Only a few days after the papal announcement that changed his life forever, Bishop-elect Marc V. Trudeau hung on to one of the few plans that his nomination as auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles couldn’t take away from him.
He went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
The April trip was his third time in Israel, and he explained that each of the previous visits had come at very different moments in his life.
The first was four years after becoming a priest, something he looks back on as his introduction to “the Fifth Gospel.” Fourteen years later, in 2009, he returned under very different circumstances: He had just survived a bout with leukemia.
“It was kind of a renewal, of looking at the Gospels in a different way, the experience of the Resurrection and all that,” he said of his second pilgrimage. “I think it was a more profound experience for me.”
But this year, his new mission as a “successor of the apostles” (as Catholic tradition considers bishops) became all the more real while visiting places such as the Sea of Galilee, the Holy Sepulcher and the Cenacle.
“This time around, I was thinking particularly of being in the footsteps of the apostles, who following Jesus began the mission of the Church of sharing the Gospel,” he said.
“I was able to read in a deep sense the Gospels while in the Holy Land and think about my coming to share in their role as a shepherd.”
Like many of the most important events in his life — his calling to the priesthood, his cancer diagnosis in 2008 and his return to the seminary where he was formed, to name a few — the trip to Israel was not in his original plans.
It was during the funeral of their seminary classmate Father Leo Alberg (who died suddenly last year) that Father Mark Strader — the current pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Church in Temple City — asked him if he’d be willing to take Father Alberg’s place on a pilgrimage he was planning.
“I was going to cancel the trip,” said Father Strader, who Bishop Trudeau chose as one of the two chaplains to assist him during his episcopal ordination. “But that’s how it all came out: Leo dying, and at the end of the funeral Marc saying ‘yes,’ as he always has done.”
A man with a boat
As bishop, the USC dental school graduate and 13-year Vons grocery store employee “veteran” is expected to fulfill in a special way the biblical roles of shepherd and fisherman.
Both themes were emphasized at the June 7 episcopal ordination Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, where Archbishop José H. Gomez reflected on the line from Scripture that Bishop Trudeau chose as his episcopal motto, “Put out into deep water,” taken from the words of Jesus to Simon Peter in the Gospel of Luke.
“Every bishop is an ordinary worker: ‘A man with a boat,’ like Simon Peter in the Gospel,” Archbishop Gomez told the bishop-elect in his homily. “Today Jesus is calling you, just as he called Peter. He is asking for your ‘boat,’ for your faith, your abilities and gifts.”
In his remarks at the end of the Mass, Bishop Trudeau explained that his motto had a personal meaning for him “in terms of evangelization, the formation of priests and the people of God.”
Nevertheless, Bishop Trudeau acknowledged that “the role of bishop is primarily one of shepherd.”
“Pope Francis reminds us of that,” he said, speaking to the capacity crowd at the ticket-only Mass. “The shepherd is the one who goes ahead to show us a clear and safe way. He goes behind the flock to make sure none are lost. He also keeps in the middle of the flock so the sheep can know the smell of the flock.”
The pope was represented at the Mass by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the United States. A country’s nuncio, or Vatican ambassador, plays a key role in the appointments of its bishops, and it was Archbishop Pierre who first broke the news to Bishop Trudeau about the pope’s decision in late March.
“You have clearly shown … the devotion you will now bring as auxiliary bishop both to this beautifully diverse local Church as well as the community at large, especially to those in material and spiritual need,” Archbishop Pierre said, before adding jokingly, “and perhaps even to those in search of a good dentist.”
During the Rite of Episcopal Ordination, Archbishop Gomez was joined by Archbishop Emeritus Cardinal Roger Mahony and retired Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Sartoris — also native Angelenos themselves — whom Bishop Trudeau chose as co-consecrators.
As a priest, then-Msgr. Trudeau served as Cardinal Mahony’s priest secretary for six years. Bishop Sartoris was one of Msgr. Trudeau’s predecessors as pastor of St. Mary Margaret Alacoque in Lomita before being named auxiliary bishop in 1994.
