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New auxiliary bishops give ‘a great sign of hope and joy,’ says Philly archbishop

Auxiliary Bishops Efren V. Esmilla, Christopher R. Cooke and Keith J. Chylinski pause during their ordination Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia March 7, 2024. (OSV News photo/Gina Christian)

PHILADELPHIA (OSV News) — Three Philadelphia priests have been made auxiliary bishops of their archdiocese, providing “a great sign of hope and of joy” as they “walk in the midst of the people” on the journey to eternal life in Jesus Christ, said their archbishop.

Bishop Keith J. Chylinski, Bishop Christopher R. Cooke and Bishop Efren V. Esmilla were ordained as auxiliary bishops by Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez of Philadelphia during a March 7 Mass at that city’s Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, and Auxiliary Bishop John J. McIntyre of Philadelphia served as concelebrants and co-ordaining bishops.

Pope Francis named the three auxiliaries Dec. 8, 2023, and their appointments were shared at a news conference hosted by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that day.

Joining Archbishop Pérez at the liturgy were Cardinal Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., and the permanent synod of bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church led by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk. The permanent synod members’ visit marks the first official travel to the U.S. by a Ukrainian Catholic delegation since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The permanent synod’s presence at the ordination reflected the close collaboration between the Latin Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia in prayer and support for Ukraine. Major Archbishop Shevchuk presented to Archbishop Pérez — who described Ukraine’s sufferings as “redemptive for the world” — a framed fragment of a drone that had targeted his residence in Kyiv, Ukraine, with Metropolitan Archbishop Borys A. Gudziak of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia asking Archbishop Pérez to receive it “as a sign of our passion, which you have shared.”

In addition, Major Archbishop Shevchuk presented Archbishop Pérez with a traditional Ukrainian Easter egg, decorated in the pysanky style, as a sign of “this paschal experience” and as the “sign of Resurrection.”

Addressing the new bishops, Archbishop Pérez said, “Now you know what it’s like as my brother bishops to receive a call from ‘you know who’ (Cardinal Pierre) asking if you’re alone … and in the name of the Holy Father … (asking) you to become a bishop.

“Thankfully, you all said yes,” said the archbishop. “Very joyfully you have accepted.”

The liturgy spanned more than three hours and drew hundreds of clergy, religious, seminarians, family and friends to the cathedral and featured multiple choirs, whose members performed in Latin, English, Spanish and Tagalog.

During the ordination rite, the bishops-designate were presented to the archbishop, and promised to “proclaim the Gospel of Christ faithfully and unfailingly,” to “guard the deposit of faith” and to “build up the body of Christ, his church” under the authority of, and in obedience to, the pope.

In addition, the bishops-designate pledged to encourage and guide the “holy people of God” as “a devoted father … to reach out in kindness and mercy to the poor, to strangers and to all those in need … to seek out the sheep who stray and gather them into the Lord’s fold … to pray without ceasing to almighty God for his holy people and to carry out the office of high priest without reproach.”

Following a litany of supplication, the archbishop laid his hands on the kneeling bishops-designate, as did the co-ordaining bishops and the other bishops present. As the Book of the Gospels was placed over the head of each bishop-designate, Archbishop Pérez prayed the prayer of ordination, conferring the sacrament of episcopal holy orders, which included anointing with sacred chrism, handing on the Book of the Gospels, and bestowing the episcopal insignia — the ring (worn on the right hand), the miter and the crosier or pastoral staff.

Each bishop also was appointed to a titular see, a diocese (often ancient) that has ceased to function, but the assignment of which enables the auxiliary bishop to fulfill the canonical norm of leading a specific diocese. Bishops Chylinski, Cooke and Esmilla were respectively named to the titular sees of Gunela (formerly in what is now Tunisia), Malliana (now Algeria) and Ottana (a former Sardinian diocese restored as a titular see in 2004)

Cardinal Pierre, who had most recently held the titular see of Gunela, told Bishop Chylinski to take care of his former territory, saying it was a “very good” one.

Archbishop Pérez said that “the bishop at times walks in front of his people leading” while at other times he “walks behind the people, pushing them.”

“Most of the time, the bishop is called to be in the midst of his people,” said Archbishop Pérez.

The three new bishops already have significant pastoral experience.

Bishop Chylinski currently serves as rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. After his 2007 priestly ordination, he served at several parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. In addition, he has directed counseling services at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and has been a member of the archdiocese’s racial healing commission since its formation in 2021. From 2018 to 2022, he was the national chaplain of the Catholic Psychotherapy Association, which he joined in 2013.

Bishop Cooke is currently dean of men for the theology seminary at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. Ordained a priest in 2006, he has served at several parishes in the archdiocese. From 2013 to 2021, he directed the spiritual year of formation at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. Fluent in English and Spanish, he is a member of the archdiocesan council of priests.

Born in the Philippines, Bishop Esmilla was ordained to the priesthood in 1993. Among a range of pastoral assignments throughout the Philadelphia Archdiocese, he has served as chaplain of the Filipino apostolate since 2005, and as spiritual director of the Legion of Mary since 2001. He has served as pastor of two parishes since 2020, as well as a number of archdiocesan governance positions, and speaks English, Spanish, Tagalog, Latin and Portuguese.

In their post-ordination remarks, all three bishops expressed their profound gratitude and humility regarding their episcopal elevation.

“I’ve received such a great outpouring of love and support from so many in the church, (and) it has struck me very powerfully how the church is truly a family,” Bishop Chylinski said, adding, “It’s Jesus — that’s what this is all about. That’s why we’re here today.”

“Today did not happen because of my own efforts. I’m here because of the power of prayer. So many of you lifted me up for many, many years,” Bishop Cooke said. “I know I still have a lot to learn, and I am committed to being the best auxiliary bishop I can with both my gifts and my faith.”

“My ordination today … started from love — love of Christ, love of Mary, love of faith, love of my family and friends,” Bishop Esmilla said. “It starts with love, continues in compassion, and endures with trust.”

Gina Christian is a multimedia reporter for OSV News. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) at @GinaJesseReina

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