Diocese of Orlando’s 50th Anniversary Mass – June 18, 2018

There is a refrain we often sing, “we remember, we celebrate, we believe.”

On this day, 50 years ago, Archbishop Luigi Raimondo, Apostolic Delegate, announced the establishment of the new Diocese of Orlando. Bishop William Borders was appointed the first bishop. Several of our priests here today were present on that day in 1968. To those and many others who have served in the Diocese of Orlando and St. Augustine, we are eternally grateful to you and those who have gone to their eternal reward.

We remember. 50 years ago, there was no Disney World, Universal or Sea World; but there was Cypress Gardens. The space-age was born and developed here in Florida. NASA was preparing to launch for the frontiers of space. Following July 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Each of us have our memories of 1968. For me personally, I remember the assassination of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. Those were sad and troubling times with the war in Vietnam.  The loss of so many young lives. Today, we pray for the repose of the soul of Colonel Peter J. Stewart, a soldier who served in Vietnam, whose remains were returned to his family after all these years and his Funeral Mass is being celebrated at one of our parishes, St. Matthew in Winter Haven.

We celebrate. During this Jubilee year, you – the faithful of the Diocese of Orlando – as you re-commit yourselves to the Eucharist as the source and summit of our Christian life.  Our mission is to become the light of Christ. Our vision is to live out our lives teaching and living the light of Christ by enkindling deeper faith in the lives of the people, forming people in Christ to become leaders of faith, and instilling in the hearts of all that we are one body in Christ, through love, through faith, through trust and God’s mercy. Then and only then can we harmonize by praying, working and living together in Christ. Then and only then do we become one body in Christ.

The prophet Ezekiel reminds us that the restoration of Israel came through the lives of good shepherds. The Diocese of Orlando has been blessed with many good shepherds who have built up communities of faith. The great number of priests, sisters and people over the past 50 years have laid the foundation with Jesus as the capstone for the Orlando Diocese. This foundation was laid with personal sacrifice and a labor of love by many people, some are still with us and others whom we remember today in prayer and gratitude.

We believe. In the Prologue of John’s Gospel we hear, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The beginning of the Diocese of Orlando was with the Word of God. The Word of God was with our brothers and sisters as they built up buildings, parishes, churches, schools, clinics, Catholic Charities, Foundations. They were building up the body of Christ in Word and in deed. Jesus said to Peter in the Gospel, “do you love me? Not once, but three times. To which Peter responded, “Yes Lord, I love you.” The Church of Orlando today is different than the Church of Orlando in 1968. It has grown and multiplied in great numbers simply because people continue to reply Yes! to Jesus’ question, “Do you love me?” The Church, of which the Diocese of Orlando is a part, has been built on the love of Christ.  Pope Francis said it best, “Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches.”

During this year of Jubilee and always, may we, through the gift of the Eucharist, bring forth the love of God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength.