Sunday, February 23, 2003

Lexington's bishop installed

Priests, 1,000 others fill cathedral for ordination

The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - A brief power outage interrupted the ordination of the Lexington diocese's new bishop Saturday in a city that has been on the mend from an ice storm that blanketed central Kentucky last weekend.

"Whether or not there is electricity in this great church, I think we will all agree that there is power in the cathedral today," Bishop Ronald W. Gainer said during his installation at the Cathedral of Christ the King. "It is the power of Christ."

Gainer's comments were met by applause, and an "Amen" or two, from Catholics who have just lived through the area's worst ice storm in years.

During Gainer's installation, bishops, archbishops and the cardinal of Philadelphia laid hands on Gainer's head, summoning the Holy Spirit to guide him. Later, Gainer received a bishop's ring, a shepherd's staff and a kiss from his fellow bishops.

"It's all yours," Louisville Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly said, as he yielded the bishop's chair to Gainer, the 55-year-old Pottsville, Pa., native who will lead the Lexington diocese.

About 1,100 people attended the ceremony, which included hymns in English, Latin and Spanish.

Preaching briefly in English and in Spanish, Gainer told the audience, "Your sorrows and struggles are my sorrows and struggles. This land is home to me now."

Catholics applauded loudly as Gainer - smiling broadly - walked up and down the aisles, blessing the crowd and repeatedly making the sign of the cross.

Later, Catholics silently lined up to celebrate the Eucharist, hundreds coming down the main aisle to take the host from Gainer. The first person in line was Gainer's 79-year-old mother, Anna Meko Gainer.

More than 100 priests were present for the ordination: a hundred voices reciting the words of the Eucharist along with Gainer.

People from every corner of the 60,000-square-mile diocese came to the ordination. Rank-and-file Catholics in attendance were chosen by drawings. "This is something I'll never see again - not in my lifetime," said Theresa Wellman, 74, of Louisa.

Margaret Eades, 70, of Lexington said she couldn't believe she'd received tickets to the invitation-only event. "I'm ecstatic. I'm thrilled."

Before going to the reception, Gainer and Papal Nuncio Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo traveled to St. Joseph Hospital to visit Diocesan Administrator Robert H. Nieberding.

Nieberding, who oversaw the diocese after the resignation of Bishop J. Kendrick Williams in June, is recuperating from double-bypass heart surgery.

Williams resigned from his position as bishop after three men accused him of sexual abuse when they were children. During the alleged abuse, Williams was serving as a pastor for the Archdiocese of Louisville. Williams has denied the allegations.

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