It was the Fall of 1990. Milli Vanilli had just been stripped of their Grammy Award. The Simpsons started their debut on a new TV station called “Fox”. The Browns were experiencing a bad season, which was unusual back then. President George (not W.) Bush was committing troops to the Middle East to prepare for the Gulf War. The Soviet Union was in the final years of its existence, even after Soviet withdrawl from East Berlin and other Warsaw pact nations. The price of gas was $1.16. The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a high of 3,000 points. And I was a 9-year old 4th grader at St. Andrew School in Erie.
What was the significance of that year? It was the year that Auxillary Bishop of Buffalo Donald W. Trautman was appointed by Blessed Pope John Paul II to be the Bishop of Erie. In the Fall of 1990, my first encounter with the Bishop was watching a VCR tape! that had been distributed to all the schools. It was a special message to the kids, I guess (I would not know, I was out of the classroom and only saw the end of the video, when it was being “rewinded”. The rewind created the effect of getting a backwards blessing from the new Bishop).
Many things we take for granted had not been invented when Bishop Trautman became our Bishop (DVD’s, the Internet and everything that comes with it, digital photography and music, cell phones – heck, even cordless phones – remember the 15 foot long phone cords?, Microsoft Windows, laptops, power windows, credit card swipes – carbon paper anyone?, and the list goes on). The world has changed a lot in 22 years. But Bishop Trautman remained a constant, both in terms of presence and ideals. His Coat of Arms says “Feed my Sheep.” And that he did. He remained at work almost every day, devoted to the care and concern of his people. He did what he thought was best for the Church and for its people. He did it with unwavering devotion, strong work ethic, and sincere faith in God.
The Bishop now enters into retirement. I think that we all owe a debt of gratitude to the Bishop for his faithfulness over the past 22 years to his vocation and his flock. It is hard to be a Bishop, especially for 22 years. I would imagine that it is a lot of pressure. You can make a lot of enemies, and people second guess you a lot. People are probably not always honest and straightforward with you. Finally, Bishops have to deal with a lot of human problems, especially with priest problems, which can be sad indeed.
Regardless of one’s views on ongoing Church issues, I hope we can all agree that we owe a debt of gratitude to our Bishops. This is especially true for Bishop Trautman – a man who has been courageous, dedicated, and upright. May the Bishop have a blessed transition into a new chapter of Episcopal ministry! I know that he will continue to work diligently towards the Good Shepherd’s reward that all Bishops and Priests hope for in the joy of heavenly glory. That is the reward that makes the many Crosses a sweet burden to bear.