Thursday, April 10, 2008

No Vacancy Left Behind

In the largest one-day blitz of Stateside appointments this decade, this morning Pope Benedict has named:
  • Bishop Richard Pates, 65, heretofore auxiliary of St Paul and Minneapolis, as bishop of Des Moines;
  • Fr Anthony Taylor, 53, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish and vicar for Ministries in the archdiocese of Oklahoma City, as bishop of Little Rock;
  • Msgr James D. Conley, 53, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Wichita (and former official of the Congregation for Bishops) as auxiliary to Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap. of Denver;
  • Fr William Justice, 65, vicar for Clergy of the archdiocese of San Francisco, as auxiliary to San Fran Archbishop George Niederauer;
  • Fr Oscar Cantu, 41, pastor of Holy Name Parish in Houston, as auxiliary to Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio
Ordained a Twin Cities auxiliary in 2001 by Archbishop Harry Flynn, Pates -- a onetime locale at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington in the days of Archbishop Jean Jadot (to whom he's said to remain close) -- enjoys a reputation as a proven pastor, "builder" and fund-raiser. Now headed for the helm of the 92,000 member Iowa diocese, which has been vacant since the April 2007 retirement of Bishop Joseph Charron SppS, Pates' promotion opens a key spot for SPM coadjutor John Nienstedt to fill once Flynn's heir succeeds to the archbishop's throne, likely next month. Good with young people and described as an earthy hard worker, the bishop's love of golf is no secret on the Twin Cities' links. According to the locals, he'll be missed... much.

Mustachioed, "beyond fluent" in Spanish and known for an intense social justice bent, Taylor is the first Oklahoma City priest named a bishop since John Sullivan was tapped to lead Nebraska's diocese of Grand Island in 1972; further proof that the new crop of appointments under B16 and his Super-Nuncio are heading deeper and deeper into the trenches. A rarity among the bench given his background in the Scriptures (a Ph.D. in biblical theology from Fordham), the NAC alum seemingly known to everyone as "Tony" led the Oklahoma archdiocese's opposition to HB1804, the country's most stringent measure to crack down on undocumented immigrants -- a trend which, locals say, has been seen spreading into Arkansas. Described as "driven" and down-to-earth, Taylor's pastoral ministry has been marked by an emphasis on stewardship. As Razorback Country's statewide see of 120,000 experiences significant growth due to a boom of Hispanics, the pastor of OKC's largest Latino parish (1,200 families) is well-prepped for the challenge. His ordination already set for 5 June in Little Rock, the Stateside church's longest vacancy -- 23 months -- is, at long last, at an end.

A onetime curial official with something of a cult following, Conley is the second convert named an American bishop in the current pontificate -- the first was Sioux Falls' Bishop Paul Swain, who was appointed in August 2006. A proud citizen of (NCAA Champion) Jayhawks Nation, product of Mt St Mary's, and Rome's Alphonsianum, where he earned a license in moral theology, Conley's appointment ends the nation's longest wait for an auxiliary; the 400,000-member Denver church has lacked one since Gomez was named to San Antone in December 2004. Back in Wichita since 2006 after a decade-long stint at Rome's "workhorse" dicastery, the former Newman Chaplain on both sides of the Pond will be ordained in the Rockies on 30 May. With this morning's appointment, Conley joins two other Bishops' alums -- Cardinal Dan DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Auxiliary Bishop Dan Thomas of Philadelphia -- on the Stateside bench.

While Denver waited 40 months for its auxiliary, Justice's appointment came but 15 months after former San Fran auxiliary John Wester was named bishop of Salt Lake City. (Suffice it to say, the long arm of Levada....) Fluent in Spanish, known for his ties to young adult ministry and record as veteran pastor in the City by the Bay -- including a stint at its famed Mission Dolores Basilica -- the bishop-elect was named to succeed Wester as vicar for Clergy on the latter's departure for Utah. A former director of the permanent diaconate in San Fran, Justice is fluent in Spanish.

Now the youngest American bishop by almost two years, Cantu's legion of devoted friends are likely in tears at this morning's news, which began circulating in Texas late last week. A proven communicator, seminary instructor, archdiocesan administrator and pastor, the quatrilingual bishop-elect -- a Gregorian-trained theologian -- is the youngest American hierarch to be elevated since Bishop Robert Carlson became a Twin Cities auxiliary in 1984 at age 39. Another Hispanic episcopabile who "everybody wanted," Cantu now switches off to Texas' senior archdiocese as Gomez's lone auxiliary for San Antone's 700,000-member fold; while the US church's "Latin seat" has had back-to-back Mexican-born archbishops, the bishop-elect is the first Hispanic auxiliary the Riverwalk's seen since Bishop Ricardo Ramirez CSB was promoted to Las Cruces in 1982. As this morning's appointee replaces Bishop Thomas Flanagan, who retired as auxiliary in late 2005, Gomez is expected to gain another assistant to fill the slot left open by Bishop Patrick Zurek's January appointment to the diocese of Amarillo. While Cantu's now-former archbishop likewise awaits more help at the helm of the 1.5 million-member Houston church, the largest Stateside church lacking an auxiliary is the largest see in the San Antonio province: the million-plus diocese of Dallas. But even so, between producing the nation's youngest cardinal in two decades and two of its three youngest bishops, it's even safer to say now that the Texas' junior province is the American church's fountain of youth. Cantu's ordination is tentatively set for 2 June in San Antonio.

That's all for now, folks -- in the meantime, remember the guitar case.

SVILUPPO: Statements added in two parts (one, two).