Shortly after Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas arrived in the Diocese of Tucson in November of 2001, a senior and much-respected priest of the diocese said publicly about him. "He's our 'Energizer Bishop.' He just keeps going, and going, and going, and going!"
In the seven years since, two as coadjutor and five as the sixth bishop of the diocese, the energy and pace of Bishop Jerry (as he likes to be called) have only increased.
For the more than 350,000 Catholics in his diocese and to his brother bishops, though, it is not just the fact of his unflagging energy and his seeming ability to be in twenty different places at the same time that have endeared Bishop Jerry to them and that have gained their respect.
It is the intense focus of that energy, a focus that hones in like a laser beam on the things that really matter to people and finds the common ground of those things. To mention just some of those things on which he has focused:
- He witnessed and then communicated with passion his experience in a small Mexican border town filled with people trying to enter our country to find work so that they could feed their families.
- He brought together leaders of faith groups in Arizona to speak to the moral dimensions of that unprecedented migration and advocate for the humane treatment of these people on the move.He gathered community leaders in Tucson to confront the scourge of methamphetamine use.
- On behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which he serves today as Vice President, he journeyed to India and Nepal to gather facts about people driven from their homes.
- He constantly has pointed to and emphasized the need to respect all life -- from conception to natural death - and the need to reach out to the most vulnerable.
- He has been a leading proponent of the permanent deaconate and of lay persons using their skills and talents in service to the Church. It was with great joy this month that he ordained 22 new deacons and authorized and certified his diocese's first lay ecclesial ministers as his "Co-workers in the Vineyard of the Lord."
- He listened to the victims of priest sexual abuse in his diocese, and when the diocese's Chapter 11 reorganization was completed in 2005, the Bankruptcy Court judge and the principal attorneys wrote of his testimony: "Bishop Kicanas' testimony was one of healing, compassion, and apology."
In each of his 13 years as a bishop, he has modeled the example set for him by his friend who ordained him to the episcopacy, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago. He has been a man of prayer, a listener, a reconciler, and an initiator.
For his productive and faithful service to the church for 41 years as priest, teacher, seminary rector, and bishop, and for his commitment to finding the common ground of things that really matter, the Catholic Common Ground Initiative proudly gives the 2008 Cardinal Joseph Bernardin Award to Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas.
Presentation of the Annual Cardinal Bernardin Award to Most Rev. Gerald F. Kicanas, Bishop of Tucson, Arizona