BIshop’s Reflection: Do You Accept?

by Bishop Michael G. Duca

On June 10th, as I pulled into my garage after having just ordained Father Duane Trombetta as a priest for the Diocese of Shreveport in a beautiful ceremony at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, my phone rang. It was an incoming call from Washington, D.C. I stared at the caller ID for a moment and my heart skipped a beat, because I knew who was most likely calling me: the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre. And I knew he was almost certainly calling me about a change of assignment. I almost did not answer the call.

I had received a similar call sitting in my office at Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas over 10 years ago. It was a different archbishop, but it was the same office and my heart had skipped a beat then, too, as I was told by the then Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, that I had been chosen by our Holy Father, Benedict XVI, as the next Bishop of Shreveport. You might imagine that at this point he would have kindly asked: “What do you think about this?,” or “Do you need some time to think about this?,” or “Does this fit into your life plan?” But the next words out of the Papal Nuncio’s mouth were simply, “DO YOU ACCEPT?”

Bishop Michael Duca serves soup for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul's Poor Man's Supper at Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish in Monroe.

With this simple straightforward question Archbishop Sambi brought the matter into clear focus and asked the only important question. It was the right question, because at that point in my priestly life it was no longer about me, it was about my willingness to accept the will of God in my life.

I must admit that God prepared me for this profound question because, as I have spoken of in this column over the years, I had already come to the conclusion that I was not in control of my life any more. My priestly life had not been anything like I expected. It was a good life, but so different than I had imagined it would be. I remember talking with my vice-rector at the seminary years before my call to the Episcopacy. We discussed what would come next in our lives as priests. Surprisingly, we both said in so many words that if we were asked, we would respond, “Bishop, wherever you need me.” We had not given up, but rather learned to give our lives freely to God in our priestly vocations. (By the way, my vice-rector was Father Doug Deshotel at the time, now Bishop of Lafayette.)

At Encounter Jesus 3 diocesan youth event.

When I received the call 10 years ago naming me Bishop of Shreveport, there was only one important question, “DO YOU ACCEPT?” I immediately said, “YES,” not so much at the time to the Diocese of Shreveport, because I knew nothing about it then, but rather to the mysterious will of God. I have lived that “Yes” for the past 10 years as your bishop, but now the “Yes” is not just to the will of God, but to YOU the people of the Diocese of Shreveport whom I have come to love during my 10 years as your bishop.

So on that Saturday, about eight weeks ago, I was again asked by a different archbishop to accept the will of God. The will of God this time was for me to become the Bishop of Baton Rouge. As much as I love the Diocese of Shreveport, there was only one right answer: “YES, I accept.” The same decision that brought me to Shreveport 10 years ago now takes me away.

Bishop Michael G. Duca receives a blessing from newly ordained Fr. Duane Trombetta, the morning of the day he received the call from Washington D.C., asking him to become the new Bishop of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

It was easy to accept this new call because it was the right answer, but it was hard to say yes because I so desperately did not want to say goodbye to my people here in the Diocese of Shreveport. I trust that we will, in the days to come, receive the blessings God intends even though they have not yet been revealed.

I am sure the next Bishop of the Diocese of Shreveport will find this diocese a blessing when he is called to say “YES” to the Apostolic Nuncio. I will always treasure my time here and count you all as my friends. I will pray for you always and I ask for your prayers for me. •