Credit: Diocese of Dallas

Credit: Diocese of Dallas

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.

Did you know? El Paso means “The Passage” in Spanish.

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fr-barber-014-copy-3This morning, Pope Francis named a fellow Jesuit, Fr. Michael Barber, S.J. as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Oakland. He will be ordained to the episcopacy and installed on Saturday, May 25th at the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

Here is some brief background information on Bishop-elect Barber:

  •  Born on July 13, 1954 in Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Entered the Society of Jesus in 1973
  • Received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and History from Gonzaga University
  • Studied theology at Regis College at the University of Toronto, Canada
  • Ordained a priest for the Jesuits on June 8, 1985
  • In 1989, obtained Licentiate in Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome

In his time as a priest, Bishop-elect Barber has served as a missionary in Apia, Western Samoa, Assistant Professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Chaplain at the University of Oxford in England and Bursar of the Jesuit community at Campion Hall, Director of the School of Pastoral Leadership for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, professor and spiritual director at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, and Director of Spiritual Formation at Saint John’s Seminary in Brighton in the Archdiocese of Boston. Barber has also served as a Chaplain for the U.S. Navy since 1991. Besides English, he speaks Italian, Spanish and Latin.

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Bishop-elect Walkowiak

Credit: Diocese of Cleveland

This morning, Pope Francis appointed Fr. David Walkowiak, 59, as the twelfth bishop of the 182,000 member Diocese of Grand Rapids. At the same time, the Holy Father accepted the resignation of Bishop Walter Hurley, who will turn 76 on May 30th.

Bishop-elect Walkowiak was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Cleveland in 1979. Since his ordination, he has held various posts around the Diocese, including serving on the faculty of St. Mary Seminary in Wickliffe,  as well as in the Chancery offices as Vice Chancellor of the Diocese. Until his appointment this morning, Fr. Walkowiak served as Pastor of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Chagrin Falls. He also served as an associate judge on the tribunal for the Province of Cincinnati.

Bishop-elect Walkowiak will be ordained to the episcopacy and be installed as the Bishop of Grand Rapids on Tuesday, June 18th (his 60th birthday) in a Mass at the Cathedral of St. Andrew.

More to come.

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While the appointment of Very Rev. Gregory Parkes as Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee has consumed most of my attention this morning, additional appointments were announced from Rome.

  • Bishop William Lori, currently serving as Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport and as Chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, as 16th Archbishop of Baltimore, succeeding Cardinal Edwin O’Brien who was recently appointed Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre
  • Monsignor David Malloy, priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and former General Secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, as Bishop of Rockford, Ill.
  • Bishop Christian Lepine, Auxiliary Bishop of Montreal, as Archbishop of Francophone (Canada)

Also released this morning by the Vatican is the final report on the Apostolic Visitation of Ireland. The visitation was announced following the devastating sexual abuse scandals that rocked the Irish church. The report outlines observations from the visitation team and offers recommendations to the Bishops of Ireland on how to move forward. The full text of the report can be found here:

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Bishop-elect Parkes

This morning, Pope Benedict XVI named Very Rev. Gregory Parkes, 47, current Vicar General and Chancellor of Canonical Affairs of the Diocese of Orlando, as Bishop of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee. He succeeds Bishop John Ricard whose resignation was accepted by Pope Benedict XVI last March.

Fr. Gregory Parkes graduated from the Pontifical North American College in 2000 with a Licentiate Degree in Canon Law from the Pontifical Gregorian University. He was ordained to the priesthood by our beloved Bishop Norbert Dorsey on June 26, 1999 in the Cathedral of St. James.

After ordination he served as parochial vicar of Holy Family Catholic Church in West Orlando and as Pastor of Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Celebration. He has also served as a member of the Diocesan Finance Committee, Priest Placement Board, Presbyteral Council, Incardination Committee, and College of Consultors. Bishop-elect Parkes also serves on the Board of Trustees of St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, FL which he attended as a seminarian.

In December 2004, then-Bishop Thomas Wenski appointed Father Gregory as the Chancellor of Canonical Affairs for the Diocese of Orlando. In 2009, Wenski appointed him Vicar General of the Diocese of Orlando as Monsignor Patrick Caverly was preparing to retire from the post.

Bishop-elect Parkes (left) at the dedication of Corpus Christi Catholic Church, Celebration.

Father Gregory becomes the first priest of the Diocese of Orlando to be named a bishop. But, he also very well maybe the tallest bishop in the United States. Towering over all the priests of the Diocese of Orlando, the Bishop-elect comes in at just shy of 7-feet tall—no, I am not exaggerating. With a miter on his head, I wonder if they’ll have to raise the doors of the Co-Cathedrals in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee.

Father Gregory’s brother, Stephen, is also a priest of the Diocese of Orlando and currently serves as Pastor of Annunciation Catholic Church in Altamonte Springs. And, if you’re wondering, he is nearly as tall as his brother.

On a personal note, over the last several years, I have had the privilege of getting to know Fr. Gregory quite well. In fact, Archbishop Wenski used to point out to me how I looked like a shrimp when Father Gregory would stand next to me. As a seminarian, Fr. Gregory and the parish of Corpus Christi sponsored me and made sure that I had everything I needed while studying at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. To this day, every time I see Father Gregory, he asks me how things are going. That’s just the type of person he is. The people of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee have received a tremendous gift.

The people of the Diocese of Orlando rejoice with Fr. Gregory and wish him the best of luck. He will be in our prayers as he embarks on the next phase of his journey of priestly service. Congratulations, Father Greg! You always have a home in Orlando.

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