A bishop for Vermont, a pope for the world
By KEVIN O'CONNOR Herald Staff | April 20,2005
STAFAN HARD / RUTLAND HERALD
New Vermont Catholic Bishop Salvatore Matano, wearing a red cap, waves to Gov. James Douglas (far left) and other guests as he enters St. Joseph Co-Cathedral for his ordination Tuesday in Burlington.
BURLINGTON — As white smoke welcomed a new pope at the Vatican, the Rev. Salvatore Matano was ordained Tuesday as the next Catholic bishop of Vermont.
St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington swelled with 1,000 guests that included bishops from a dozen states, Gov. James Douglas and Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, and faithful from each of Vermont's 130 Catholic parishes.
"This is a historic day," current Bishop Kenneth Angell told the crowd, speaking of both new Pope Benedict XVI and Matano, 58, who will serve as co-adjutor of the statewide Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington until Angell's retirement this summer.
As Matano entered the cathedral, whispered news of a new pope — "It's awesome," 17-year-old Heather Campbell of Colchester said — gave way to a standing ovation for the next bishop of Vermont's 149,000 Catholics.
"On this day, I pledge to His Holiness my complete and total loyalty," Matano said of the new pope.
Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the Vatican's official representative to the United States, led the three-hour ordination with Angell and Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley.
They, in turn, were escorted into the cathedral — the state's largest — by a procession of seven archbishops, 22 bishops and nine auxiliary bishops from as far away as Minnesota and Missouri, as well as most of Vermont's 150 practicing and retired Catholic priests.
The crowd followed its applause for Matano — almost hidden in the procession because of his 5-foot-4-inch height — with an equal tribute to Angell, who stopped to recognize the governor in a front-row pew.
"It's an important day," Douglas told a reporter. "A new bishop is being ordained to administer to a quarter of our state's population."
The lieutenant governor, for his part, said Matano already had contacted his office seeking information about Vermont.
"I'm a former altar boy," Dubie said. "Maybe they knew I'd respond."
The rite of ordination, taking place in the middle of a traditional Mass, began with all the bishops in attendance taking turns laying their hands on Matano's head.
Archbishop Montalvo followed by placing the Book of the Gospels and sacred oils on Matano's head before presenting him the tome, a ceremonial ring, headdress and staff and a symbolic "kiss of peace."
Matano then sparked the loudest clapping and cheers when he took Angell's hand in his own and lifted them into the air as if political candidates celebrating a victory.
"We know industry is downsizing, but …" the shorter bishop said beside his 6-foot-2-inch colleague.
Matano offered several more jokes — the Italian offered to spell his last name with an "e-a-u" to appease the state's French Canadians — before urging Vermont Catholics to "attend Mass faithfully every single week" and support peace, needy people and the concept of life from conception to death.
Matano will head a diocese that is deciding how to consolidate its 130 parishes before clergy numbers drop by half — to an estimated 55 priests — in the next decade. In his remarks, the new bishop called for more support for current clergy and men interested in becoming priests.
"We can only pray that renewed appreciation for the religious life will blossom," he said. "If I have challenges, then you all have challenges. The success of a parish depends on the support of its members."
A rented organ, hoisted into the choir loft Monday to replace an ailing one from the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, closed the ceremony by singing out alongside a 47-voice chorus and brass quartet.
Matano will be only the ninth Vermont Catholic bishop since the diocese's founding in 1853.
The state's first, Louis de Goesbriand, celebrated Mass with a gold-plated chalice given to him by Pope Pius IX. The diocese used that cup to ordain each of its seven succeeding leaders, only to discover it stolen just after Easter. On Tuesday, the church made do with a chalice of the state's second bishop, John Michaud.
(Matano embraced ties to the first bishop by carrying his ceremonial staff.)
In a more contemporary vein, most of the 1,000 guests rode shuttle buses to and from parking lots at the Wyndham Burlington hotel, which hosted a public reception after the ordination.
Guests included members of the Vermont Ecumenical Council, which represents the state's five largest religions — the 149,000-member Catholic diocese, the 19,000-member United Methodist Church, the 18,000-member United Church of Christ, the 8,700-member Episcopal Church and the 8,350-member American Baptist — and the smaller Evangelical Lutheran, Greek Orthodox, Presbyterian and Quaker faiths.
"We're just delighted to welcome him as a colleague and share in the joy of the people of the diocese," said Vermont Episcopal Bishop Thomas Ely.
The crowd also included Matano's family — his sister, aunt, nieces and cousins — and friends and fellow clergy from his home state of Rhode Island.
Born Sept. 15, 1946, in Providence, Matano was ordained a priest in 1971 at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. He has worked in Rhode Island and, most recently, in Vatican offices in Washington, D.C.
Matano will work alongside Angell in the temporary post of coadjutor until the current bishop submits his resignation Aug. 3 — his 75th birthday — as required by church law.
In those months, the Vermont diocese is expected to announce a parish consolidation plan to deal with a clergy shortage.
Matano's ordination Tuesday allows him to take over as bishop without further ceremony.
Contact Kevin O'Connor at email@example.com.