Cardinal Mahony and Bishop Sartoris were the first prelates after Archbishop Gomez to lay hands on the new bishop, and accompanied the archbishop as they “seated” the newly consecrated auxiliary with his crozier, miter and bishop’s ring.
A pastor for all people
Those who have sat in the pews with him use a lot of the same terms to describe “Father Marc.” His humility. A sharp sense of humor. His calmness. A pastor of the people.
“From 27 years ago to now, he has never changed,” said Marian Roide, a parishioner of St. James the Less Church in La Crescenta, the parish where “Father Marc” was first assigned after his ordination in 1991. “He is still that compassionate, sweet, understanding man. You feel like he’s that friend that you’ve known forever.”
For Roide, the elevation of her former parish priest to the episcopate wasn’t even the biggest celebration at the cathedral that week: Just five days earlier, she witnessed her son Thomas’ ordination to the priesthood.
Father Trudeau was the priest who gave the then-eight-year-old “Tommy” his first communion. Years later, when Roide gave up studying to be a doctor to pursue the priesthood, he was reunited with Msgr. Trudeau at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo after the latter’s arrival as vice-rector in 2013 (he became rector the following year).
“It’s like I’ve sent off two kids in the world,” Roide said after her son’s ordination Mass. “There’s some reason those two are kind of joined at the hip.”
After exiting the cathedral as a bishop for the first time — where he was greeted by a USC marching band — Bishop Trudeau gave blessings to the stream of people lined up along the colonnade that straddles the 101 Freeway.
“So, how’s your day going?” Roide asked when her family finally reached their old friend. “Does this mean I’m supposed to kiss your ring? Or call you Most Reverend?”
“You feel so comfortable around him,” said Roide. “That sense of humor, I think, is why everyone adores and loves him.”
Kent Eggert, who knew Bishop Trudeau during his time as pastor at St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Church, agreed.
He recalled the time at daily Mass one morning when a woman appeared to be suffering from a medical emergency in the pews moments after Father Trudeau’s homily. No one knew that the woman suffered seizures regularly, so paramedics were called.
“Was it something I said?” quipped Father Trudeau afterward.
“He was a pastor for all people. He immediately got to know everyone,” recalled Eggert while speaking to Angelus News after solemn vespers on the eve of the ordination. “He just jumped right in and got to work right away on projects around the parish.”
Bishop Trudeau’s collaborators also pointed out how the Trojan “fight on” mentality served him and others well during difficult times, including his battle with cancer.
“He just gave that example of facing that disease with stamina, with faith, with that spirit of fighting on, and ultimately, leaving it in God’s hands,” said Father Strader, who worked on the same floor in the chancery as Bishop Trudeau at the time of the illness.
His work ethic was appreciated during his time as Cardinal Mahony’s priest secretary, which coincided with some of the most difficult moments of the archdiocese’s clerical sex abuse crisis.
“We’d always be nervous when the cardinal was coming around,” admitted fellow Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell, who served in parishes in South LA for nearly 30 years before his own nomination as bishop by Pope Francis in 2015.
“Usually the job of the cardinal’s secretary is to make sure everything is right — and he did always make sure everything was right — but he always did so in a very kind, unhurried and friendly way.”
Like Bishop O’Connell, Bishop Trudeau fits the kind of profile that Pope Francis seems to look for when picking new bishops: priests with more pastoral experience than academic accolades (neither Bishops O’Connell nor Trudeau have studied for doctorates, as many future bishops do, for example).
Having known Bishop Trudeau since his time as a young priest, the Irish-born Bishop O’Connell, who oversees the San Gabriel Pastoral Region, expects that Bishop Trudeau will face a challenge similar to the one he experienced when he traded in the parish life for the duties of a regional auxiliary.
“That was the hardest part: leaving the people of the parish, not having a people and not having a place,” he said in an interview with Angelus News.
“I have a beautiful place to live, and I’ve got a great office, and nice staff and everything, but not a place to worship and minister,” said Bishop O’Connell, who added that he sometimes gets the chance to help out at St. John Vianney Church in Hacienda Heights, near his new residence.
“It took me a while to kind of be able to feel at home, going from place to place to place. That’s the hardest part still.”
