Bishop's Blog / Reflections of a Shepherd

By Bishop Strickland
Saturday, January 18, 2014

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~~As I move along into my second year as bishop of Tyler I must say there have been many things to reflect on.  I thought I would use my website as a medium for sharing some of those thoughts.  I hope what I share will help all of us to work together in the Diocese of Tyler and I hope that those who read them in other places may benefit in some way as well. 

Since my assignment as bishop of the diocese where I grew up allows me to interact with people that I have known for many years they often ask “what is different?” about being a bishop.  My standard response has become that it is a much busier life than I lead as a priest.  I must say I didn’t feel “not busy” before and I always had plenty to do but as a bishop I am definitely busier.  I suppose there is a danger in that which is somewhat magnified because as bishop I believe it is essential that I am a man deeply in touch with Jesus Christ and His Gospel message.
Maybe the word “magnified” is a good one to use to attempt to capture the differences in my life from my almost thirty years as a priest.  It seems that everything is magnified, the challenges and the blessings, the calendar and the responsibilities.

One of the greatest challenges I have faced as a bishop is how best to work with and guide the men who serve with me in the diocese as priests and deacons.  I am more aware than ever that the work of these good men is essential and I truly understand that anything I can accomplish is only possible because the priests and deacons (along with consecrated religious and committed laity) are working with me. 

We are blessed with a diverse group of men who make up the presbyterate of the Diocese of Tyler and one of my greatest challenges is bringing the proper balance of unity to this diversity.  At times I laugh at myself because through the years I’ve often seen fellow priests who seemed to really enjoy telling people what to do but that were never a major part of my priesthood.  I suppose my approach has always been to try to do my very best and for the most part leave others to presumably do the same.  I’ve come to realize as a priest and even more now as a bishop that sometimes I need to instruct and correct and I must admit that at times I fail to do so. 

I hope that I, along with the priests and deacons of the Diocese of Tyler, can continue to make good progress in seeking greater unity and caring for the people of God in these thirty-three counties.  I always want to respect each individual priest and deacon but at times it is necessary that I shepherd them with a firm hand.  Thankfully our diocese is blessed in that there are not major doctrinal issues that have to be addressed.  We are faithful to the teachings of our Catholic faith in all its aspects.  I would characterize my responsibility more in terms of fine tuning and thus shepherding to a greater unity and respect for each other.

At my ordination Cardinal DiNardo said at times I will need to correct the flock and her shepherds and I realize more than ever how true those words are.  I hope that I can always guide and correct out of love for the Lord and His Church but I know I have and will make mistakes along the way.  I laugh because I realize that when I “put my foot down” I’m likely to “step on some toes”.  The imagery is really quite appropriate because it captures in many ways what it means to shepherd with love. 

If you are reading this I ask you to pray for Pope Francis and all bishops throughout the Church.  He is inspiring us to return to the heart of the Gospel and our relationship with Jesus Christ.  I will continue to do my best to shepherd the flock of East Texas closer to our Lord and His Church.  Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will guide me to be the shepherd His good people need. 

Bishop Strickland

Bishop Joseph E. Strickland was named the fourth bishop of Tyler in September of 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. Prior to being named bishop, he served a number of roles in the diocese, including vicar general, judicial vicar, and pastor of the Cathedral parish. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1985.
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