Friday, July 22, 2005


Catholic bishops from around the United States and the Pacific placed their hands in blessing last night as The Most Rev. Clarence "Larry" Silva was ordained bishop of Honolulu in ceremonies at the Neal Blaisdell Center Arena.

Evening of pageantry

Thousands watch spellbound
by the drama of Hawaii's
first ordination

A crowd of 6,000 people gave the new leader of Hawaii Catholics a high-decibel, stomping, whistling ovation typical of events at the Blaisdell Center Arena last night to end an evening of pageantry tempered with common touches.

The Most Rev. Clarence "Larry" Silva was ordained bishop of the Honolulu diocese with the traditional pomp of the Catholic Church providing a spectacle that held the crowd spellbound for most of the three-hour event.

The ceremonies and Mass unfolded on a two-tiered stage where 18 other bishops in gold-and-white robes and purple orchid leis joined Silva.

The Vatican ambassador to the United States, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, read the letter from Pope Benedict XVI appointing Silva as "shepherd of this diocese."

Presiding over the ordination was Archbishop William Levada of San Francisco, whom the pope recently named head of one of the most powerful Vatican departments, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.

About 100 priests from Hawaii and the Oakland, Calif., diocese, where Silva served as a parish priest for 30 years, sat together wearing stoles with the design of a cross sprouting olive branches of peace, a feature from the bishop's new coat of arms.

Welcomed by members the community, The Most Rev. Clarence Silva was ordained bishop of the Honolulu diocese last night before a crowd of about 6,000, including scores of priests, other religious leaders, government officials and Silva family members.

In the front section sat more than 50 members of Silva's family from Hawaii and the mainland. About 30 interfaith representatives from Christian denominations and Buddhist temples attended. Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona and Mayor Mufi Hannemann sat in a loge area with other government representatives.

The Hawaii-born bishop received universal symbols of the bishop's office with a personal touch. The shepherd's staff was carved of koa; the peaked hat, or miter, was brought forward by his brother Len Silva; and the bishop's ring is an old one, a gift from a former parishioner, with a new gemstone engraved with Silva's coat of arms.

Silva's other siblings, Trudy, Edward and Francis Silva, carried the communion bread and wine forward for the Eucharist later in the service, which extended an hour later than planned.

As Silva lay prostrate before the altar in the ordination ritual, the traditional singing of the Litany of the Saints was done to a Hawaiian tempo, with the percussion of bamboo drums and ipu in music composed by the island's Robert Mondoy. Added to the litany were saints relevant to the diverse island population, missionaries and martyrs of Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Polynesia, as well as Blessed Damien DeVeuster and Marianne Cope, who are being considered for sainthood for their service to leprosy victims.

Silva appeared near tears as he knelt while deacons held a book of the Gospels over his head. He was solemn as Levada anointed his forehead with oil, and all the bishops came forward to lay hands on his head. But Silva beamed later as he sat in the cathedra, the bishop's throne, to a roar of applause from crowd.

The celebrants and the crowd lightened up when the ordination rituals concluded with a procession of costumed ethnic representatives carrying gifts, each of whom was embraced by the new bishop.

Portuguese women brought sweetbread and wine; a Tongan delegation added a woven fiber lei to the maile strands he wore; the Chinese brought a bouquet of carved jade flowers and a tray of char siu bao -- giving the crowd cause for hilarity and a release from the reverent silence. Dr. Larry and Betsy Connors and their two daughters comprised the Caucasian delegation, giving Silva a Bible and a copy of "Church in Crisis, a People Adrift" by Peter Steinfels. The idea, said Betsy Connors, "was the hope of a new opportunity to explore the Christian message today."

Silva chose "Witness to Jesus" as his motto and in a brief speech at the night's end used that phrase to include all members of the crowd as witnesses.

And he gave a sampler of the pro-life teachings of the church against abortion and euthanasia in recalling the past history of priests and nuns who have worked to sustain "the dignity of the most vulnerable among us ... the inherent dignity of the unborn, the homeless, the dying."

The Catholic Church in Hawaii

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