Old friend visits for a double celebration

Sister Agnes Bernita Green, left, chats with Bishop Emeritus George Fitzsimons over dinner Friday afternoon.

The golden  jubilee celebration was a couple of months late in coming, and the birthday party was a week early. But old friends don’t quibble about exact dates.

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So on Friday (Aug. 26), the Sisters of St. Joseph invited Bishop Emeritus George Fitzsimons to the Motherhouse in Concordia, to honor him for his 50th anniversary as an ordained priest and to celebrate his upcoming 83rd birthday. The Sisters also wanted to thank the man who led the Salina Diocese as bishop for 20 years for always being a friend to the congregation.

Speaking in reference to the Gospel from that morning’s liturgy, the story of the Good Shepherd, Sister Marcia Allen, president of the congregation, said that although the Sisters “were not always docile, you were always patient, compassionate when we were grieving and always kind.”

Bishop Fitzsimons led the diocese from 1984 until his retirement in 2004, when he returned to a parish ministry in Ogden, Kan. But when Bishop Paul Coakley was appointed archbishop of Oklahoma City this past February, Bishop Fitzsimons was pressed back into service across the diocese.

He celebrated Mass with the Sisters before joining them for dinner. In addition to a stack of greeting cards that was several inches thick, the Sisters presented him with a birthday bottle of Baileys Irish Cream. Bishop Fitzsimons thanked the gathered Sisters for the gift, the cards and all their prayers. “It’s always good to be among old friends,” he said.

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