8.03.2009

The Retirement of Bishop Cullen

For the last eleven years Bishop Edward P. Cullen shepherded the Diocese of Allentown. To some the bishop was looked at, and to some degree still is seen, as an uncaring administrator who consolidated and closed parishes without concern for the people of God. I believe this is an unfair criticism. As soon as the bishop was seated in the diocese he knew that he would have to take on challenges that his predecessors did not attempt, primarily the restructuring of parishes.

However, Bishop Cullen did not start his leadership there. Instead, he turned his attention on prayer and asked the parishes of the diocese to initiate the RENEW program. Following this, the Church of the United States was forced to deal with the child sexual abuse by priests scandal. 2001 was not a great year for the diocese and the universal Church. Through it all Bishop Cullen did what he had to do by getting rid of priests where there was sufficient evidence of inappropriate conduct.

Once found in compliance with the norms of the Dallas Charter, the Bishop set his sights on having a campaign. It was entitled "Strengthening Our Future in Faith." Not only did it reach its goal, but surpassed it several times over. Today, our diocese and parishes benefit from this achievement.

That brings us again to the biggest and most difficult task Bishop Cullen was faced with -- the restructuring of our diocesan parishes. While he was not able to complete the process as bishop, it is well underway. Some are unhappy that their "church" was closed, but truth be told our faith was never supposed to be wrapped up in a building or ethnicity. Our faith should be something that we do, not where we do it. With the number of vocations to the priesthood declining, with the number of non-practicing Catholics increasing and with the demographics of the northern part of the diocese and inner city population shifts, one cannot argue that we needed to close churches. Bishop Cullen gave us the opportunity to be more alive in our faith, not allowing it to wither and decay, only to be thrown into the fire.

Let us pray that Bishop Cullen will enjoy his retirement and experience true peace.