcopal congregation in the Diocese of Texas, Christ Church, Matagorda. Dressed in a traditional off-white cassock with rope belt, he supported a 7-feet tall staff that displayed the embroidered symbol of church history, which was handmade in 1838 for that initial and successful Episcopal mission effort to evangelize early Texans.
“I’m really kind of afraid of it,” said the tall teen, referring to the revered, rectangular, cloth. “I mean, if one little thing were to fall off it and — gosh.”
Located a long “Hail, Mary” pass beyond Gee, far down the hallway, was Cardinal DiNardo, who not only was not nervous, but also clearly was at home among friends. He worked the assembly of Anglicans, greeting many of the Episcopal leaders warmly by name. He moved quickly through the massed clergy with the fluid grace of an experienced public person.
Dressed in the unmistaken orange-red shoulder cape and cap of his office, his vestments seemed electric in contrast to the far more muted beige worn by most of the other clergy lined up in the outside hallway of Ballroom C.
Although his dress may have set him apart, he made it clear that he was there to encourage unity among Christians.
“It’s an honor to be here,” DiNardo said. “It’s the first time I’ve been at anything like this here in Texas. I appreciate the invitation of Bishop (Don) Wimberly. We pray that the Lord Jesus bless us all and keep us one — particularly in the middle of this Lenten season.”
Wimberly led the liturgical services, which included the Eucharist and a renewal of baptismal vows, that opened the council.
When asked about internal controversies in both faiths, the cardinal responded, “When you’re in your own church, sometimes you fight more than you do with outsiders — some of our own priests might say the same thing.”
This opening event was followed Saturday by a day of business and budget meetings. No controversy was in view this year, and all the clerics interviewed said no matter what fireworks may occur at the national level, they were looking for unity and not division as far as the Diocese of Texas was concerned.
The congregation of clerics received DiNardo’s speech with rapt attention. There was frequent laughter at his studied informality, his dynamic delivery and emphatic directness.
He began by displaying the bright green budget book, which the convention was considering during the council meetings.
“It is Lent; I must confess my sins,” the cardinal said in beginning his homily. “I first opened to the page with the bishop’s salary on it.”
The remark was met with loud applause and laughter.
“Bishop Don, not bad!” he said referring to the annual earnings listed for Episcopal bishops. “Then I looked at the diocesan assessment on local churches. Now you know that I’m a very good bishop.”
Speaking of Houston’s Bush Intercontinental airport, DiNardo noted that the Latin word for baggage is “impedimenta,” meaning something that needed to be left behind. He characterized the disciples’ hesitation to leave behind their preconceptions about Jesus, even referring to them as both “wimps” and “clueless.”
At one point, he gently struck the podium for emphasis. The motion was magnified by the sensitive sound system, which shook the loudspeakers and sent a small shudder rippling through the audience.
“When you come to Jesus, you get a job,” DiNardo said. “It may not be an official ministry, but you’ll be called and sent. The world wants to hear that Christians are sent, (are) credible and will do what we say.”
Michael Jackson of Galveston’s St. Vincent House watched from the front row, but it wasn’t the first time he’d seen a cardinal or experienced a service with a Catholic bishop. He explained that he had long ago found advantages in cross-denominational worship.
“It’s good to see people of all faiths come together,” Jackson said. “I’m from Washington, D.C., so when I wanted to go to Eucharist, I’d often go to a Roman Catholic church.”
Jackson noted that Catholic churches then offered services all day long.
“I could go at 5:30 and have my Sunday taken care of,” he said. “There was a Catholic cardinal at the church just up the street. So I could go play ball afterward; I’m a pragmatist.”
Jackson was not only matter-of-fact when it comes to interfaith worship; he’s also focused on meeting practical needs locally.
“St. Vincent’s House is our primary outreach to the poor in Galveston, and it is supported by both our local (Episcopal) churches and by the Diocese,” he said. One of the ministries in view this year will be children’s health.
“We’re on the task force for lead testing and we’re pushing for all kids in Galveston to get tested.”
Jackson isn’t the only one who has seen high-ranking Catholics at Episcopal meetings. The Rev. Joe Chambers, the associate rector at Holy Comforter Church in Spring, said that as early as the 1960s, a Catholic archbishop was addressing Episcopal conventions in Louisiana.
“To come and preach is a big thing, and I’m excited about the cardinal being here,” he said. “The Catholic archbishop in Louisiana participated with us as much as he was allowed back in the ’60s. I’ve been in five diocese and I’ve seen it all.”