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December 10. 2011 8:35PM

Incoming Bishop Libasci greeted with happiness at St. Joseph's

MANCHESTER — Parishioners got their first glimpse of the humor that Bishop Peter A. Libasci brings to the Diocese of Manchester during a vespers Wednesday night at St. Joseph’s Cathedral.

“I come to you now, about to go to that chair,” Libasci said, drawing laughter as he pointed to the seat he will occupy upon being installed today as the leader of New Hampshire’s Catholic churches. “They said, ‘Bishop, do you want to try it out?’ I said, ‘No, that would be a bad idea. That would be like the groom seeing his bride before the wedding.’ You just don’t do it.”

Libasci, who previously was auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre in New York and who takes over for the retiring Bishop John B. McCormack, was speaking at his first public service in New Hampshire. He’d prayed vespers at St. Joseph’s with about 50 priests in September, shortly after being named as McCormack’s successor.

Libasci told the crowd that he hoped his transition to New Hampshire will be free of the kind of technical glitches that happened when he was ordained as a bishop in 2007. He said a presiding bishop tipped over a glass chalice filled with golden oil, but “nothing came out.”

“He said, ‘I don’t think it’s going to work,’” Libasci said. “Of course, his microphone was on and everyone heard it.”

The oil poured on the third try, he said, covering his head and even getting into his eyes.

“And let me tell you it burns,” he said, drawing more laughter from Wednesday’s crowd, which numbered about 300. “I was so consecrated at that point.”

When he grabbed a towel and “started digging” at his eyes, parishioners attending his ordainment got the wrong idea, he said.

“They said, ‘Oh look, the bishop is so moved he’s crying,’” Libasci said.

“He is very personable,” said Kathie Williamson, a Diocese employee who works with New Hampshire Catholic Charities. “He is very funny and has a lot of personality.”

Libasci’s appointment drew some criticism from watchdog groups and advocates for victims of clergy sexual abuse because he served under the administration of Cardinal Bernard F. Law in the Boston Archdiocese, which was accused of covering up sexual abuse by priests.

Libasci said in September that helping to heal the wounds of clergy sexual abuse would be a “very, very important part of my life” as the 10th bishop of the Manchester Diocese.

Nancy Lynch, a member of St. Joseph’s, said she was impressed by Libasci.

“He’s very nice. He’s come to help us all,” she said.

Jackie Hynes, who lives in Windham and attends services in Hudson, said she enjoyed Libasci’s first public service.

“I was very impressed and I’m hopeful that we’re going to have a good leader,” she said.


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