Rivera officially installed
HAMMONTON—The Most Rev. Dennis J. Sullivan served as principal celebrant for the Mass of Installation for the Rev. David Rivera as pastor of St. Mary of Mt. Carmel Parish on December 11.
Rivera was assigned to the parish in July of 2018 as its parochial vicar and became its administrator in July of 2019. He assumed pastoral duties on July 15, 2020, and noted the delay while addressing the congregation prior to the Mass.
“It’s a beautiful ceremony, and symbolic. Sadly, because of COVID it was pushed back, but we’re having it today,” Rivera said.
During the Mass, Sullivan spoke about the ceremony itself.
“I’m very glad to be here to do the ceremony, but the ceremony does not have a power in it. The power was when he was appointed as pastor ... but we’ll do the ceremony tonight because it’s important for the life of the parish and the history of the parish. I’m delighted to be here among you,” Sullivan said.
While presenting the homily, Sullivan began Rivera’s formal installation.
“My brothers and sisters, because I am aware of your pastoral needs, and because I am very confident of the qualifications of Father David Rivera, who—has certainly shown those qualifications under the past couple years—I commend him to you as your pastor,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan told Rivera that, as pastor, he has three duties: to preach, to teach and to sanctify.
“To preach Christ, not yourself, to teach Christ, not yourself, and to sanctify in the person and in the name of Christ. Yes, there are a million other things you’ve got to do, and you’ve been doing them—I know about them—these past two years. All of that’s important, but not the essence of what you are to be doing here. Preach the word of God. Preach it faithfully. Preach it prepared,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan advised Rivera to teach “what our church teaches, and help people understand those teachings.”
“Don’t be pushing them away; bring them in. Sanctify this flock of God which has been entrusted to your care principally by the sacraments and all the other wonderful traditions of our Catholic Church—such as, here in Hammonton, the great devotion to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and, this weekend, the great devotion to la virgen guarana, Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan told Rivera to lead and guide.
“Be with them as a father. Encourage them in their faith. Encourage them to be missionary disciples who reach out to others so that the church can grow. In these ways—as you’ve been doing for the past two and a half years—build up the church. Build up this community of faith which I have entrusted to your pastoral care. By the way—do it with a big, huge smile, and laughter in imitation of the rejoicing, singing, joyful God about whom we’ve heard in this evening’s scriptures,” Sullivan said.
During the installation, Sullivan called forth the parish staff and clergy, including the Rev. Jerold Mariastanislaus and the Rev. Neal Dante.
“David, my brother, Father Jerold, Father Dante, along with all these women and men of the parish staff, assist you in the pastoral care of the people of the parish. Share this ministry with them in a spirit of mutual trust, kind prayer and genuine concern,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan then spoke of the members of the pastoral council and the financial council of St. Mary of Mt. Carmel Parish.
“They are the voice of your people will assist and counsel you as you minister in this parish. Always be attentive to the needs the pastoral council and the finance council express,” Sullivan said.
Rivera addressed the councils directly.
“My friends, I pledge to seek your counsel, guidance and advice in the spiritual and temporal care of my pastorate,” Rivera said.
Sullivan then called forth the parish’s civil trustees, Joseph Giralo and John Lyons.
“As the lay officers of the parish corporation, they share with you the responsibility for the parish’s corporate and legal affairs. The corporate structure of the parish is, I am the president, the vicar general is the vice-president, Father Rivera is the secretary and Joseph and John are the other two members. Let me say, the role of the civil trustees in the church in the United States is more important than ever in the history of our country and in the way the church has established itself legally ... They’re after us. Let me tell you. They are after us. This structure particularly needs to be very firm in place so that they won’t get us, because they are after us. So I want to thank Joseph and John for being the parish’s civil trustees,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan reiterated his advice for Rivera.
“Remember, my brother David, always be a loving father, a gentle shepherd and a wise teacher of your people so that you may lead them to Christ, who will strengthen all that you do. As a teacher of that faith, I ask you to lead your people in the profession of our faith,” Sullivan said.
After leading the congregation in the Nicene Creed, Rivera continued his oaths.
“With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in God’s word, written or handed down in tradition and proposed by the Church, whether in solemn judgement or in ordinary and universal magisterium, as divinely revealed and calling for faith. I also firmly accept and hold each and everything that is proposed by the Church definitively, regarding teaching on faith and morals. Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman pontiff or the college of bishops enunciate when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they proclaim those teachings in an act that is not definitive,” Rivera said.
Sullivan then directed Rivera to take oath of fidelity, which is required for any individual when assuming an office to be exercised in the name of the church.
“I, David Rivera, in assuming the office of pastor, promise that both in my words and in my conduct I shall always preserve communion with the Catholic Church. I shall carry out, with the greatest care and fidelity, the duties incumbent on me toward both the universal Church and the particular Church in which, according to the provisions of the law, I have been called to exercise my service,” Rivera said.
Sullivan and Rivera proceeded to the church’s altar, where they signed the necessary paperwork formally installing Rivera as pastor.
“So, there we have it, brothers and sisters, signed, sealed and delivered ... Let us pray now for the church, its leaders—especially the pastor of our parish—and for the needs of all,” Sullivan said.
Before the conclusion of the Mass, Sullivan once more addressed Rivera.
“One of my former bosses—the late, great John Cardinal O’Connor of Philadelphia—would always say at things like this, ‘The pastor has the last word,’” Sullivan said.
Rivera proceeded to the ambo, where he expressed gratitude to Sullivan.
“Thank you for your confidence in me to be able to first be administrator and now the pastor of this parish. It’s been an interesting two-plus years. I started my pastorate in the middle of COVID, and we’re still not at the end. I guess it’s a very unique way of being a pastor; it’s been very challenging, and yet I have found, Bishop, in this parish, extremely dedicated, loving, faithful, hard-working parishioners who do support their pastor—even though they’re very hard on their pastor. There’s great love,” Rivera said.
Rivera thanked all those present in the congregation, as well as those who were unable to attend.
“Thank you for all your kind support, trust, love, and even when there’s a little bit of a directional challenge, I welcome it. I’m committed to you. Never be afraid to speak to me about any matter. I am here for that reason,” Rivera said.
Rivera then thanked the parish staff, volunteers and clergy, as well as members of his family—particularly his parents.
“I just thank my parents for their raising me as Catholic, faithful Catholic, and for their awesome example for me. In the end, they’re the reason I’m here. I want to thank them for their love,” Rivera said.