By JORDAN MCMORROUGH
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — While prefacing his remarks by saying that he “hates farewells,” Bishop Robert J. Baker said goodbye to his parishioners at Christ the King Church last Sunday during the noon liturgy.
In his homily and in a message in the Sunday bulletin, the incoming bishop of the Diocese of Charleston bade farewell “with a heavy heart, knowing I’m leaving a great situation in a great diocese.”
Bishop Baker said he loved every one of his 29 years as a priest of the Diocese of St. Augustine, which he called years of much happiness and many blessings.
He had presumed his final days of parish ministry would be spent at Christ the King Parish, “but the Lord has decided otherwise,” he said.
The new ordinary of the Charleston Diocese said to his former parishioners, “continue being the great model parish of stewardship that you are,” urging attendees to help their priests and staff see the construction of a new library and media center underway at the parish school through to completion.
“We are blessed, because of stewardship, to have such a wonderful school, staffed by great people,” said Bishop Baker, who added, and “special thanks to the tremendous priests and staff at Christ the King rectory, as well as the parish council and finance committee members who have labored so well with me.”
He said to his faithful, “your love has been a support to me, and I will continue to seek your prayers for me in my responsibilities as bishop of the Diocese of Charleston, that the Lord may enlighten my path and guide me in his ways.”
Bishop Thomas Larkin, retired bishop of the Diocese of Tampa-St. Petersburg and founding pastor of Christ the King Church, was the presider for the farewell liturgy. Before the conclusion of the Mass, the bishop offered his thoughts on the choice of the new ordinary of South Carolina.
“Father Bob is a wonderful choice because of his deep spirituality and his love of and service to the people.” He humorously said, “My only regret is he isn’t a bishop in the state of Florida.”
The retired prelate stressed that the Church today faces the challenge of evangelization, and that Christ the King Parish is an illustration of “evangelization efforts that really work.”
Bishop Baker, he said, “is well equipped to meet the challenge in the Church of the new millennium. May God bless him.”
Prior to the recessional, a musical “Irish Blessing” was performed by the Christ the King teen-angels handbell and adult choirs. All were invited to extend their right hand in blessing in the direction of Bishop Baker during the song.
Following the liturgy, Bishop Larkin, Bishop Baker, and Msgr. Mortimer Danaher, pastor-emeritus of Christ the King Church, processed outside into a heavy rainstorm and took part in a short ground blessing ceremony for the expansion efforts currently underway at the parish school.
Activities then shifted to the school gymnasium, where, underneath the covered walkway outside, Bishop Baker was presented a parting gift from grateful parishioners: a brand new Toyota Avalon automobile. Inside the gym, the bishop was presented several gifts from the Vietnamese community in the parish as well as another gift from all the church-goers; a check for $10,000 to be used for travel purposes back-and-forth from Florida when visiting.