Local News Archive
Print Issue: October 21, 1999
Archbishop Donoghue Ordains Charleston's New Bishop
BY KATHI STEARNS
CHARLESTON, S.C.--More than 3,000 Catholics from across the United States were Rejoicing in Hope as Archbishop John F. Donoghue ordained Bishop-Elect Robert J. Baker as the 12th bishop of Charleston at the Charleston Area Convention Center Sept. 29.
Archbishop Donoghue was joined by Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., and Bishop John J. Snyder of St. Augustine, Fla., the diocese where Bishop Baker has served since his ordination to the priesthood in 1970.
Archbishop Donoghue was the principal consecrator for the Mass of Ordination because he serves as the metropolitan archbishop for the province, which consists of the Dioceses of Charleston, Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C., Savannah and Atlanta. Provinces are a territorial grouping of two or more dioceses and have a collegial relationship. Each bishop maintains supreme authority over his own diocese or archdiocese.
During the Mass of Ordination, Archbishop Donoghue told the congregation that the Holy Spirit called Bishop Baker by name.
God calls another name today -- another name to add to the list -- yes, the Apostles, but also the list of every good bishop, every good shepherd who has ever lived to serve the Church faithfully, Archbishop Donoghue said. And the name called today is Robert, chosen of the Spirit, raised by the same hand who raised up St. Peter, and made this day, the twelfth bishop of Charleston, the faithful daughter of Rome, and the Church of Jesus Christ, and the home of many who are proud on this joyful day to say, with their new Bishop, I am Catholic.
The new bishop chose Rejoicing in Hope as his episcopal motto.
The archbishop told the congregation of the need for cooperation between Charlestons new shepherd and the members of his flock.
Accept his teaching, accept his guidance, and all will be well, Archbishop Donoghue said. For of such obedience, and by such vigilance the safety of the Church is preserved -- especially now, when it is our turn, our day to be vigilant, to be the watchers and the holy ones.
Archbishop Donoghue told those in attendance to stay close to the truth that is heard and heeded by all who are truly of the Church.
And so today, drawn together in all its representative splendor -- bishops, priests, deacons and people -- the Holy Catholic Church, and especially the Church known by the name of this beautiful cathedral city, the city of Charleston, a jewel at the edge of the great Atlantic Ocean -- this Church promises again, refreshed by the coming among us of a new shepherd and father to the family -- this Church promises to be true to the Faith, promises to be closer to the Sacraments, promises to keep more fully the words of the Gospel, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, the words of love and life, which come from the Father in Heaven, and which will lead us back to His perfect and eternal glory.
The archbishop then shared his final words with his soon to be brother bishop.
We do not exercise this office in the Church because we have earned it, Archbishop Donoghue said. We may have been assiduous in our preparations, and for the discipline that God has planted in us, we, nor our people, can ever be sufficiently grateful. But being true to Christ as a bishop requires one thing more than anything else, one thing that cannot be prepared, but must spring forth from our mind and heart because we know there is no other answer -- trust in the power of Christ to guide us. That is why, dear brother, I enjoin you to remain vigilant, for your own sake, for the sake of your people -- to guard your own spiritual health, by adhering to the life of prayer and devotion that has to be the first mark of a bishops life.
The rite of ordination began with the presentation of Bishop-Elect Baker. Archbishop Montalvo read the official document from Pope John Paul II calling Bishop-Elect Baker to ordination as the bishop of Charleston. The consent of the people was expressed by a thunderous applause that shook the Charleston Area Convention Center. After the homily, Archbishop Donoghue then questioned Bishop-Elect Baker on his resolve to uphold the faith and to discharge his duties faithfully. Bishop-Elect Baker then prostrated himself on the floor as the congregation recited the Litany of the Saints.
Archbishops Donoghue and Montalvo and Bishop Snyder, the consecrating bishops, led the other prelates in the laying on of hands. In a symbolic gesture, the Book of the Gospels was held over the bishops head as a sign of the power of the word of God. He was then entrusted with the Book of the Gospels. Archbishop Donoghue in the prayer of consecration called the Holy Spirit down upon Bishop Baker and anointed his head, marking the completion of the elevation to the episcopacy.
The newly ordained bishop received the three symbols of his office, the miter, the ring and the crosier, from Archbishop Donoghue. The symbols were blessed by Bishop David B. Thompson, the now officially retired bishop of Charleston, at a Vespers Service held the previous night at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
With his ring placed upon his finger, Bishop Baker donned his miter, picked up his crosier and walked among the crowd with a smile that reached from ear to ear giving his blessing to the members of his new flock.
Bishop Baker then addressed those in attendance. After thanking his family, friends and the pastoral staff of the Diocese of Charleston, he offered his blessing and prayers to the sick, homebound, poor, needy, disabled, lonely and imprisoned who were unable to attend the ordination.
Bishop Baker then asked Bishop Thompson, who announced his retirement on his 75th birthday May 29, 1998, to stand and be recognized for his years of service. Bishop Thompson had served as bishop of Charleston since Feb. 22, 1990. Bishop Baker, then pastor of Christ the King Church in Jacksonville, Fla., was appointed bishop of Charleston July 13, 1999.
Bishop Baker then spoke briefly about his motto as bishop, taken from Romans 12:12.
Rejoice in the hope that is Jesus Christ, Bishop Baker told the congregation. If you have hope, you will be a joyful person.
In addition to Archbishop Donoghue, Dom Bernard Johnson, OCSO, the abbot of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Conyers, and Father Anthony Curran, pastor of St. Lawrence Church, Lawrenceville, and a long-time friend of the new bishop, attended the ordination from the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Bishop Baker, 55, was born in Willard, Ohio, to Rosemary and the late Gerald S. Baker. He is one of five children. He was ordained to the priesthood March 21, 1970 at St. Wendelin Church, his home parish in Ohio, by Bishop Paul Tanner of St. Augustine, Fla.
From 1972-77 Bishop Baker studied at the Gregorian University, Rome, where he completed his licentiate and doctorate in dogmatic theology. In 1975 he served as the acting spiritual director of the College Department at Pontifical College Josephinum.
From 1976-84 he served the Diocese of St. Augustine in various capacities and taught at the St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach, Fla. On Nov. 1, 1984 he was appointed pastor of the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Augustine. On Aug. 1, 1997 he was appointed pastor of Christ the King Parish in Jacksonville. He served in this capacity until July when he was appointed a bishop.
While in Florida, Bishop Baker helped to establish St. Francis Soup Kitchen and St. Francis House of Shelter in Gainesville, which are still in operation. He also helped establish a second St. Francis House in St. Augustine and the St. Vincent de Paul Farm for the Homeless and Addicted. He was a member of the Florida Catholic Conference Committee on Capital Punishment and was co-editor of Welcome the Stranger: Contemporary Ministry in the Church of Florida and Historic Catholic Sites of St. Augustine. He has also contributed articles to the Encyclopedia of Religion in the South.
RITE OF ORDINATION -- Archbishop John
F. Donoghue, center, lays hands upon the head of Bishop-Elect Robert J. Baker
of Charleston in the ancient gesture of ordination. Archbishop Donoghue is
joined by Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, left, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., and
Bishop John J. Snyder, right, of St. Augustine, Fla., the diocese where Bishop
Baker has served since his ordination to the priesthood in 1970.
Bishop Robert J. Baker