Last Sunday, September 24, 2023, it was a joy for me to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Mary’s Cathedral, observing several milestones in my life of ministry, including the 41st anniversary of my Priestly Ordination, the 20th anniversary of my Episcopal Ordination, and the 9th anniversary of my Installation as Bishop of Fall River. What a great blessing to have achieved this point in my life; for this day, and every day in which God allows me to continue to serve His Church, I am incredibly grateful.
To commemorate all of these important moments in my life, I spent time rereading the homilies I offered at the Masses, celebrating those events all those years ago. For my homily on Sunday, I selected certain phrases or thoughts that I felt exemplified a common thread between them all. I invite you to watch the entire homily in this video of Sunday’s Liturgy here on the Fall River Diocese YouTube page. Don’t worry; I didn’t share them all in their entirety.
When I became a priest, on my remembrance card was written, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Then, during my first Mass of Thanksgiving in Brazil, I said the priesthood does not transform my littleness into greatness, it does not change my limitations into abundance, it does not super-nationalize or divinize my humanity, but it was in littleness and limitations that God called me to serve. It was in my yes to God that I found, and still do today, happiness, meaning, and fulfillment in life.
When I was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Newark twenty years ago, during my official announcement, I said, “I want immigrants to know that I am one of them, one with them, and one for them. Just like St. Paul said, “To the weak, I became weak to win over the weak; I have become all things to all, to save at least some.” Then, at the Ordination, during that ceremony in Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, I thought, what am I doing here? And then a voice from God within me said, “I called you here, and I brought you here.” It was clear to me, and I hoped all who were present there would also see that it was all God’s doing; I was there because of Him. Also, on that day, we made history as I was the first Brazilian to become a bishop in the United States and the first Vocationist priest to become a bishop.
Nine years ago, in our Cathedral of St. Mary, I gave thanks to the Lord for the gift of the Diocese of Fall River, the gift of its faithful people. I thanked the Lord for the mission of leading his people on the journey of faith and the path of holiness. The motto for my ordination as a bishop is, “My grace is enough for you,” as I referenced then and repeat now., I received a card right before my installation. The card read, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it is about learning to dance in the rain.” We shall walk together in faith and hope, sharing our faith with each other, always entrusting in the Lord’s words and the promise He made to us.” I keep those words alive always in my mind and in my heart as I continue to accept God’s call to lead the Diocese of Fall River; it is a continued partnership with God. St. Paul said, “It is by God’s grace that I am what I am.” I, too, by His grace alone, have been gratefully brought to this place in my life.
Thank you to all who were able to attend and to all who worked so hard to put together the beautiful Liturgy and wonderful reception, which the rainy weather could not dampen. I humbly ask for your continued prayers, and please know of mine for each of you.
National Meeting of the Brazilian Apostolate
Last week, the three regions of the National Brazilian Apostolate, of which I am the Episcopal Liaison, came together in Billerica for our first gathering in five years. It was truly wonderful to finally have this opportunity to be in person for three days of presentations, meetings, and worship as a community. The delegates in attendance from the 62 Brazilian communities across the United States were a combination of clergy and laypersons. Included in attendance were Bishop Adilson Pedro Busin, Bishop of the Diocese of Tuburão, Brazil, who came to the United States for the PBE meeting, and Bishop Bruce A. Lewandowski, C.Ss.R. from the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
The fruit of our laborers generated three main priorities for the Apostolate:
- To create a website and a better communication system between all the Brazilian communities here in the US.
- To establish an office with a staff assistant at the National level. The council felt a need to have someone in place to help better organize the good work we are doing.
- To complete the project to have the statue of Our Lady Aparecida enthroned at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. A consensus was reached to work together to raise the remaining needed funding and then to plan a pilgrimage to the National Shrine for the enthronement of the statue. This will be our first major celebration as a community.
- Our Lady Aparecida will share the same small side chapel as Our Lady of Fatima inside the Shrine. It is a beautiful pairing of these Marian devotions.
My heart is full of gratitude, hope, and immense joy after a week of celebration, service, and planning for the future. It is truly a privilege to serve my God and His beloved people as a bishop, especially here in the Fall River Diocese. Again, please know of my continued prayers for each of you, and in your kindness, please keep me in yours.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha