One year ago today, the rumor became fact: Tim Dolan was the next Archbishop of New York.
He had been talked about as a leading contender for the job for at least several years. His name came up in every conversation I had with a priest or church “insider” about who might replace Cardinal Egan.
I always heard the same thing: He was funny, engaging, insightful and “just what New York needs.” I had met Dolan briefly a few years before — but even a quick chat was enough for me to know it was all true.
From the day the Vatican made it official, Dolan lived up to his rep. And he received about as much Good Press as any public person in New York could possibly expect.
The media gushed over him for a solid two or three months. Breathless stuff. We had a larger-than-life guy.
Dolan told reporters that he would spend his first year getting a sense of things and listening to people. True enough, he’s gone from parish to parish and talked with many priests and lay Catholics — often in his now-famous spot phone calls.
I’ve heard a few grumblings — not many — that it’s time for Dolan to act.
He faces many of the same issues that Egan and Cardinal O’Connor before him faced. There aren’t enough priests. Many pastors are up there in age. Northern parishes are growing and many city parishes are not. Many Catholics schools are struggling. The archdiocese is becoming increasingly Hispanic, even as many Hispanic Catholics attend separate Spanish-language Masses or worship at largely Hispanic parishes. There are certainly a large number of illegal immigrants going to Mass in New York — who the church stands up for, even if many white Catholics will not.
Then there’s the economy. Demands on the church are greater. Resources are fewer.
As Dolan said in Poughkeepsie the other day: “Number one, more people come to us because you usually come to people you know, and most people know and feel comfortable with their church. If they’re short on rent, their kid’s tuition or grocery money, guess where they are going to go? Their parish.”
Dolan will mark his first anniversary in New York (he was actually installed on April 15) by spreading some more good cheer.
He told ABC News: “The number of people who have come to me, from the mayor’s office on down, and said, ‘Archbishop, we kind of like having you around. We’re worried about you. You better work on your weight.” They’re right, and I really, really have to watch the intake because I love to eat. I love being with people.”
Last night, Dolan held court at a “Theology on Tap” program at a NYC bar.
Whispers in the Loggia’s Rocco Palmo was there and typed a blow-by-blow account that you can read today.
There were about 900 people, Palmo wrote, and it took Dolan 20 minutes just to get across the room.
The boss had plenty of jokes, like “assure me I’m not picking up the tab tonight.”
He talked primarily about the “Petrine ministry” — the papacy.
He said “all we believe is Jesus Christ — alone — is the center and source of unity and authority in his church… he designated Peter as his vicar.”And “we believe Jesus gave Peter the privilege of being his earthly representative…”
And this: “Jesus is the head of his church… but — in case you haven’t noticed — Jesus just so happens to be invisible, alright?”
My guess is that Dolan will soon begin making his mark in the Archdiocese of New York. It will be keenly interesting to see what he really thinks about what needs to be done.
If you want to know more about him, I came across an Oct. 19 release date for a new book from John Allen, Catholic journalist extraordinaire. It is to be called “American Pope: A Biography of New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan.”
American pope, huh? He’ll have a lot to live up to…