By David Tisdale
BILOXI – For those in the capacity crowd attending the installation of Bishop Louis F. Kihneman III as the new bishop of the Diocese of Biloxi, the general sentiment was he’s well worth the wait.
Bishop Kihneman, 65, former vicar general of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas, was appointed by Pope Francis to replace retired Bishop Roger P. Morin and was supposed to be ordained and installed in February. However, the ceremony was delayed while the new bishop recovered from surgery for diverticulitis.
Bishop Morin welcomed his successor near the start of Mass in the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral. He told Bishop Kihneman he hoped the memory of the installation, the prayers for his success from the people who attended the ceremony, and the celebration to follow would “be a source of support for you in the years ahead.”
Prior to his reading of the pope’s letter announcing the selection of Bishop Kihneman, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, called on the new church leader to be a “father, pastor and good shepherd, a brother who, in his faithful episcopal ministry, will continue to build up this portion of the Lord’s flock into a vibrant communion of charity.”
Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile, Alabama, who served as the second bishop of Biloxi after it was created from the Diocese of Jackson, offered Bishop Kihneman encouragement during his homily. He cited the liturgy’s reading from the first book of Kings in which God exhorts Elijah to help turn people’s hearts to God and gave the new bishop a similar charge.
“God sends you, my brother, Louis. In this age where, as in the time of Elijah, many have turned from God, he sends you to renew the faith of the people. Into an increasingly secular and disbelieving society, he sends you to shepherd his people as bishop of Biloxi,” the archbishop said.
“There will be joyful times as you serve as a bishop,” he said. “There will be grace-filled successes and uplifting moments. May you know many of these moments and may you savor them. But there will also be times when you, as did Elijah, may want to flee from your ministry and tell God this is too much. You, like the apostles in the Gospel of Luke just proclaimed, may want to stop fishing because of disappointing results.”
Archbishop Rodi continued, “In those times the message of God to you will be the same as the message to Elijah: ‘Go back!’ And the same as to the apostles in today’s Gospel: ‘Put out into deep water and lower your nets again for a catch.’ Renew the faith of your people.”
During the ordination ceremony, Archbishop Rodi asked Bishop Kihneman about his resolve to uphold the faith and discharge his duties as head of the diocese. The archbishop then invited the congregation to stand and pray for the new bishop as he began his ministry of serving the church in a new capacity.
Following the presentation of the Book of Gospels, ring, miter and crozier, both archbishops led Bishop Kihneman to the cathedra, marking his official installation as Biloxi’s fourth bishop.
Bishop Kihneman walked through the cathedral after Communion, greeting people in attendance and in a brief address to the congregation, he offered thanks for the support of his family, friends, and to God for getting him to Biloxi. He also expressed gratitude to the doctors and nurses who aided him in his recovery and to the children of the diocese who sent him get-well cards.
“It’s been quite a journey,” he said.
In thanking his late parents, he humorously remarked that his father was surely looking down and taking note of the timing for the installation.
“I express much love and honor to Pope Francis,” Bishop Kihneman said in thanking the pontiff for choosing him to lead the diocese. “This is a tremendous honor, but also breathtaking at the same time.
“I thank the people of the Diocese of Biloxi for praying for me, and I look forward to working with each of you.
“As I am called to be the bishop, the invitation for us is to take to heart the words of Jesus: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might and love your neighbor as yourself.’
“We take that as our theme,” Bishop Kihneman said. “We are in his image, we are the body of Christ. My brothers, and sisters, God loves you, I love you. As one of the little signs in our Corpus Christi paper said, ‘From Corpus Christi to Biloxi, with love.'”
(David Tisdale is a freelance writer for Gulf Pine Catholic, the newspaper for the Diocese of Biloxi.)
By David Tisdale