Bishop Donald W. Trautman Citation
Saint Vincent Seminary Commencement
May 6, 2011
Bishop Trautman, for your 49 years of priestly ministry and twenty-six years of episcopal ministry, you have faithfully responded as a successor to the apostles to Christ’s command to “Feed my sheep.” Today, Saint Vincent Seminary gives thanks to Christ, the Eternal Shepherd, who has given you the grace to serve with heartfelt compassion the flocks he has entrusted to your care in your years as a priest and bishop.
Upon completion of your undergraduate studies at the Diocesan Preparatory Seminary in Buffalo and at Our Lady of the Angels Seminary at Niagara University, you were sent to the University of Innsbruck where you received your licentiate in Sacred Theology as a student of the noted theologians Karl Rahner and Josef Jungmann. You continued post-graduate work in Rome, where you received a licentiate in Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute and a doctorate in Sacred Theology from Saint Thomas University. During your years of study in Rome, you also assisted as a consultant at the Second Vatican Council.
After your return from studies in Rome, you taught with great distinction at St. John Vianney Seminary, now Christ the King Seminary, in the Diocese of Buffalo. Your notable scholarship was reflected both in the classroom and in your contributions to America, The Bible Today and numerous lectures throughout the nation. Recognizing your many gifts, you were also called to serve in a wide range of administrative and pastoral settings, which culminated in your appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Buffalo on February 27, 1985, where you served until your appointment, by Pope John Paul II, as the ninth Bishop of Erie on June 12, 1990.
In July of 1990, you embarked on a whirlwind tour of the 10,000 square miles and 13 counties which make up the Diocese of Erie, revealing from the start the love of the Good Shepherd who had come to feed Christ’s sheep. Over the years, your service as Bishop has concretely embodied the love of the Good Shepherd whom you have chosen as your role model for service to the people of God.
In his encyclical Deus Caritas Est (n.25), Pope Benedict XVI noted that “the Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility of: a) proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), b) celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and c) exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia).”
Proclaiming the Word
Your love for the Word of God has been reflected not only in your personal study of Sacred Scripture as a recognized biblical scholar and life-long student of the Bible, but also in your leadership at the national level as a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, where you have chaired the U.S. Bishops Committee on Doctrine and the Committee on Liturgy, and served on the Pro-Life and Budget and Finance Committees. Your election by your brother bishops on two separate occasions to Chair one of the most controversial Committees of the Conference, namely the Committee on the Liturgy, reflects their confidence and deep respect for your integrity, scholarship and wisdom.
You have argued fearlessly for the authentic interpretation of biblical texts and their faithful expression of God’s great gift: His Divine Word. You have spent countless hours studying biblical and liturgical texts in service to your brother bishops and to the people of God everywhere. Your perseverance encourages all to remain confident and firm in the pursuit of truth. Your legacy of integrity, scholarship and wisdom is a lasting gift to the Universal Church.
You have also served as an outstanding role model for your priests and deacons through your proclamation of the Word of God as expressed in your preaching. Of special note are your inspiring homilies to the youth and families of the Diocese on the occasion of your administering the Sacrament of Confirmation. Your Spirit-filled words provide a sound foundation for their life-long encounter with Christ. In his Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, Pope Benedict XVI notes that “Young People need witnesses and teachers who can walk with them, teaching them to love the Gospel and to share it, especially with their peers, and thus become authentic and credible messengers.” (n.104) Bishop Trautman, you have walked in faith with the youth of your diocese and have compassionately and courageously encouraged them to let Christ into their lives and to give their lives to Christ.
Celebrating the Sacraments
By all accounts, the heart of your ministry as bishop has been the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ through your energetic and tireless pursuit to bring all people closer to God through the power of the Eucharist.
In your Pastoral Letter on the Eucharist (1993) you were clear and emphatic: We can’t make it in this world without divine help. Our faith journey on this earth is too dangerous and difficult; our path too filled with detours, too filled with windings and hills. We need support and strength for the journey. That support and strength come from the Eucharist.
In your presence throughout the Diocese, you have enabled many to come to Christ and to be sustained in their life’s journey through the power of the Risen Lord in the Eucharist. In Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI noted that “A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically flawed.” (n.16) You have, in your ministry as priest and bishop, given witness to the power of the concrete practice of love rooted in the Eucharist.
Exercising the Ministry of Charity
Your love for the Eucharist has been reflected not only in your preaching and teaching, but also in your creation of programs to help the poor and powerless entrusted by Christ and His Church to your care, calling to mind that everyone will have to give an account of his or her life as we stand before the Son of Man who will consider what we do or not do to “the least of his brethren.”(Mt. 25:45) Your deep and abiding concern for children and families, for the poor and marginalized, for the homeless women and men of the Diocese of Erie and beyond expresses in concrete terms the actualization of the ideal embodied in your episcopal motto: “Feed my sheep.”
Inspired by the example of Christ the Good Shepherd, as well as the personal example of your Mother, Martha, you have responded to those in need throughout the Diocese. The creation of the Bishop’s Breakfast Program, offering a hot breakfast to the poor in the city of Erie is one concrete example of your outreach to the poor. Under your guidance, this program has expanded from a nutritious morning meal to include providing clothing and other life essentials to those in need. Recently, the program has been extended to include a training program for persons interested in acquiring the necessary skills for employment in culinary services. Your partnership and support of local and civic leaders in the creation of employment opportunities such as The John Kanzius Cancer Center in Erie, and other programs throughout the region, reflect your commitment to Christ’s call to the ministry of Charity.
For you, Bishop Trautman, care for the poor and those in need has not been some kind of alternative welfare activity, but rather an indisputable expression of the living presence of Christ in His Church, and the fulfillment of the command to his disciples: “What I have done for you, you must do for one another,” and again, “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do unto me.”
You have been a staunch defender of the unborn in your opposition to abortion, and a strong supporter of Catholic schools throughout the Diocese. You have worked vigorously in the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life through the “Called by Name” vocation program. Your ongoing efforts on behalf of good stewardship, fiscal management, ecumenism, the creation of the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth, the increased role of women in today’s church, more lay involvement, the establishment of a permanent diaconate program, the Catholic Rural Ministry Program, and the encouragement of parish-based Bible study sessions as the foundation for all pastoral activity have inspired the clergy, religious and laity throughout the Diocese of Erie.
Your faith and single-minded obedience to Christ’s call to “Feed my sheep” serves as an inspiring challenge to our seminary graduates, to those pursuing a call to priestly ministry, and to all of your brothers and sisters in Christ, whose spiritual energies are ever renewed through your life’s work and deep faith.
In recognition of your faithful stewardship, inspiring leadership and untiring service to the priests, religious and laity of the Diocese of Erie and the Universal Church:
Saint Vincent Seminary proudly confers upon His Excellency
The Most Reverend Donald W. Trautman, Bishop of Erie,
the degree of Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa,
on this Sixth Day of May, in the Year of our Lord Two Thousand and Eleven.