By Richard Meek

The Catholic Commentator  

Bishop Robert W. Muench’s 50-year spiritual odyssey as a priest and bishop has taken him from New Orleans to Covington, Kentucky and back to familiar territory along the banks of the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge.  

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Bishop Robert W. Muench was all smiles as he celebrated his Golden Jubilee Mass on June 24 at St. Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge. Photos by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator  

 

Bishop Muench celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his ordination June 24 on a steamy Sunday afternoon at St. Cathedral. Several hundred family members, many of who traveled long distances to be in attendance, and friends gathered for the Mass.  

Also attending were retired Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans, who was Bishop Muench’s predecessor in Baton Rouge; Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans; New Roads native Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, who is currently the bishop in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux; and several bishops from the state of Louisiana.  

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Several bishops, including Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, attended the Mass, which was celebrated June 24. Pictured, from left, are Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Bishop Louis F. Kihneman of the Diocese of Biloxi, Mississippi, Archbishop Aymond, retired Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans, retired Bishop Michael C. Jarrell of the Diocese of Lafayette, Bishop John D. Deshotel of Lafayette and Bishop Ferdinand J. Cheri of New Orleans.  

 

The Mass was celebrated two days before the Vatican announced Bishop Michael G. Duca of Shreveport as the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, replacing Bishop Muench.  

“As I gaze on all of you here, I am overwhelmed,” Bishop Muench said in his homily. “It would be impossible for me to adequately thank every one of you who is here and to acknowledge what you mean to me and how I assure you I do not take you for granted.”  

Throughout the Mass, a smile rarely left the bishop’s face, and his homily was sprinkled in with equal doses of humor, theology, reflection and appreciation.  

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Many of the priests of the Diocese of Baton Rouge were in attendance

 

He offered special thanks to his parents, Sister Mary Alice a former principal at St. Leo the Great Elementary School in New Orleans and two clergy members for encouraging him to join the priesthood as well as offering guidance and support during the 12 years of his seminary life. He recalled walking into St. Joseph Seminary in St. Benedict in 1956, when it still had a high school on campus, and from that time forward “never wanting to be anything other than be a priest.  

“(God) has opened new people and opportunities to be part of my life and ministry. I thank God for the call to priesthood.”  

Bishop Muench said his jubilee was a celebration of the priesthood, and offered special thanks to his brother priests.  

“By its very essence, the priesthood is relational, relational to Jesus and relational to others,” he said. “One of my favorite aspects of being a priest is to pray with people one-on-one and in groups, privately and publicly.”  

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Following the Mass, the bishop was greeted as he processed down the aisle, taking time to acknowledge the many kind comments he was hearing.  

 

He mentioned several of the many responsibilities of a priest, including proclaiming the word of God, baptizing, anointing the sick, imparting the apostolic blessing on the dying, performing marriages, counseling the disheartened or confused and being an effective minister of hope.  

“Additionally, the priest is a beneficiary of goodness beyond measure,” Bishop Muench added. “The appreciation, the trust, the bonding with the people of the faith, those seeking to understand the faith, what gifts they bring to the priest. 

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Archbishop Hughes, former bishop of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, expressed his joy at being at the celebration.  

 

“God has graced me. I thank God for the call to priesthood and for the ministry of priesthood. And I thank those of you who have been a part of that ministry. What a tremendous gift and resource you have been. I love you and I always will.”  

A reception at the parish hall followed. Shortly into the reception, Bishop Muench was overcome with dehydration and transported by ambulance to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, where he was held overnight and released the following morning. He resumed his normal duties on June 26, which included welcoming Bishop-designate Duca during a press conference June 27. 

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Following the Mass, Bishop Muench greeted several well-wishers during a reception at the parish hall, including his sisters, pictured right. From left, are Jo Ann Talken, Mary Pringle and Marsha Morse.  

 

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Bishop Robert W. Muench was all smiles as greeted the large congregation who had gathered at St. Joseph Cathedral to celebrate his Golden Jubilee of ordination.