The Most Rev. Leonard Paul Blair, 64, was installed as the fifth archbishop and the 13th bishop of the Archdiocese of Hartford during a solemn Mass of Installation celebrated at 2 p.m. Dec. 16 before a jubilant congregation of 2,000 people at the Cathedral of St. Joseph.
Archbishop Blair, who previously served as Bishop of the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio, succeeds the Most Rev. Henry J. Mansell, who served as archbishop since 2003 and submitted his resignation at the required age of 75 last year to then-Pope Benedict XVI, as required by canon law.
"Archbishop Blair, it is my honor and privilege as your predecessor to welcome you to the cathedral, your Cathedral Church of St. Joseph," said Archbishop Mansell as he met and greeted his successor at the doors of the cathedral.
Also part of the ceremonial reception, Msgr. John J. McCarthy, rector of the cathedral, presented Archbishop-designate Blair with a crucifix that he kissed and with holy water that he sprinkled on himself and those present.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States and the personal representative of Pope Francis, installed the new archbishop.
Among other prelates in attendance were Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, O.F.M., of Boston; Cardinal Adam J. Maida of Detroit; Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston; and Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
In the rite of installation, Archbishop Viganò, who began the Mass, read the apostolic letter of appointment from Pope Francis dated Oct. 29, in which he referenced Archbishop Blair’s transition from the Buckeye State to the Constitution State. Following protocol, the letter was shown to the College of Consultors by Msgr. McCarthy, as required by canon law.
Archbishop Viganò then escorted Archbishop-designate Blair to the cathedra, or chair that is the symbol of his apostolic authority – the point at which he formally became Archbishop of Hartford and principal celebrant of the Mass. Various representatives of the archdiocese – from priests, deacons and religious to laity and children – came forward to personally greet the new archbishop.
Before beginning his homily, Archbishop Blair appeared to be arranging papers at the podium; and, then, as if to capture emotions that marked the day, quipped, "I’ll have to get used to a new pulpit."
He also drew sustained applause of appreciation when he expressed gratitude to Archbishop Mansell, "who has given his all for the good of his Church."
Weaving the words of Pope Francis throughout his homily, he used the themes of memory, mission and ministry to talk about the call for a new evangelization and the call to "renew our commitment as an archdiocesan family" to live the mission received at baptism with "boldness and joy."
He also repeated the metaphor used by Pope Francis, who said that the Church’s ministry is that of "a field hospital for the wounded." The image, he said "is part of the Church’s very nature…and something we need to rededicate ourselves to every day at every level of Catholic life."
Archbishop Blair recalled when Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was once asked, "What’s the first thing you would change in the Church?" She answered, "You and me."
"During this Advent season of expectant hope, we all need to work at Mother Teresa’s wise answer," he said, calling upon the support of priests, deacons, religious and the laity.
"Please convey to Pope Francis," he asked of Archbishop Viganò, "our love, our support, our prayers and our willingness with God’s help to rise to the challenge that the Holy Father is giving us and to the whole Church to the praise of our Lord, Jesus Christ."
Archbishop Blair was born in Detroit, Mich. He was appointed an auxiliary bishop of Detroit on July 9, 1999, ordained a bishop on Aug. 24, 1999, and appointed Bishop of Toledo in 2003.
He spent 13 years in Italy studying at the North American College, the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum). He served as secretary to Cardinal Edmund Szoka and as a staff member of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See in the Vatican.
Making the trip from Detroit for the installation was his only sister, Pat Jones; a niece; and cousins. His brother-in-law Evan, was unable to attend the ceremony.
"I am so happy and excited for him," said Mrs. Jones. "I am so touched because I know how much he cares for the Church and how hard he works." Added his niece, Annie, who is a medical student at Michigan State University, "We’re just so proud of him; but we will miss him back in Michigan."
Along with Archbishop Viganò and Archbishop Mansell, principal concelebrants were Archbishop Emeritus Daniel A. Cronin, Auxiliary Bishop Christie A. Macaluso and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Peter A. Rosazza of the Archdiocese of Hartford; Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of the Diocese of Bridgeport; Bishop Michael R. Cote of the Diocese of Norwich; Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans and Bishop Emeritus Louis E. Gelineau, all of the Diocese of Providence, R.I.; and Bishop Paul P. Chomnycky and Bishop Emeritus Basil H. Losten of the Ukranian Diocese of Stamford.
With majestic pageantry, a 20-minute procession before the Mass included about 100 deacons; more than 250 priests; more than 30 seminarians; almost 50 bishops and archbishops, including Archbishop Allen Vigneron from the Archdiocese of Detroit; and five cardinals.
Honor guards included those from the Knights of Columbus, the Knights and Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, the Knights and Dames of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the Knights of Peter Claver.
"I’m very grateful to be here in this beautiful church," said Kyara Heredia, an eighth grader from St. Cyril and St. Methodius Church in Hartford. "It’s good that everyone has gathered to welcome our new archbishop," added her classmate, Tatiana Duncan.
In his episcopal coat of arms, Archbishop Blair included a symbolic reference to his baptismal patron, Saint Leonard, as well as symbols for the Blessed Virgin Mary and the apostles Peter and Paul – a sign of the Church being both Marian and apostolic.
"It’s very exciting see to see all the cardinals and bishops here because it underscores how important the Hartford Archdiocese is in this region," said Pamela Trotman Reid, president of the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford. "It marks a time of the passing of the torch from Archbishop Mansell, who really is a man of the people. But I also look forward to welcoming Archbishop Blair."
Archbishop Blair concluded his Mass of Installation by asking the faithful to offer a prayer entrusting the Archdiocese of Hartford to "Mary, Mother of God and Star of the New Evangelization."
Dr. Ezequiel Menéndez served as director of music. He also provided music for evening prayer, offered the previous day at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield and attended by Archbishop Blair and priests of the diocese.
"It’s a great day for the archdiocese," said Sister Carolyn Severino, a member of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and principal of St. Mary School in Branford. "You are grateful for what has been, thanks to the gifts of Archbishop Mansell; and now we look forward to the gifts that Archbishop Blair will share with us."
In a tribute to Archbishop Blair’s Polish heritage, a traditional Polish hymn was sung as part of the meditation after Communion.
After the installation ceremony, guests attended a reception at neighboring Aetna to meet Archbishop Blair. The Mass of Installation was fed live to broadcast stations, including EWTN, Catholic TV, Fox 61, WCCT-TV and WJMJ/88.9 FM Radio.
Archbishop Blair takes over an archdiocese comprising Hartford, Litchfield and New Haven counties, with 213 parishes, 592,000 Catholics, 446 diocesan and religious priests and 63 Catholic schools. As head of the Metropolitan See of Hartford, he also oversees the dioceses of Bridgeport, Norwich and Providence,