Bishop Mark L. Bartchak admits he is a little more polished than he was during his early days in the ministry, but asked those who helped to bring him this far to continue to pray for him and "polish and perfect me in the ways of Christ."
Bartchak was ordained and installed Tuesday as the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown in a 3 1/2-hour ceremony and Mass at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.
In his closing remarks, Bartchak told the story of serving in his first assignment as a deacon at St. Joseph Parish in Warren. He said the priest often would get idioms confused. He would say, "That's water over the bridge" or "six of one, a dozen of another," Bartchak said.
Events at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
He explained the mixups to get to the heart of his story. He said that during all four Masses his first weekend at St. Joseph's, the priest introduced him enthusiastically by saying, "Bishop [Michael] Murphy has sent him to us to 'polish him off' for ordination."
Bartchak used the light moment to transition to the fact that he has experienced a lot of polishing during his 30 years in the priesthood.
The polishing really began with his family life and being raised with seven other siblings, he said. He also noted that the Catholic sisters who taught him in school "gave me plenty of polishing."
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Bishop Mark L. Bartchak gives his pontifical blessing Tuesday after his ordination and installation at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona. Bishop Emeritus Joseph V. Adamec walks behind him.
Bartchak said everyone who has been part of his life, whether they know it or not, has "brought me to this day."
"I look forward with great awe and anticipation to be a servant of God and a witness of hope," he said. "I pledge to do the best I can."
Bartchak served as a judicial vicar or expert in canon (church) law for 20 years in the Diocese of Erie where he also was in residence at St. Stanislaus Parish. He was named bishop-elect for the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown at a Jan. 14 press conference at Garvey Manor.
The Apostolic Letter, the official document from Pope Benedict XVI calling Bartchak to serve as bishop, was read by Archbishop Pietro Sambi of Washington, D.C., at the ordination. Sambi is apostolic nuncio, or the pope's representative, to the United States.
Bartchak was ordained by Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, who served as principal consecrator, and co-consecrators Bishop Donald W. Trautman of the Diocese of Erie and Bishop Emeritus Joseph V. Adamec of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
The laying of hands was administered by Rigali and the more than 15 bishops present.
Those in attendance broke out in applause for more than a minute when Bartchak sat for the first time in the cathedra - the bishop's throne. It is the symbol of his teaching authority as bishop of the diocese and is the final official step signifying him as bishop.
Among those who greeted the new bishop were Altoona Mayor William E. Schirf; U.S. Rep. Mark S. Critz, D-12th District; the Rev. Gabriel J. Zeis, T.O.R., president of St. Francis University; and the Rev. Angelo J. Patti, chairman of the Presbyteral Council for the diocese.
Bartchak's motto, "Christ, Our Hope of Glory," based on Colossians 1:27, was emphasized throughout the ordination and Mass, including Rigali's sermon.
Rigali pointed out that Bartchak was celebrating with family, including his relatives, the people of God from Erie and his new family, the people of God in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.