Fr. Shawn McKnight ordained a bishop

Fourth bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri
Yet another young, dedicated priest of the Diocese of Wichita was ordained to the fullness of the priesthood Tuesday, Feb. 6, at St. Joseph Cathedral in Jefferson City, Missouri. Twenty-one bishops and archbishops took part in the episcopal ordination of Bishop W. Shawn McKnight in front of over 1,200 of the faithful, many of whom traveled from Kansas to attend.
At the beginning of the two-hour ordination, which was broadcast on EWTN, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, described Bishop McKnight as “a young, dedicated priest from the Diocese of Wichita” – before formally transferring Pope Francis’ apostolic letter appointing Father McKnight as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri.
“Back in November,” Abp. Pierre said, “on the day your appointment was announced, you said – careful what you say! – and you said it so well, by the way, during your press conference, I quote, ‘As I see it, Pope Francis is not so much giving the Diocese of Jefferson City to me, but rather, he is giving me to you in service to God to teach, sanctify, and shepherd the people of our local church.’”
The Liturgy of the Word followed, after which the principal consecrator, the Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis, asked that the apostolic letter from Pope Francis appointing Bishop McKnight be read to the assembly.
Abp. Carlson ‘challenges’ Bishop McKnight
In his homily after the public pronouncement, Abp. Carlson challenged Bishop McKnight to call the faithful of the Diocese of Jefferson City to spread the gospel.
“As you serve the people of this diocese, call them to be missionary disciples. This demands that you model what it means to be a missionary disciple. Your outward service must be a sign of your inward journey – an awakening to the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in your life and vocation – the inward pilgrimage of your heart open to the love of Christ, indeed thirsting for Christ.”
He then quoted Pope Benedict XVI, who said at a different episcopal ordination, “A bishop must be a man concerned for others, one who is concerned about what happens to them. He must be a man for others. But he can only truly be so if he is a man seized by God, if concern for God also becomes for him a concern for God’s creature who is man.”
Abp. Carlson urged Bishop McKnight to live out his duties as the ordinary of the diocese in faith, hope and charity, to build up the church in love. “This demands personal strength, apostolic courage and trusting abandonment to the inner working of the Holy Spirit,” he said.
The archbishop reminded Bishop McKnight that he was being ordained on the feast day of St. Paul Miki and Companions, who gave their lives for Jesus Christ.
“In your own life as bishop you will need to be courageous,” he said. “Like Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, you will be called to walk with the people you serve – to accompany them – but also to walk before them showing them the way to God the Father. You may – you will – have to suffer for that.”
Abp. Carlson said those who knew Bishop McKnight when he was working for the United States Conference of Bishops remember him as hard working, competent, and passionate about spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “The people of the Diocese of Jefferson City hope that you will focus on evangelization and vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life,” he said.
Proclaim the Word as a father and brother
“Watch over yourself and watch over the people of God,” Abp. Carlson said, quoting St. Paul, and added a statement made by Pope Francis regarding St. Paul’s words: “‘Proclaim the word on every opportune and inopportune occasion, admonish, reproach, exhort with all magnanimity and doctrine,’ but always praying for the people and loving them as a father and a brother.”
After the homily Abp. Carlson “examined” Bishop McKnight, an age-old custom, with questions before those assembled, about his resolve to uphold the faith and to discharge his duties faithfully.
The formal ordination followed, with the Litany of the Saints, a laying-on of hands, a prayer of consecration under the Book of the Gospels, an anointing of the bishop’s head, a presentation of the Book of the Gospels, and the investiture with a ring, a miter, and a pastoral staff.
Bishop McKnight then took his seat on the cathedra, the bishop’s chair. At that moment he formally took canonical possession of the diocese.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist followed. The ordination ended with a solemn blessing by the new bishop and a closing statement.
Bishop McKnight began his statement with: “I proclaim to you the Good News. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead! Because Jesus is risen, our lives are different. Because Jesus is risen, I have been sent to you.”
The newly ordained ordinary of the Diocese of Jefferson City then talked about receiving the telephone call Nov. 13 from the apostolic nuncio.
“I was startled, startled because I knew either I was in big trouble, or he was about to change the course of my life,” the new bishop said as the assembly chuckled. “And the gentleman that he is, he eased into the important matter at hand – very smoothly, doing his best to calm my soul.”
The conversation became quite serious the moment he said the words “Jefferson City,” Bishop McKnight said.
“Do you know it? Jefferson City?” the nuncio asked.
“And I replied curiously, Jefferson City, Missouri?” Bishop McKnight said.
“‘Oh good,” he said. You do know it!’” the nuncio said. “The Holy Father has appointed you the fourth bishop of Jefferson City. Do you accept?”
Bishop McKnight paused.
“Do you accept, that was it,” he said. “No application form needed to be filled out. There was no interview process. Will you, or won’t you?”
Recalling that he lost his breath for a few moments, Bishop McKnight said, “I simply responded, I do accept because of my faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
He ended his closing statement by thanking the faithful of the diocese for their warm reception, now Bishop Emeritus John R. Gaydos, his family, Bishop Carl A. Kemme, who was among the consecrators, the many priests from the Diocese of Wichita, and the faithful from the Diocese of Wichita who traveled to the ordination.
Bishop McKnight, 49, is one of the youngest bishops in the United States. He succeeds Bishop Emeritus Gaydos, 74, who retired for health reasons but plans to remain in Jefferson City.
The Jefferson City diocese includes 22,127 square miles within 38 counties in northeastern and central Missouri. There are about 82,000 Catholics. The diocese has 95 parishes and 15 missions, ranging in size from about 2,400 registered households to fewer than 50, along with 37 Catholic elementary schools and three Catholic high schools.
The diocese is mostly rural but has several medium and large urban centers, including Columbia and Jefferson City, seat of the state government.
For the ordination, blue, yellow and white banners and Bishop McKnight’s coat of arms adorned the entrance to the cathedral, in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, patroness of the diocese.
Bishop McKnight is only the fourth bishop to serve the 61-year-old diocese, which includes 110 parishes and missions in 38 counties in central and northeastern Missouri.
He chose “Gratias Agamus Domino” — “Let us give thanks to the Lord” — as his episcopal motto.