This morning, our Holy Father Pope Francis appointed Dallas Auxiliary Bishop Mark Seitz as the seventh bishop of the Diocese of El Paso. Bishop Seitz succeeds Bishop Armando Ochoa who was named Bishop of Fresno in December 2011.
Bishop Seitz was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on January 10, 1954. One of ten children, +Seitz felt called to the priesthood from an early age. After being appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Dallas, Seitz recalled: “Nothing seemed like it could compare to the chance to give my life to God in this way and to serve people by offering them the greatest of His gifts.”
The bishop-designate entered seminary after high school, attending Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, a Masters of Divinity, and a Masters in Theology from the University of Dallas. In 1985, Bishop Seitz received a Masters in Liturgical Studies from St. John’s University.
Bishop Seitz was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Dallas on May 17, 1980 at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Okauchee, WI by Bishop Thomas Tschoepe. Since that time, he has served as pastor of parishes throughout the Diocese of Dallas, adjunct professor teaching Liturgy and Sacramental Theology at the University of Dallas, assistant spiritual director for seminarians, and Vice-Rector of Holy Trinity Seminary. In 2004, Pope John Paul II elevated then-Father Seitz to “Prelate of Honor to His Holiness” (Monsignor).
When he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Dallas in March 2010, Bishop Seitz told the people of the diocese, “God is the Lord of my life. I have learned through the years that following Christ is an adventure filled with totally unexpected dips and turns. When you give your life to His service you better learn to enjoy the ride.”
With this morning’s appointment, that ride just got a little more interesting.
Situated on the banks of the Rio Grande, the Diocese of El Paso encompasses 26,686 square miles of western Texas and serves roughly 686,000 Catholics–according to official diocesan statistics. Like many dioceses in the Southwest, El Paso has a difficult pastoral challenge of ministering to immigrants entering the United States from Mexico. In 1987, the Diocese began providing legal assistance to refugees and undocumented immigrants through its Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services. Since its founding, DMRS has provided legal assistance and other services to an estimated 31,000 immigrants. That number is only expected to increase over the next few years, especially if Congress passes some form of comprehensive reform of our nation’s immigration laws in the coming days and weeks.
Bishop Seitz brings with him some great gifts that will serve the Catholics in the border diocese well. In a statement released this morning, Bishop Kevin Farrell, Bishop of Dallas, said:
“I happily congratulate Bishop Mark Seitz and applaud the decision of our Holy Father to appoint him to lead the Catholic faithful in this important border diocese. Bishop Seitz’ ability to speak Spanish will be a tremendous asset but he also possesses a prayerful, pastoral manner, keen theological insight and deep devotion to our Church. His years as a hard-working pastor in the Diocese of Dallas will serve him well as he leads his new diocese and I wish him many blessings in this new chapter of his ministry. I know he will be a tremendous blessing to the people of the Diocese of El Paso.”
Let us all keep Bishop Seitz in our prayers as he takes on this incredible responsibility; he’s going to need them. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide him in his work that he may be a caring shepherd to the Diocese of El Paso, ministering to the needs of the people he will serve.