An autobiographical account, written in '78
Following are excerpts from Bernard Francis Law's entry in the 25th Anniversary Report of the Harvard College Class of 1953.
Bernard Francis Law Born: Nov. 4, 1931, Torreon, Mexico. High School: Charlotte Amalie High School, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.College: Harvard College, 1948-1953 Occupation: Clergyman; Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau (Roman Catholic) Degree: A.B., 1953
Immediately after my graduation from college, I began studying for the priesthood at St. Joseph's Seminary, St. Benedict, Louisiana. This preparatory seminary is located as part of the Benedictine Monastery, and the switch from Cambridge to the pine woods of Southern Louisiana was quite a change. The two years that I spent at St. Joseph's were perhaps the two most significant years of my life thus far. Following those two years, I began studies at the Pontifical College Josephinum, and remained there for six years up until the time of my ordination as a priest for the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson, on May 21, 1961.
From then until now, my life has been divided into three parts: the Mississippi phase (196l-1967; 1971-1973); the ecumenical phase (1971-1973); and the present phase as bishop which began December 5, 1973. Mississippi in the '60s was all that one might imagine and more. To have been a part of that significant moment of our history is in itself a grace, a gift. It was my privilege to be associated with many great persons working to achieve a better order, a better life, for all Mississippians. Part of my effort in those days was to edit the Diocesan newspaper which managed to speak to issues which were largely ignored or distorted by much of the local press and other news media.
Also during those days I was associated with other clergy and persons of good will through such groups as the Mississippi Leadership Converence, the Mississippi Human Relations Council, and the Jackson Human Relations Council. Having expected to spend all of my ministry in Mississippi, I adjusted to the change which came when I went on loan to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops to serve their Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
For three years I was engaged in staffing my Church's national dialogues with other Christian Churches as well as our relations with the Jewish Community. Also during this time I was part of the Vatican's representation at the Uppsala Assembly of the World Council of Churches . . . Following my work for the Conference of Bishops, I returned to Mississippi to serve the Diocese as its Vicar-General, until my appointment to be bishop of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, which covers the 26,000 square miles constituting the southern third of the state of Missouri.
. . . As a bishop I see my role as that of a pastor. The Catholic Church in Southern Missouri numbers about 5 percent of the populations, and we are rather thinly spread through a rather thinly populated area. There is an excellent spirit among the clergy, the religious and the laity, and I count myself very blessed to be a bishop here.
The more active involvement in social concerns of the '60s has now been placed in a broader context of pastoral ministry. . . . It is just difficult to realize that 25 years have already slipped by. They have been very active years, years not without difficulty yet happy years which bring me to a vantage point of great hope for the future. The hope is in terms of my perspective as a man of faith, and not necessarily in terms of more worldly parameters.
This story ran in the Boston Globe on 1/25/1984.