At noon today Rome time (6:00 AM EDT), June 27, 2014, Pope Francis appointed me the Fifth Bishop of Gaylord.
As I reflect on the significance of this unexpected appointment, it is all the more a grace-filled moment for me since today is providentially the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was at Sacred Heart Parish and Elementary School, Munising, Michigan, located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where I was first grounded in the faith. Then, in 1973, the seminary where I began my formational journey toward priesthood was named Sacred Heart College Seminary, located in Detroit. One of the great responsibilities I had was to serve as Superior at Casa Santa Maria, the graduate priest residence of the North American College, Rome, Italy. In the mid-1800s, it was the residence of the Visitation sisters. Pope Pius IX came to the house to name Margaret Mary Alacoque a “servant of God”. Recall that St Margaret Mary had ardently fostered the devotion to the Sacred Heart. So this announcement today, carries with it a providential character that is rooted in the love and mercy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus toward each one of us.
In these days, as I prepare myself to serve the People of God in the northern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula as a new bishop, I offer my praise and gratitude to the Lord Jesus whose presence in my life has enabled me to experience an abundance of life. My gratitude also goes to Pope Francis for entrusting me with this honor and great responsibility. The priests, religious, colleagues in ministry and the faithful with whom I have been privileged to journey in faith here in the Diocese of Lansing have been true companions reminding me of the Lord’s love and mercy. I am also grateful to Bishop Kenneth Povish, who ordained me a priest; to Bishop Carl Mengeling, with whom I have had the great privilege to serve in ministry; and to Bishop Earl Boyea, from whom I have learned so very much of what it means to be a faithful shepherd in word and example. Finally, I am so grateful for my mother Mary Raica, my father Steve Raica (now deceased) and my brother Joseph Raica. My mother and brother currently reside in Marquette, Michigan. They have sustained me with their daily thoughts and prayers. I will be closer to them – and that will be a source of mutual consolation. Finally, to my family and friends here in the US and in Europe, I express my heartfelt thanks for your companionship on the journey of life.
On August 28, 2014, the Feast of St Augustine, I will be ordained a bishop at St Mary Cathedral, Gaylord, Michigan. In these weeks of preparation, and indeed afterward, I beg for your prayers that I may serve the Lord totally and faithfully in this new ministerial chapter of my life. During this time in which we have been called to take seriously the challenge of the New Evangelization, I pray that my new faith family - the priests, religious and faithful of the Diocese of Gaylord – will join me in giving vibrant witness to the love and mercy beautifully portrayed by the Sacred Heart of Jesus.