Four new LA auxiliary bishops ordained, called to ‘urgent’ task of evangelization

6 mins read
On their knees, from left to right, new Auxiliary Bishops Albert M. Bahhuth, Matthew Elshoff, Brian Nunes and Slawomir S. Szkredka are blessed during their episcopal ordination Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles Sept. 26, 2023. Auxiliary Bishop Marc V. Trudeau of Los Angeles and Cardinal Robert W. McElroy of San Diego are pictured giving the blessings. (OSV News photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Los Angeles)

LOS ANGELES (OSV News) — The four auxiliary bishops ordained for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Sept. 26 were urged to take up the “urgent” task of evangelization, a mission now entrusted to them, said Archbishop José H. Gomez.

“Love is the true meaning of our religion. Spreading that love to the ends of the earth is the church’s mission,” LA’s archbishop said in his homily during a historic three-hour ordination Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. “Today, my dear bishops-elect, the Lord consecrates you to lead in that mission.”

The ceremony also marked a history-making moment in the pontificate of Pope Francis — who appointed them in July — as the first time the Argentine pontiff has appointed four auxiliary bishops at one time for any diocese.

The new auxiliaries are Bishop Albert M. Bahhuth, Bishop Matthew Elshoff, Bishop Brian Nunes and Bishop Slawomir S. Szkredka.

“Jesus loves us for who we are, and he meets us where we are. But he never leaves us there. He calls us to follow him, to put off our old life and become children of God, to be holy as he is holy,” Archbishop Gomez said.

“This is your mission now!” he continued. “This is the mission we all share in the church. And you must lead us. The task before us is urgent. Jesus does not want a single soul to be lost. So many today are like sheep without a shepherd, confused about life, searching for meaning, for happiness and love. How will they find Jesus, if we do not proclaim him?”

The Mass — attended by some 450 priests and 30 bishops — reflected the diversity of the bishops themselves, as the readings and songs were proclaimed in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Arabic. Bishop Bahhuth is from Lebanon, Bishop Szkredka is from Poland, while Bishop Nunes’ family immigrated from Hong Kong. Bishop Elshoff, the grandson of German and Hungarian immigrants, is a priest of the Capuchin Franciscan order.

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles delivers the homily during the ordination Mass for Auxiliary Bishops Albert M. Bahhuth, Matthew Elshoff, Brian Nunes and Slawomir S. Szkredka at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles Sept. 26, 2023. (OSV News photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Los Angeles)

Consecration of bishops

Cardinal-designate Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio in the U.S., was scheduled to attend the ordination ceremony, but Archbishop Gomez announced he would not be attending. The nuncio is set to be elevated to the rank of cardinal by Pope Francis along with 20 others at a consistory ceremony in the Vatican Sept. 30.

After the Gospel was proclaimed, the ordination ritual began, starting with documents about Bishops-designate Bahhuth, Elshoff, Nunes and Szkredka from the Apostolic See, read by Father Jim Anguiano. Once the documents were read, the four men held up the documents and paraded them around the altar for all to see before displaying them before Archbishop Gomez to be blessed.

Next, the bishops-designate stood side by side in front of the archbishop to recite the Promise of the Elect, with Archbishop Gomez relaying a series of questions, including:

“Do you resolve, for the sake of the Lord’s name, to reach out in kindness and mercy to the poor, to strangers, and to all those in need? Do you resolve, as a good shepherd, to seek out the sheep who stray and to gather them into the Lord’s fold?”

With all the questions, the new bishops answered in unison: “I do.”

Afterward, the four bishops-designate laid down face first around the altar, prostrating themselves as Archbishop Gomez invited everyone to kneel and pray for them while the litany of saints was sung. Toward the end of the litany, some of the saints from parishes where the four men have served — St. Finbar, St. Albert the Great and St. Bede the Venerable — also were invoked.

Next, Archbishop Gomez, the other bishops in attendance and the co-consecrators — Auxiliary Bishop Alex D. Aclan and retired Auxiliary Bishop Gerald E. Wilkerson, both of Los Angeles — laid their hands on the new bishops and offered the prayer of ordination. As the bishops-designate kneeled in front of the altar, a line of bishops and cardinals processed and laid their hands on them one at a time.

