By TIM BULLARD
GEORGETOWN — To celebrate the feast of St. Cyprian, Bishop Robert J. Baker visited St. Cyprian Church recently to celebrate a bilingual Mass for the multicultural parish.
Before his homily the bishop asked an interpreter to step in and offer a Spanish translation.
“This is my first opportunity to be able to celebrate Mass with you although I was glad to be here a little less than a year ago shortly after I was ordained as bishop of the Diocese of Charleston. It is an honor and a privilege to be back with you again,” said Bishop Baker.
“We celebrate this week the feast of the great St. Cyprian, a saint that most people don’t know too much about,” he said. “He lived very long ago, but everybody here at St. Cyprian’s Parish should know his story.”
St. Cyprian lived in the city of Carthage in North Africa. In the middle of his life he had a major conversion experience and was baptized shortly afterwards. He then experienced difficulties in the church of the third century as a bishop. St. Cyprian became a martyr for the faith in that century during the persecutions by the Roman Empire.
“People are so important in the lives of other people,” the bishop said. “You are also very important in helping to share the Gospel message with other people as well.”
Bishop Baker then asked the parishioners to think of the people who influenced their lives. “When we think of others influencing us, we have to think of our own conversion to the faith. If we do not have a conversion and we are not turned to the Lord in our faith in a deep kind of way, we won’t make a difference in anybody else’s life either.”
The bishop then discussed the day’s Gospel reading about a man who was deaf and could not speak. “Conversion for him was shut off by his being able to hear the Lord and then to be able to speak. We don’t know the rest of the story. We don’t know what happens afterward, but I am sure that he went off to sing the praises of the Lord as he had heard them. He was able to go out and talk about that great man, Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God,” said Bishop Baker. “You see how Jesus works when he converts somebody, when he draws them. He touches them. He has a deep personal relationship with them, a sense of touch. He reaches over and touches the man. He also touches his tongue. The Lord can reach out and touch us also, and touch us in dramatic ways.”
The bishop stressed the importance of communication, especially between Anglos and Hispanics. Said the bishop, “It is Jesus who frees us, and that is why we are here this morning. That is why we celebrate every Mass, to acknowledge our dependence on him to lift us from our guilt, our sinfulness, whatever burdens us, whatever shackles us. Jesus takes all those burdens on his own shoulders and sets us free. He gives us eternal life. What we should do is trust in him and trust our burdens to the Lord.”
Bishop Baker added, “Once we experience that conversion, we are called to go forth. Everybody here can make a difference in Georgetown. You can bring more people. We can knock out the walls and make it a bigger church so that other people might experience the saving grace that you have extended.
“We should make it clear to people what we believe,” emphasized the bishop. “We should do so with a sense of humanity, understanding people’s questions, their concerns, their fears and their anxieties.”
In addition, the bishop urged African-Americans, Hispanics and people of color to seek the priesthood.
A reception and luncheon was held after Mass.
“It was a joy to celebrate with the bishop and have him here with us,” said Sister Deborah Mallott, pastoral associate. “This is a very welcoming community of beautiful people. We are finding more and more of the Hispanic community in the area and inviting them home.”