But Bishop O’Connell also concedes that while he’s lost some of the “regular ministry” of celebrating the Eucharist, hearing confessions and visiting the sick, being a bishop in Los Angeles can still allow for some of the closeness to regular people that is part and parcel of being a parish priest.
“I’m getting back into my heart that feeling of love for the people,” he said with a smile. “That for me is a grace, that’s a blessing.”
Bishop Trudeau may have it a little easier. As episcopal vicar for the San Pedro Region (which comprises more than 60 parishes), he will be in residence at St. Pancratius Church in Lakewood, where the regional office is located.
“Marc will be a blessing to that region because he’s had the experience of giving talks there, running the seminary and of course being a pastor there,” said Father Strader.
Straight out of Burbank
Speaking to Angelus News a few days before his episcopal ordination, the bishop-elect admitted to feeling a little anxious about the “little ceremony at the cathedral with a few thousand of my closest friends.”
At the end of the ordination Mass, he tried to thank them all: the more than 20 bishops who had gathered to welcome their newest colleague, representatives from the different parishes he’d worked in over the years, friends from his home parish of St. Finbar in Burbank, seminarians from St. John’s in Camarillo, and of course, his parents, Paul and Belva, who later this month will celebrate 64 years of marriage.
But perhaps his most important “thank you” was to Pope Francis.
“I’m still thinking the bar was lowered a little too much,” Bishop Trudeau said of his nomination. “I know he likes to go out to the periphery, but he’s never seen Burbank.”
Jokes aside, the remark underscored Bishop Trudeau’s awareness of the source of his new mission.
Before the June 7 ordination, he read “Simon Peter in Scripture and Memory,” a biblical study on the first pope’s influence on the early Church. He told Angelus News that he thinks the book influenced his choice of episcopal motto.
In April, Bishop-elect Trudeau and Father Strader shared a moment inside the Church of the Primacy of Peter along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus famously told the apostle “you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.”
Father Strader watched from the side as the bishop-elect kneeled in silence, touching the rock that tradition holds was indicated by Jesus in the Gospel.
“To watch him just brought me to tears,” Father Strader said, “because you could see in his eyes, you could see his heart, his spirit: All things have changed yet once again.”
A fighting Trojan’s coat of arms
One of the tasks of every new bishop of the Catholic Church is to design a personalized coat of arms. A bishop’s coat of arms features symbolism that reflects aspects of the bishop’s background, theological influences and personal spirituality.
The personal motto chosen by Bishop Marc Trudeau found at the bottom of his coat of arms, “Put out into deep water,” is a reference to the Gospel passage of Luke 5:4-5, where Jesus calls the apostles to become fishers of men. So, naturally, the shield on his coat of arms consists of fish and water.
But the wavy blue and white lines resembling water also suggest a tribute to Bishop Trudeau’s home city and archdiocese, which are both bordered by the Pacific Ocean.
The three fish upon the field of water are actually tilapia, also known as the “Fish of Saint Peter,” which are still found in the Sea of Galilee today.
In another subtle reference to his Gospel motto, Bishop Trudeau included a rope entwining the three golden fish. But he made sure to change the rope’s color from its traditional blue (which in traditional heraldry represents deep water) to red. Why? Ever a faithful USC Trojan alumnus, Bishop Trudeau wanted his coat of arms to feature the school colors of red and gold.
The red and gold theme can also be found in the two crosses featured in the coat of arms, as well as the banner upon which his motto is written.
The charge, or emblem, placed above the fishes is a tribute to the church where Trudeau was ordained a bishop, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. It features two angel wings on either side of a “Fleur de Lys” (“Flower of the Lily”), a motif used to signify his French ancestry and express honor to the Virgin Mary.
The “Fleur de Lys” is also found in the golden episcopal cross that rises above the shield, commonly known as the Fleury Cross. At the center is a blood red ruby, which in Catholic heraldry traditionally symbolizes the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The green pilgrim’s hat, or “galero,” resting at the top of the coat of arms is the emblem used by all prelates and priests of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church. The six tassels on either side of the hat represent his current rank and office as bishop.
(Information courtesy heraldic designer James-Charles Noonan Jr., and heraldic painter Linda Nicholson.)
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