There have been some countdowns to the retirement age for some bishops and archbishops. Here though is a bishop whose 75th birthday is not eagerly awaited by his flock.
For the past 18 years, Bruskewitz has served as bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Lincoln.
In September, when he turns 75, Bruskewitz will submit a letter of resignation to Pope Benedict XVI, as is required by Code of Canon Law. It will then be up to the pope to replace him, which could take as little as a few days or as long as several years.
“It’s always better to wear out than rust out,” he says, reiterating an oft-heard saying.
“And so, I think that as long as I can do something, I am happy to do it,” Bruskewitz said of the fluidity of his retirement.
Regardless of the official date, Bruskewitz admits he is “psyched” about all the free time ahead. God willing, he plans to stay in Lincoln writing, fishing, pheasant hunting with his new dog Quincy, and devoting time to learning the intricacies of computer technology.
At times, Bruskewitz’s reign over the 136 churches in the 23,844 square miles of the Lincoln Diocese across southern Nebraska has been controversial. But it’s always clear and direct.
His detractors paint a portrait of a devout but stubborn man with unyielding orthodoxy and ultra-conservative views of God’s word and expectations of the Catholic Church.
His supporters extol those very same traits as his virtues.
He is a leader and a teacher. He is principled. Kind. Charitable. Charismatic. Decisive. Resolute.
He is intelligent and educated. He knows eight languages: English, Italian, German, Spanish, French, Latin, Greek and Hebrew.
He is an entertaining storyteller with a shrewd sense of humor and an infectious laugh.
But above all, he is a man of God.
“God rules the diocese and I am just his instrument,” Bruskewitz said during a recent interview from the library in the Catholic Chancery.
“I am not a dictator. But I do think that bishops have, by Catholic doctrine, the three-fold duty to teach, to sanctify and to govern the Catholic people … in spiritual matters,” Bruskewitz said. “I don’t try to govern people in partisan political matters.”
It is a responsibility that Bruskewitz has never craved.
“But if the responsibility is given to me and I have to answer to God for its use, I think it is better that I use it and ensure that the diocese is in conformity with the universal church and the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church,” he said.
Here is a bishop whose controversies were because he acted as a bishop in the care of his flock.
Cleansing Fire lists to another article with an amazing list of the bishop’s accomplishments in a diocese with a rather small Catholic population.