On September 13, Bishop Earl will celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of his episcopal ordination. He was first named an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit, and in 2008, was installed as the Bishop of Lansing.
Usually, Bishop Boyea writes a column in this space — and this year, that column was named Best Column by a Bishop in a Diocesan Magazine at the Catholic Media Conference in Quebec.
FAITH sat down with Bishop Boyea and asked him to reflect on his years as a bishop.
Fifteen years in, what advice would you give your younger self about being a bishop?
I have to say that, originally, I didn’t want to be a bishop. I felt this wasn’t my forte. So I would tell my younger self that God’s grace provides in our weaknesses.
What has been your biggest joy as a bishop?
The biggest joy has been the Announce the Gospel initiative and our assemblies. I’ve been moved by the great blessing of many people who have taken charge of this, and who made it happen through God’s grace. I believe it’s the most important thing we’ve done in the diocese.
What do you love about being a priest? What do you love about being a bishop?
As a priest, I love most celebrating the Mass and preaching. I’ve always liked being a teacher, and so sometimes priests and seminarians have teased me about my homilies — they say they would like academic credit for sitting through them!
And I love being surrounded by so many faith-filled people — the clergy, religious and laity of our diocese, and the staff in the curia. This is an amazing group of people who are touched by the Holy Spirit. It’s a blessing for me as a bishop.
What are your biggest challenges as a bishop?
The biggest challenge is having enough priests. We have very fine priests, but they are stretched pretty thin. But I believe God will provide.
How has your vision for the Diocese of Lansing evolved over the years since you have been here?
When I arrived, I knew the diocese was in very good shape. At that point, my motto was, “Do no harm.” I’ve been challenged by others, and by the Holy Spirit, to strive for more than just being content — to advance the mission. It’s taken a lot of energy, but I believe we are following the lead of the Holy Spirit, and we are seeing great fruit.
In your 2012 pastoral letter, Go and Announce the Gospel of the Lord, you talked about building up the Household of Faith here in Lansing. How have the two diocesan assemblies strengthened the mission you set forth in your letter?
The first assembly in 2014 had a great impact on the priests, deacons and ministry class. People have attempted many things to energize parishes and bring in new folks. After the second assembly, I think it’s been harder to implement bringing back the lost sheep. People are praying about it, but all the ministry leaders are aware of it. We’re praying about it, more than we were 10 years ago.
Tell us about the school scholarship plan.
One of my chief concerns is to promote Catholic education. It is wonderful that our parishes agreed to support all of our schools by contributing three percent of their Sunday collections. Our capital campaign will help with that, as well. The great thing is that all of our parishes are involved in promoting Catholic education.
What moved you to introduce Faith in Flint? What have been its fruits?
It’s still too early to determine fruits. That began with a dream I had of having priests live and work together in a missionary sense. With retirements in Flint, I was able to implement that dream. This initiative has raised awareness of the situation in Flint with people all across the Diocese of Lansing, and they understand its importance.
How can Catholics talk about Jesus Christ to others?
The best way to talk about Jesus to other people is first to love them. It has to be concrete — joy-filled and service-oriented. If we love the Lord, serve people and are joyous, it will come naturally to talk about him. It is because he is so important to us that we can talk about him to others.
What makes the Diocese of Lansing special?
The presbyterate. We have great priests, and we all get along well, which makes my life as a bishop more pleasant.
We’re also incredibly blessed with three women’s communities in the diocese: the Adrian Dominicans, who have served here for a very long time; the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, who bring me a special joy — very few bishops get to receive final vows every year, and I’ve done it for five to eight sisters each year since I’ve been here; and the Servants of God’s Love, who are a group of wonderful, Spirit-filled women.
Our beautiful retreat center provides such incredible services to enrich the lives of all our people.
And FAITH Catholic. Who else has such a group of creative, faith-filled people who want nothing more than to spread the Gospel? Through FAITH Catholic, we are blessed to be able to spread the Gospel in other dioceses.
Tell us about the increased financial scrutiny procedures you have introduced in the Diocese of Lansing.
We had two incidents recently of embezzlement, which were discovered because we had already implemented a more systematic, regular auditing. This has led to a need for greater oversight of parish finances, and particularly a renewed involvement of the parish finance councils.
What is your role at the USCCB?
My principal role is as a member of the Committee of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. My primary work is to liaise with seminaries. I am currently chairing a subcommittee for the revision of the program for priestly formation, which governs how seminaries are run in the U.S.
Tell us about ordaining priests.
One of the great highlights of my life as a bishop is to ordain new priests for the service of our diocese. I do see myself as father and brother to them. And that carries over into the annual Chrism Mass, where I specifically address the priests. Those two events are closely connected for me — and ordinations of the deacons are also connected to that. For me, this handing on of the ministry and its meaning to others is vital.
One specific joy was to preach at Bishop Raica’s ordination as bishop of Gaylord. Bishop Raica was the chancellor for our diocese for many years, and being part of his ordination was very meaningful.
What is the significance of our diocesan campaign, Witness to Hope?
I have wanted to do a Capital Campaign since I came — primarily because we have never done one. I believe it is formative for stewardship, and will help strengthen our parishes. Strong parishes mean a strong diocese. It will help us achieve some of the goals we’ve set for the diocese during the assemblies.
Besides your episcopal anniversaries, you have another anniversary coming up, don’t you?
Yes, the 40th anniversary of priesthood ordination is on May 20, which is the 67th anniversary of my baptism.