Former seminary professor welcomed as Hartford’s newest bishop

| Mary Chalupsky, Catholic Transcript | October 24, 2018 | 0 Comments
Hartford Archbishop Leonard Blair places a miter on the head of Bishop Juan Miguel Betancourt Torres during his ordination Mass Oct. 18 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Connecticut

Hartford Archbishop Leonard Blair places a miter on the head of Bishop Juan Miguel Betancourt Torres during his ordination Mass Oct. 18 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Connecticut. Bishop Betancourt, who previously served in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, became an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Hartford. COURTESY ARCHDIOCESE OF HARTFORD

As a jubilant gathering of friends, family and other Catholics looked on, Juan Miguel Betancourt Torres was ordained a bishop for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, Oct. 18 at its Cathedral of St. Joseph.

Born in Puerto Rico, Bishop Betancourt most recently served as a pastor, seminary professor and vice rector for formation in St. Paul. Among well-wishers at his ordination Mass were men from his 16-member contemplative religious community, Servants of the Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was founded in Puerto Rico in 1981 with houses in the U.S. and Spain.

In his homily delivered in Spanish and English, Hartford Archbishop Leonard Blair, who officiated as presiding and principal consecrator, emphasized the “prophetic” mission and high office of bishop.

“On this joyful day for our archdiocese and for the whole Church, we have every confidence that our brother, Juan Miguel, stands before us as a man of virtue, integrity and honor; who will truly be … a holy bishop with the heart and mind of Jesus Christ.”

He was joined on the altar by co-consecrators Timothy Broglio, archbishop for the Military Services USA, and Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who lived with the newly-ordained bishop when the two studied in Rome.

During the rite of ordination, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, read the Sept. 18 letter from Pope Francis calling the bishop-elect to the episcopal ministry and naming him auxiliary bishop of Hartford and titular bishop of Curzola.

In his remarks, he drew laughter when he quoted Msgr. Aloysius Callaghan, rector emeritus of St. Paul Seminary, about his admiration for Bishop Betancourt.

“It’s a big loss for the seminary; it’s like losing an arm,” said Archbishop Pierre, quoting Msgr. Callaghan’s comments to The Catholic Spirit after the appointment. “I think he’s a wonderful priest. He’s dynamic — the Energizer bunny would lose a job [trying to keep up] with him.”

Bishop Betancourt then held up the letter from Pope Francis to those in attendance, and proudly processed it through the cathedral.

Bishop Betancourt addresses the congregation near the end of Mass

Bishop Betancourt addresses the congregation near the end of Mass. COURTESY ARCHDIOCESE OF HARTFORD

The rite of ordination continued with the bishop-elect giving his assent to nine promises to uphold the faith and discharge his duty; the litany of the saints during which he prostrated himself on the floor of the sanctuary while the congregation prayed for him; the laying on of hands by Archbishop Blair and other bishops in attendance; and the solemn prayer of ordination during which the Book of the Gospels was placed over his head, illustrating that preaching the Word of God is the pre-eminent obligation of the office of bishop.

After anointing his head with holy chrism and presenting him with the Book of the Gospels, Archbishop Blair then presented Bishop Betancourt with the episcopal insignia: a ring as a reminder to preserve the “bride of God, the holy Church”; the miter symbolizing the dignity and jurisdiction of his office; and the crosier shaped like a shepherd’s crook as a sign of his pastoral authority and need to keep watch over his whole flock.

Bishop Betancourt then took the first place among the concelebrating bishops, and the rite of ordination ended with the kiss of peace from Archbishop Blair and the other bishops present, sealing his admittance into the College of Bishops.

“It’s a real pleasure to be here for this joyful occasion,” said Bishop Daniel Fernandez of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, who traveled to attend the liturgy with Bishop Roberto González of San Juan, Puerto Rico. “It’s a real source of pride that one of our island’s sons has been called to this service.”

Bishop Betancourt, 48, was ordained a priest April 21, 2001, and has served since 2007 on the faculty of the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity. He was also pastor of St. Francis de Sales and St. James in St. Paul, which merged under his leadership.

Also making the trip from Puerto Rico for the ordination were his parents, Miguel and Gloria Betancourt, and his sisters, Gloria and Glorimar, who sat as tears rolled down their faces during the ordination.

“It’s a great gift from the Holy Spirit,” said Bishop Betancourt’s mother, who was raised by grandparents 60 miles away in Bridgeport, Connecticut, before she returned to Puerto Rico.

Speaking through an interpreter about her son’s ordination, she said, “All of the way he lived his life was to serve God and the Virgin Mary. The most important thing now is for him to continue to give glory to God.”

His father was equally reflective. “I still don’t know what is going on,” Miguel Betancourt said with a laugh, “but I’m impressed” by the occasion.

“It’s a gift we don’t deserve. But God has given us this and we have to accept it,” he continued. “It’s all about God. He will advise him to keep doing what he’s asking [my son] to do. Now he’s going to create an even greater impact for the glory of God.”

WHAT’S A ‘TITULAR SEE’?As an auxiliary bishop, Bishop Juan Miguel Betancourt was named to the “titular see” of Curzola, a Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea. According to Catholic News Service, a titular see is “a former diocese, now nonexistent, to which a bishop is given honorary title if he is not the residential bishop of a diocese or archdiocese. … Most titular sees are ancient cities of northern Africa, the Middle East or Spain that had to be abandoned as bishoprics because of schism or, especially in the Middle Ages, Islamic rule. Some titular sees, such as Walla Walla, Washington, and Allegheny, Pennsylvania, ceased to be active see cities simply because of a decision to merge dioceses or transfer diocesan headquarters to another city.”

Added Glorimar: “He’s an example, a role model.

It’s a blessing for us that the Holy Father has chosen someone from Puerto Rico, and we are proud of his election as bishop.”

Bishop Betancourt chose the phrase “Ecce Agnus Dei,” or “Behold the Lamb of God,” for his motto. For his episcopal coat of arms, he chose symbols signifying the Lamb giving his life for the Church, his new local church of Hartford and former church in Minnesota, his home community in Puerto Rico, the spirituality of his religious community, his call as a successor of the apostles, and the strong presence of the Blessed Mother in his life.

A contingent of seminarians, staff and parishioners flew in from Minnesota for the ordination.

“He’s so amazing, so funny and charming,” said Jean Murtaugh, a St. Francis de Sales parishioner.

Reflecting on his collaborative work style, St. Francis de Sales trustee Jeff Marcolina noted, “He’s the type of person who will sit back and listen before interjecting with his thoughts. He doesn’t dominate a situation; he lets the parish leadership try to work things out first.”

Among the liturgy’s concelebrants were Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis; Auxiliary Bishop Robert Evans of Providence, Rhode Island; Auxiliary Bishop Richard Henning of Rockville Centre, New York; Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa; Bishop Mitchell Rozanski of Springfield, Massachusetts; and Bishop Kurt Burnette of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic.

Concelebrants from Connecticut included: Archbishop Emeritus Daniel Cronin of Hartford, Archbishop Emeritus Henry Mansell of Hartford, Bishop Michael Cote of Norwich, Auxiliary Bishop Peter Rosazza of Hartford and Bishop Paul Chomnycky of the Ukranian Catholic Diocese of Stamford.

Bishop Betancourt begins his new appointment as the archdiocese prepares to mark its 175th anniversary Nov. 28th.

At the conclusion of the Mass, he thanked the many people who supported him over the years, as well as the faithful in attendance. He quipped that he already was going to work the next day by officiating at two confirmations.

“There’s a lot of joy and gratitude today… a lot of hope and emotion,” Bishop Betancourt told the Catholic Transcript after his ordination.

“I received a lot of support today not only from my family, the bishops and my seminarians but from everybody,” he said. “The theme that is constant here is that I’m going to serve this Church.”

Chalupsky is a news reporter for the Catholic Transcript, magazine of the Archdiocese of Hartford.

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