Suburban Catholics see 'something new' in Blase Cupich

Suburban Catholics ready for the installation of Blase Cupich

Suburban Catholics feel a mix of hope and nervous anticipation as they look ahead to this week's historic event - the installation of the new Chicago archbishop.

During services that span three days and begin tonight - and appearing online at - Bishop Blase Cupich will be installed as the ninth archbishop of Chicago. It will begin with a Liturgy of the Word with Rite of Reception today at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, followed by an Installation Mass Tuesday, and concluding Wednesday with day and evening prayers.

It's the first time in Chicago history that an archbishop will meet his successor. Previous Chicago archbishops have died before age 75, when bishops are required to submit a letter of resignation.

Cardinal Francis George, 77, announced his resignation earlier this year as he faces his third bout with cancer. Cupich, the 65-year-old leader of the Diocese of Spokane, Washington, was named his replacement in September.

George celebrated his final Mass Sunday night at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. When he was appointed in 1997, he was the first Chicago area native to lead the Chicago archdiocese, and he was elevated to cardinal by Pope John Paul II the next year, ABC 7 Chicago reported.

The change in leadership at the head of Chicago's Roman Catholic Church - the third largest diocese in the U.S. - is viewed as the start of a new era by local Catholics.

"Something new is coming, and whenever there's something new, you say, 'OK, I got comfortable with what was. What's it going to be like now?'" said Beth Lawrence, of Arlington Heights, a 36-year member and former religious education teacher at Our Lady of the Wayside Catholic Church. "People lead differently. They have different talents and skills."

"So far, of what I've seen of Bishop Cupich, he seems like a lovely man and capable. A shepherd's heart," Lawrence added. "He seems open to listening to people. I don't want someone who's wishy-washy in charge of the archdiocese, but someone who can hear the struggles people have, the joys, the hardships. When people can't hear or won't listen, it's difficult."

It'll be good to have a fresh perspective on things, said Chari Rosales, director of the Adult Faith Formation at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Naperville.

"This is going to be a big job for (Cupich)," she said, noting that he is coming from a diocese of only 100,000 people to lead one with nearly 2.2 million. "(Cupich) looks for consensus, so he tries to be a good listener. He's noted for that. And he looks to bring people together."

For Bill Weismann of Lake Zurich, a member of St. Frances de Sales Catholic Church, the transition will be bittersweet. He's met Cardinal George a few times and found him to be charismatic, smart and inspiring.

"It's kind of a solemn time for us (Catholics)," he said. "It's sad for me, personally, to see him getting ill ... and seeing him pass the torch. He was a very good leader for us. I thought he was kind of a quiet but strong leader."

He's encouraged about what he's read about Cupich - that he's "of the people," service-oriented, and more inclusive toward divorced couples and gays.

"I am conservative ... but I also live in the modern world, and I think it's time for more moderate thinking. The church is never going to be liberal at all, but some of these things need to be reviewed and looked at," Weismann said. "People don't really know (Cupich) yet. He's so unassuming. ... I think he's going to be one of these quiet leaders that moves us forward in the right direction."

Cupich arrived at O'Hare International Airport Thursday wheeling his own carry-on bag and saying he'd booked the cheapest flight he could. He grew up in Nebraska and led the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota, before moving to Spokane.

Some note his similarities to Pope Francis, including his focus on the poor and his decision to live in a modest rectory rather than the archdiocese's Chicago mansion. After a congratulatory text about his surprise Chicago appointment, he's said to have texted back two words: "Pray hard."

Cupich has led through difficult times - he served as chairman of the U.S. bishops' child protection committee at the height of the clergy sex abuse crisis and is coming from a diocese that had to declare bankruptcy because of the scandal.

He is described as more socially moderate than Cardinal George. But while Cupich has called for civility in the "culture wars," he also said he did not foresee a shift in direction from Cardinal George's leadership.

Though beloved and revered by many Catholics, Cardinal George is known for his strict and conservative ways. He opposed the federal health care overhaul for its birth control mandate, speaks out about the dangers of secularism and is firm in his view that church teachings prohibit same-sex marriage and ordaining women. He's been hailed for protecting the Catholic identity and education system as much as possible amid financial struggles, but faced criticism over a number of issues, including his handling of the clergy sex abuse scandal.

"Nobody gets along with everybody," Rosales said. "(Cardinal George) has been a strong and influential voice. Chicago Catholics are proud of the fact that he does have an influence beyond Chicago."

Lawrence admits she wasn't thrilled with his leadership early on, because he seemed "unbending." But over time, she came to understand and respect him.

"I'm grateful the Holy Father has chosen to give him some time to have in retirement," Lawrence said. "There's some real benefit to being a transition time so they can talk to one another, and pass on information that only they know. Not even the people around them know the joy and the burden that goes along with the job. It's definitely an interesting time in watching a transition of this sort."

The services at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago are not open to the public, but the installation service will be broadcast on WGN-TV Channel 9, CBS 2, NBC 5, ABC 7, Fox 32, Telemundo 44 and EWTN, according to the Archdiocese of Chicago. It also will be broadcast live on Relevant Radio, 950 AM, 930 AM and 1270 AM.

Many suburban Catholics plan to tune in.

"This is a big deal," Rosales said. "We wish him many blessings."

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Images: Bishop Blase Cupich Rite of Reception

Chicago Archbishop-designate Blase Cupich speaks at a news conference Thursday after arriving at O'Hare International Airport Thursday. Associated Press
A visitor prays at Holy Name Cathedral, where Bishop Blase Cupich will be installed as the successor to Cardinal Francis George in ceremonies beginning Monday. Associated Press
Chicago Archbishop-designate Blase Cupich talks to reporters Thursday after arriving at O'Hare International Airport to be installed as the successor to Cardinal Francis George. Associated Press
Cardinal Francis George conducted Mass at St. Zachary Parish in Des Plaines to mark its 50th anniversary in 2012. Gilbert R. Boucher II/gboucher@dailyherald, 2012

Where to watch, listen to the installation

The Installation Mass for Archbishop Blase Cupich will be televised live at 2 p.m. Tuesday on WGN-TV Channel 9, CBS 2, NBC 5, ABC 7, Fox 32, Telemundo 44 and EWTN, according to the Archdiocese of Chicago. It also will be broadcast live on Relevant Radio, 950 AM, 930 AM and 1270 AM.

<b>Installation rituals</b>The installation of Archbishop Blase Cupich will span three days, and includes several rituals, none of which is open to the public due to limited seating:

• A Monday night procession of representatives from Archdiocesan parishes. Archbishop-to-be Cupich will symbolically knock on the front door of Holy Name Cathedral at 7 p.m. before Monday night's Liturgy of the Word with Rite of Reception. He'll be welcomed in, given an Archdiocesan stole, and greet civic, ecumenical, interreligious and Archdiocesan parish representatives.

• An Installation Mass at 2 p.m. Tuesday. Cardinal George will present the crozier (an item like a shepherd's staff) to Cupich and Cupich will be seated in the cathedra (chair). Archbishop Cupich will deliver the homily.

• Cupich will preside at 10 a.m. Morning Prayer and 7 p.m. Evening Prayer on Wednesday for men and women who are leaders and deacons in the church.

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