BY DOMINIQUE JOHNSON
It was on January 19th, 2009, that Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Edward J. Burns to be the new bishop of the Diocese of Juneau. Eight years later, January 19th, 2017, the Diocese of Juneau gave thanks and said farewell to their bishop, who in December, was appointed the new bishop of the Diocese of Dallas, Texas.
Bishop Burns started the day by saying goodbye to the students at Holy Name Catholic school in Ketchikan by way of a video conference. He was joined by the school’s administrator, Nicole Miller, who traveled to Juneau for the day’s events. The Bishop prayed with the Holy Name students and answered some of their questions, before the students extended their gratitude through song. At the conclusion of the thirty-minute video call Bishop Burns extended his hands to bless the students, teachers and faculty of Holy Name School.
That evening many of the parishioners and priests of the Diocese of Juneau gathered for Mass at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Juneau and via the internet to say thank you and farewell to Bishop Burns. Local community members and guests from outside the diocese made the trip to thank Bishop Burns for his work in the Diocese of Juneau and in Alaska, including Archbishop Roger Schwietz—Archbishop Emeritus of Anchorage, and Bishop Greg Kelly—Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Dallas.
During his homily at the Farewell Mass, Bishop Burns reminisced about his first radio interview with Juneau’s Pete Carron and how he asked if Bishop Burns was named the Bishop of Juneau “because of something you did right or because of something you did wrong.” The Bishop said looking back “God has done right by me in assigning me in the Diocese of Juneau Alaska,” and added that it has helped him grow in his vocation.
Bishop Burns continued his homily saying, “Being the pastor of this local church has been for me a privilege and an honor,… The Diocese of Juneau has trained me to see what is necessary in being a shepherd.” He expressed his gratitude for the ways in which the people of Southeast have challenged him.
The Bishop added that he has enjoyed the beauty and adventure that has come with working in the Diocese of Juneau, though he admitted, “Every time I got on one of those float planes I gripped my rosary beads because it wasn’t always easy for me with those bumps.” But, he said, he enjoyed the adventure of traveling to all the communities within the diocese.
Bishop Burns concluded his homily reminding everyone to continue to live out what God has called us to do which is, “Be the best disciple ever, the best disciples of Jesus Christ.”
Following the celebration of the Eucharist, the musicians performed “Pray with Confidence,” a liturgical song written in 2009 for Bishop Burns’ ordination as bishop, and before the final blessing Archbishop Schwietz and Bishop Kelly shared their words of appreciation for Bishop Burns.
Bishop Greg Kelly shared how he was impressed with Bishop Burns and the way in which he has already begun evangelizing the people of Dallas by celebrating a Holy Hour with the faithful of his new diocese following the announcement of his appointment.
Archbishop Roger Schwietz thanked Bishop Burns on behalf of the Bishops of Alaska for his ministry in the State and wanted him to know that “our prayers and love are with you.”
In Bishop Burns’ final remarks, he thanked the bishops, priests, deacons and sisters who he has worked with while in Juneau and all of the parishioners and staff who he has worked with over the years. The Bishop also said, “I pray for you and remember you and want you to know that it won’t stop and I will continue to pray for you.”
Bishop Burns thought he had gotten in the final word and started his final blessing, when Deacon Mike Monagle presented the Bishop with a thank you gift, a limited edition print of “St. Therese of Lisieux” by Alaskan artist Byron Birdsall, on behalf of the diocese.
After the gift presentation Bishop Burns gave the final blessing and processed from the church to the narthex where those who attended the Mass had an opportunity to take photos and share their personal goodbyes with him.