As we prepare for the transition from Bishop Paul Loverde to Bishop Michael Burbidge to lead this diocese, it is perhaps helpful to reflect upon the role of the bishops as successors to the Apostles. During His public ministry, Jesus chose twelve special disciples who came to be known as the Apostles to guide His people who would become the Church. After His ascension, the Apostles understood that their office could be shared by others; and so they ordained the likes of Saints Matthias (who replaced Judas Iscariot), Paul and Barnabas. The Acts of the Apostles in turn describes St. Paul as ordaining other men to lead the church in the communities he evangelized; the letters to Timothy and Titus are addressed to two of these leaders.
By the end of the first century all of the original Apostles had died, but their ordained successors, who were known as eposcopi in Latin (and much later bishops in English) guided the Church and in turn appointed other men to succeed them and to lead the church in new lands. As the Apostles had one leader, St. Peter, so likewise when he died, the bishops would continue to have one leader, the Bishop of Rome, now called the Pope. The Apostles discerned early on that they could appoint other clerics to assist these leaders; and those clerics would come to be called priests and deacons. Every bishop, priest or deacon has been ordained by a bishop, who was in turned ordained by a bishop in unbroken succession back to the Twelve Apostles. And thus the bishops are the successors to the Apostles; priests share in much of the ministry of bishops and act with them in the person of Christ; and deacons are ordained assistants to the bishops and the priests. And thus, through the bishops, we have an unbroken connection to the early Church and will in the future be connected to the Church until the end of all ages on earth. And because these same bishops guide the Church in every land, we are also united to every nation that has ever been or will ever be a part of the Church. And so continues the commissioning of Jesus Christ who told His Apostles just before ascending into heaven, ““Go therefore and make disciples of all nations. . . . And lo I am with you always to the close of the age.” Matt. 28:20.