Ordination a family affair

By Michelle Martin
Catholic New World
February 19, 2006

[See also the archdiocesan press release.]

Newly ordained Bishop George Rassas returned to Ss. Faith, Hope and Charity, his grade school and childhood parish, to say Mass Feb. 3 at 10:30 a.m. This Mass, which was held for the grade school students, was Bishop Rassas’ first Mass as a bishop. In addition to attending Ss. Faith, Hope and Charity, Bishop Rassas also has relatives who currently attend the school. Catholic New World/ Sandy Bertog.
When the Archdiocese of Chicago welcomed its newest bishop Feb. 2, it was truly a celebration of a favorite son.

Cardinal George ordained Bishop George Rassas, 63, with his parents, Frances and George J. Rassas Sr. in the front pew at Holy Name Cathedral, and dozens of other family members in attendance.

The rest of the cathedral was filled with well-wishers who knew Bishop Rassas from his nearly 38 years of ministry in the archdiocese, including 14 years as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Lake Forest, and 15 years working in family ministry at the archdiocese’s pastoral center while assisting in other parishes.

For the past year, Bishop Rassas has served as vicar general, a post in which he is expected to continue for the immediate future.

But Bishop Rassas’ history in the archdiocese goes back further than his priesthood. A native of Baltimore, Bishop Rassas moved to Winnetka with his family at age 3, and his family has belonged to Ss. Faith, Hope and Charity Parish ever since. He and his five younger brothers and sisters went to school there; Bishop Rassas went on to Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary, Niles College and Mundelein Seminary, from which he was ordained in 1968.

In his comments at the end of the ordination Mass, Bishop Rassas recalled the words of St. Augustine, saying “For you, I am a bishop. But with you, I am a Christian” and St. Ambrose, from whom he took his motto; “Hold fast the rudder of faith.”

The two-hour liturgy on the Feast of the Presentation included the rite of ordination after the Gospel. Presbyteral Council Chairman Father John Collins, in the name of the Catholic community, asked for Rassas to be ordained to the Office of Bishop. Auxiliary Bishop John R. Manz then read the Apostolic Mandate of Pope Benedict XVI.

After examining the new bishop regarding his readiness for ordination, and after the new bishop promised to be faithful, Cardinal George silently placed his hands on Bishop Rassas’ head. The ancient gesture expresses the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and is the heart of the ordination rite. The other bishops present subsequently imposed their hands on the new bishop.

After the “laying on of hands,” Cardinal George and the attending bishops offered the solemn prayer of consecration. During the prayer, the Book of Gospels was held over the new bishop’s head symbolizing the power of the Word of God over all. The scriptures are to be the foundation of the bishop’s teaching office.

As the new bishop’s head was anointed with chrism, he was given objects characteristic of his ministry: the Book of Gospels as a symbol of preaching and teaching; the bishop’s ring as a symbol of his espousal to the Church; and a miter with a crosier reflecting the role of bishop as one who gathers and shepherds the people of God.

Co-consecrators with Cardinal George were Bishop Gerald Kicanas of the Diocese of Tuscon, who was a year ahead of Bishop Rassas in the seminary and formerly served the archdiocese as an auxiliary bishop, and Auxiliary Bishop Jose Antonio Eguren Anselmi, S.C.V., of Lima, Peru, a friend of Bishop Rassas.

Bishop Rassas, who generally prefers to work in the background, joked at the end of the ceremony that God must have a sense of humor to make him the focus of all the attention.

“If you ever want to feel unworthy, I invite you to imagine standing in my place today,” he said.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.