The Most Rev. Clarence "Larry" Silva will be ordained Catholic bishop of Honolulu next Thursday. "I think I'm a good listener," said the bishop-elect. "I try to be." He was photographed on Tuesday at Our Lady of Peace Cathedral.

Man of God

Clarence Silva faces
many challenges

» Ceremony is rich in tradition
» Bishop's Hawaii roots are deep

The bishop's miter has not been placed on his head yet, but the responsibilities and challenges of the office are on the mind of Hawaii's new Catholic bishop.

The Most Rev. Clarence "Larry" Silva said he is well aware that more than half of the people who identify themselves as Roman Catholics do not attend Sunday Mass regularly, a statistic that applies in Hawaii as well as nationwide.

There is a shortage of priests here, too, which has already led to "clustering" of parishes that share a pastor. It is a combining of resources he implemented in parishes of the Oakland, Calif., diocese.

The church's role in the wider community is familiar to the former inner-city pastor who worked with an ecumenical community organizing effort advocating for affordable housing, improved public schools and health insurance coverage for all children.

"I'm the pastor of the diocese, not just a bureaucrat," said Silva in a Tuesday interview, and his intention is to seek out the opinions of island priests and parish members as he tackles the challenges of the new position. "I think I'm a good listener. I try to be."

Silva has made a "soft" entry into Hawaii for the past week, saying daily Mass at various Oahu parishes -- today, he was expected at St. Anthony Church -- before the grand opening of his episcopate, next Thursday's ordination at Neal Blaisdell Center Arena.

The Most Rev. Clarence "Larry" Silva, shown here Tuesday at Our Lady of Peace Cathedral, will be ordained next Thursday as Catholic bishop of Honolulu.

HIS PASTORAL APPROACH was clear on the religion-and-politics question that Catholic bishops have tackled in the past year: What should the church do with Catholic politicians whose public acts, such as support of abortion, are contrary to their faith?

For Silva, banishing the politician, or the person who votes for him, from receiving communion or other sacraments -- as a few bishops have advocated -- is a punishment that is rarely justified.

Christ's teaching is "a calling to continued conversion, and that means a continued relationship," he said. "So to cut it off, then you have in some ways cut off the possibilities of conversion." He said he favors continuing in dialogue with the errant Catholic. "The truth will win out at the end ... if the truth is understood."

Silva chose "Witness to Jesus" as the motto for his coat of arms, and sees a message in it for the Catholics who have lapsed in religious practice.

"I think we Catholics have such a rich, complex way of living our faith -- many organizations, parishes, ministries -- that we can easily forget they are all about relating to the living Jesus ... who is still with us, whose presence we experience in the Eucharist.

"Perhaps we need to explain more to people what it is. It is not just seeking an emotional thrill or filling up the time with something that is going to give me pleasure," he said. "It is something that should deepen my relationship with God. This is not a consumer event; it is something to go to as people in need of remembering how much we are loved by Jesus Christ, by God."

Some modern Catholics chafe at the limitations on lay people's roles in the clergy-run church.

"I think the role of the laity is to be the presence of Christ in the world, in the workplace, in the families, in the things they do in the marketplace," Silva said.

"To be always concentrated on internal church matters and to neglect your family or neighborhood or political arena, I think, would be a mistake. There are opportunities and a need for laity to be involved in ministries of the church. That is not necessarily dependent on the priest shortage. Living the gospel is for all of us, not just for priests."

HAWAII ISN'T NEW ground for the new bishop. His family moved to the mainland when he was a child, but Silva has returned frequently as an adult, visiting his numerous relatives and several seminary classmates who are priests in the diocese.

He acknowledged hearing that some local priests became disheartened under the previous bishop, who was seen as having a "from the top down" style of management and who was at odds with the largest religious order here, the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, which staffs several parishes.

But Silva said he would not discuss the administration of the Most Rev. Francis DiLorenzo, who was reassigned in May 2004 to bishop of Richmond, Va.

Silva said he intends to "sit down with the priests' council, talk about what are the needs. I would like to get to spend as much time as I can with the priests ... ultimately to meet individually with them to hear what suggestions they might have, how they are doing. I will help them in any way I can to be the best they can be."

"There is too much work to do preaching the gospel for us to be at odds with each other," he said. "There has always been diversity in the church."

