This year, 2021, is a very significant one for me. This year marks 50 years of priestly ordination, 24 years of service as a bishop, and retirement from full-time ministry. As you might imagine, these days have been times of prolonged reflection on my life as a Christian and as a priest. Allow me to share some of those reflections with you.
Why did God call me to serve him as a priest? I honestly never thought of myself as anyone of special — to say nothing of extraordinary — abilities. In spite of the fact that my elementary school teachers — all religious women — as well as the priests of my parish encouraged me to enter the seminary, it seemed clear to me that the priesthood was always meant for someone else, someone far more “qualified” than I. It wasn’t until my freshman year in college that I began to understand that God’s call is not based on the intelligence, the skills or even on the holiness of the one called. God called me to the priesthood because, from all eternity, that was what he wanted me to do. I had only to say yes. And I thank him every day for the grace that moved me to do so.
A far more challenging question for me was this: Why did God call me to be a bishop? While, as a young man, I had at least given a passing glance toward the priesthood, I never thought of being a bishop. Honestly, I never wanted to be a bishop. I had served as a parochial vicar, as a teacher in high school, college and graduate school, and as the pastor of two parishes. I felt that I had done it all and I loved it all. When I learned that I was to be bishop, I thought either that God had made a terrible mistake, or that he had a strange sense of humor. When I told my bishop that I did not think that I was up to serving well as a bishop, he immediately quelled my fears with words that I have never forgotten. He said with great conviction that God never asks us to do anything for which he does not give us what we need to accomplish it — if only we cooperate with his grace.
I have never for a moment regretted accepting God’s call to the priesthood and the episcopacy. Perhaps others have. I know that I have not always carried out my ministry as well as I should. To all who have been offended by me in any way, I ask your forgiveness and God’s pardon. I treasure the years that I have been privileged to serve as the bishop of this wonderful diocese. The prayerful support and friendship of so many clergy and laity have made these years go by very quickly. Colorado Springs is my home, and I look forward to living here for as many years as God gives me.
A question that I am asked frequently these days is: What will you do when you retire? I want to be of help to our new bishop in whatever ways I am able. I want to continue to serve as a priest and bishop. But make no mistake, I look forward to having more time to relax, more time to spend with family and friends, more time to read the books that have been accumulating in my office, and more time to pray and prepare to meet the Lord. Much of that prayer will be for all of you, and I ask you to pray for me.
The insightful words of St. Augustine in a sermon he gave on the anniversary of his ordination as a bishop correspond so beautifully to my sentiments: “Where I’m terrified by what I am for you, I am given comfort by what I am with you. For you I am a bishop, with you, after all, I am a Christian. The first is the name of an office undertaken, the second a name of grace; that one means danger, this one salvation. Finally, as if in the open sea, I am being tossed about by the stormy activity involved in that one; but as I recall by whose blood I have been redeemed, I enter a safe harbor in the tranquil recollection of this one; and thus while toiling away at my own proper office, I take rest in the marvelous benefit conferred on all of us in common.”
Finally, as we near the day when there will be a change of leadership in the diocese, I ask your prayers for Bishop-elect Golka. He looks to be a good man, a holy pastor and a skilled administrator. I believe that the years ahead will be extremely challenging for the Church. Bishop-elect Golka is up to that challenge, but he will need the prayerful support of every Catholic. We must all take up the mission banner, and together with our new bishop, make Christ known and loved by others.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop Michael Sheridan
Apostolic Administrator of Colorado Springs