Finally, the archbishop anointed the head of each of the bishops-designate and as they kneeled presented each with a Book of the Gospels, and their bishop rings, staffs and miters featuring their pontifical insignias. Once they received these items one by one, the four newly ordained bishops joined the seating area of their fellow bishops and received an extended round of applause.

New bishops shares their experiences

Bishop Elshoff said the one moment that stood out for him during the Mass was when the archbishop laid his hands on him for the consecration.

“My thought was: My prayer was to give myself to you in every way shape and form,” he told Angelus, the archdiocese’s online news outlet. “I will do whatever you ask of me.”

Bishop Elshoff, who explained that his new dark brown crosier included a relic of Blessed Solanus Casey, a Capuchin from Detroit who died in 1957, added that he was still getting used to having a new title.

“I have to look at it as a term of endearment to really appreciate what the title means,” he said. “It’s still so unique for me to hear someone say it.”

After Communion, the newly ordained bishops walked up and down every inch of the cathedral’s aisles, giving out blessings to the thousands of well-wishers, who then erupted into additional rounds of raucous applause.

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, kneeling in front of the cathedra, or bishop’s chair, celebrates the ordination Mass for Auxiliary Bishops Albert M. Bahhuth, Matthew Elshoff, Brian Nunes and Slawomir S. Szkredka at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles Sept. 26, 2023. (OSV News photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Los Angeles)

Before the final blessing, newly ordained Auxiliary Bishop Szkredka gave short remarks, thanking Pope Francis, Archbishop Gomez, cardinals, bishops, and the hundreds of priests, deacons, seminarians, religious, family and friends who had supported them not just during the ordination, but throughout their lives.

“Finally, we thank all the members of the people of God gathered here, and we humbly ask that you continue to pray for us,” Bishop Szkredka said. “Pray that as we receive God’s gifts, we may be generous in sharing God’s gifts with all, especially with the poor and the needy.”

After the Mass while giving blessings to a long line of friends, family, and admirers, Bishop Szkredka admitted to being “tired, exhausted, but extremely happy that this moment has arrived.”

“To see so many people so filled with joy, that’s a gift that gives me joy,” said the 49-year-old native of Poland. He said he shed a few tears while prostrating on the floor of the cathedral with his fellow new auxiliary bishops during the litany of saints.

Following the ordination Mass, hundreds lined up in four lines at the cathedral’s outdoor plaza to receive first blessings from the newly ordained bishops.

Friends of the bishops

When the new bishops walked out into the plaza, a smattering of cheers broke out as the four — beaming as they walked with miter and staff to their place at the front of the lines — prepared to offer first blessings.

There were laughs, hugs, smiles and those wanting to take pictures with the bishops. Either way, the bishops offered their blessings.

The Escobar family was in line to get a blessing from Bishop Elshoff, who was recently their pastor at St. Lawrence of Brindisi.

Betzy Escobar was excited that Bishop Elshoff was going to officiate her wedding to Nicholas Bustos in a few weeks and hoped his blessing would give the couple “patience and happiness.”

“And some of his love,” Betzy added.

When Ingrid Escobar lost her mother in 2019, she said now-Bishop Elshoff was extraordinarily supportive.

“He’s open to share your pain with you,” Ingrid told Angelus, the archdiocese’s online news outlet. “That’s something that I love about him. The worst time of my life was when I missed my mom, we shared the same feelings. We cried together.”

Debey Dick was waiting in Bishop Bahhuth’s line because she wanted to thank him for saving her faith.

In 2003, she had been away from the Church, but decided to go to St. Finbar Church in Burbank one Sunday, where she heard an amazing sermon from then-Father Bahhuth, pastor there at the time. She kept going back week after week and the homilies kept speaking to her.

It led her to volunteer at the parish and to her amazement she was eventually asked to be a special minister of the Eucharist. She continues to be active at her parish.

He even helped when Dick’s husband died in 2006 and baptized her grandchild when he was near death.

“He’s just always been there for us. I cannot thank him enough. I owe Bishop Bahhuth so much,” she said.

Mike Cisneros and Pablo Kay are associate editor and editor-in-chief, respectively, of Angelus, the online news outlet of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Tom Hoffarth writes for Angelus.

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