He said religious orders "bring something valuable to the church that those of us who are committed to a place as diocesan priests don't bring. We need to dialogue so we can help them fulfill their charisms to the best of their ability and let those be complementary to the diocese."

Silva will attend a 10-day workshop for new bishops, sponsored by the Congregation for Bishops in Rome. Otherwise, there is no manual on how to be a bishop.

"The best way I have learned thus far to be a bishop was to be a priest for 30 years, a pastor, all the successes and failures, ups and downs. ... A lot of the principles apply."

The Catholic Church in Hawaii


Ordination ceremony
is rich in tradition

The new bishop for Hawaii's 230,000 Catholics will be ordained next Thursday in a ceremony rich in Christian ritual more than 1,000 years old, with special touches that recognize the Hawaiian host culture and the ethnic diversity of the local church.

Nineteen other bishops and more than 90 priests will attend the installation of the Most Rev. Clarence "Larry" Silva, 55. The Vatican's ambassador to the United States, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, will participate along with Catholic hierarchy from California, Montana, the Philippines, Guam, Saipan and American Samoa.

More than 5,000 people are expected to attend the 4:30 p.m. ordination Mass in the Neal Blaisdell Center Arena, including Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, Mayor Mufi Hannemann, Japanese Consul General Makoto Hinei, members of the state Legislature and City Council, and representatives of other religions and denominations.

The two-hour event is open to the public, as is the reception to follow in the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall. No tickets are required. It will be broadcast live on KFVE television from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

"We will have 24 hours to turn the arena into a church," said Sister Helene Wood, head of the diocese Office of Worship. Banners will depict Father Damien DeVeuster and Mother Marianne Cope, whom the church is considering for sainthood for their service to leprosy victims, and the new bishop's coat of arms with kukui and oak trees symbolic of Hawaii and the Oakland, Calif., diocese where he has been a priest for 30 years.

Wood said rituals that date back to the first centuries of Christianity will be enacted when Silva's head is anointed with blessed oil and he lies face down before the altar while the litany of the saints is sung. A book of the Gospels will be held over his head, a sign that "faithful preaching of the word of God is the foremost office of the bishop." All of the bishops will join in laying hands on Silva's head.

But the ceremonials will not go on for hours as in the past, she said. The traditional ceremony was revamped by the late Pope John Paul II into a shortened, "more crisp" program.

Hawaiian rituals will be a prelude to the Mass, opening with the blowing of a conch shell, a procession of Hawaiian royal societies and a chant by kumu hula John Keola Lake.

Representatives of Hawaiian, Portuguese and a dozen other cultural and ethnic groups will parade forward to formally greet Silva after he takes his seat in the "cathedra," the bishop's chair.

Silva's sister Trudy and brothers Edward and Francis will participate in the presentation of gifts before the Eucharistic celebration. The new bishop's aunt, Mabel Neves of Honolulu, and numerous cousins will be in the crowd.


Bishop’s Hawaii
roots are deep

Bishop Clarence "Larry" Silva, 55, is the great-grandson of Portuguese immigrants who came to Hawaii from the Azores in the 1870s. Highlights of his life:

Aug. 6, 1949: Born in St. Francis Hospital, Honolulu.

Aug. 12, 1949: Baptized at St. Anthony Church in Kalihi.

1950: Moved to California with his parents, the late Richard and Catherine Alves Silva.

1967: Graduated from Bishop O'Dowd High School, Oakland, Calif.

1967-1974: Attended college, earning a bachelor's degree in humanities at St. Patrick's College Seminary, Mountain View, Calif., and a Master of Divinity degree at St. Patrick's Seminary, Menlo Park, Calif.

May 1974: Ordained a deacon in Redwood City, Calif.

May 2, 1975: Ordained a priest at St. Francis de Sales Cathedral in Oakland.

June 1975-October 2003: Served as associate pastor and pastor of 11 parishes in Oakland diocese.

February-May 1991: Did sabbatical studies, Pontifical North American College, Rome.

November 2003: Named vicar general and moderator of the curia of the Oakland diocese.

May 8, 2005: Appointed bishop of Honolulu diocese by Pope Benedict XVI. He is the first Hawaii-born priest to become a Catholic bishop. He is the fifth bishop since the Honolulu diocese was created in 1941.

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