| By Father Joseph Krupp

Dear Father Joe: How does the church pick bishops?

A bishop called in one of his priests and said, "While celebrating Mass the other day, I noticed that you changed the words of the Eucharistic Prayer. Instead of saying, "We pray for our bishop," you say, "We pray for our bishop, God`s unworthy servant." The priest was shocked, saying "Well, Excellency, that is what you say when you get to that part. It sounded so humble and beautiful, I thought I should say it, too. Why is it okay for you to refer to yourself as an unworthy servant, but wrong for me to refer to you that way?"

The bishop paused and said, "Well, because when you say it, you mean it.

Dear Father Joe: How does the church pick bishops?

This was a great question for me! I stared at it for a long time and realized I really had no idea how it is done. I researched and found some great stuff, but none was more helpful than the Web site: http://frpat.com/bishopchoice.htm. It was fantastic resource, and most of my information for this will come from that site.

The first point Father Pat makes is that the Holy Spirit makes the choice. I like that. It would be too easy to simply delve into the process while forgetting the most important part. We believe the Holy Spirit guides the church in a holy and special way. We can trust that Jesus does not leave his flock abandoned, thank God!

Finding the right priest begins with the bishop of a region submitting names of priests with the right gifts to the local metropolitan bishop. In the Diocese of Lansing, Bishop Mengeling would supply the names to Cardinal Maida in Detroit.

The next step is when the bishops of an area meet with their metropolitan and make a list to give to the papal nuncio.

The papal nuncio is someone the pope appoints to do two things:

- to serve as the ambassador to a country and

- to represent the pope for all the Catholics in that country.

The papal nuncio for the U.S. is an Italian archbishop named Pietro Sambi.

In the next step, Archbishop Sambi checks out the priests on the list - he prays and discerns to identify their strengths and weaknesses. The priests` friends and family receive a confidential form to fill out to assist in Archbishop Sambi`s investigation. The result of this process is that the nuncio has a solid understanding of the various priests whom the bishops consider good prospects for the episcopacy. This way, when a diocese opens up, the nuncio can send the Congregation for Bishops in Rome a shorter list of priests whose particular gifts and talents will fit that diocese best.

Now that the Congregation of Bishops has a list, they pray about it and discuss it together. The end result is that they send the pope an even shorter list. The pope sits down with the congregation and the nuncio to pray and discuss who the Holy Spirit is calling them to appoint.

Now, as I understand it, neither the papal nuncio nor the pope are slaves to this list: They can choose whomever they feel the Spirit is calling them to appoint.

Dear Father Joe: If I don`t like my priest, can I switch parishes?

First of all, I think it`s important to keep in mind that you are not enslaved to any location for attending Mass. Although parishes are defined geographically, you may participate in another parish`s worship and activities. In some dioceses, you may register in a parish of your choosing; in others, your registration is restricted to the parish where you are technically a member - which is the parish in which you reside. Under canon law, whether you regiser or not, you are a member of that parish. I know my family drove 45 minutes to go to a church because the priest there was an incredibly holy, rare man and we didn't want to miss out on that gift. That helped my spirituality immensely.

I do think it`s important to go to the Catholic parish that feeds your soul best. A buddy of mine commuted a significant distance to his church and had a bumper sticker that said, "A church alive is worth the drive!" That sums it up well.

I believe that our reasons for switching parishes or not switching are important. If we are switching because Mass is shorter somewhere else, I think that is a bad idea. God deserves our time, talents and energy - basing our worship on how quickly we can get out sends our souls a bad message.

Switching parishes is a big deal and shouldn't be taken lightly. Make sure that you pray and talk this through with friends before making your choice. Just like in the previous question, trust that the Holy Spirit will guide your open heart.

Enjoy another day in God`s presence!