Thursday, December 1, 2011

Watching a Classmate Become a Bishop

I haven't seen Dave Kagan since 1967, when we graduated from Salvatorian Seminary in St. Nazianz, Wisconsin, and went our separate ways into different college-level seminaries.  Dave was a seminarian for the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois, and I was a seminarian for the Diocese of Peoria.  For those of you not in the know about such things, Rockford and Peoria have always competed for the title of the second largest city of Illinois.  Dave and I were members of a 27-student senior class, so we all knew each other quite well by the time we graduated.  Dave and the rest of the Rockford men went to Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa and the Peoria men were sent to Saint Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa.

Most Rev. David D. Kagan
I left the seminary after eight years, following graduation from St. Ambrose in 1971, and a few months later, found myself in the Navy.  Dave continued in the seminary, and was ordained a priest for the Rockford Diocese in 1975.  He became a canon lawyer and eventually served in a variety of pastoral and administrative posts until yesterday.  Yesterday, Monsignor David Kagan, Vicar General of Rockford, became Bishop David Kagan and was installed as the seventh bishop of Bismarck, North Dakota.  Here's where you can find the video of the whole event, complete with Native American drums, the new papal nuncio to the United States, and a Cathedral full of the People of God.

It was quite a moment, watching a man whom I had known as a fellow teenager, now in the process of becoming a bishop and taking on the pastoral responsibilities of a diocesan church.  What came through loud and clear is just how important it is for all of us to pray for all of our diocesan churches and their bishops.  Each of those bishops has friends who "knew them when" and I hope that each of those bishops will continue to permit themselves to stay connected to those people who knew them "before the purple."  During my days at the USCCB, more than a few bishops shared that it's often very, very difficult for a bishop to receive information he needs to have, while there are many, many people who are willing to tell him what they think he wants to hear.  Then again, there are some bishops (fortunately, very, very few) who think that they already know everything they need to know!  Still it seems important to me for bishops to retain significant connections with family and friends who will still love them for who they are as human beings (and not simply because of the office they now hold) and who will continue to be honest with them.

So, my old friend, ad multos annos on your ordination and installation as bishop!  May God continue to bless you abundantly in your family, friends and new collaborators in the vineyard.  I'm sure I speak for all of the surviving members of the Salvatorian Seminary Class of 1967 when I say that we're all proud of you and will pray ardently for you and the Church of Bismarck.

Your old classmate,
Deacon Bill


  1. Deacon Bill, you served too, just in a different way, in the Navy (soft spot in my heart, my father, USNA 50....and you now serve our diocese and parish, and I'm happy you do! Congrats to the new Bishop of Bismarck too!

  2. Daniel Jenky, the present bishop of Peoria, was a seminary classmate of mine. If I had been asked to place a bet back then, I would have bet on Jenky as the classmate most likely to one day wear the miter. I'm curious whether you had a similar impression of the new bishop.