Monday, July 27, 2009

Joy in Hotlanta

Lest anyone wants to hear how news of the Old South's first auxiliary in a half-century is being received down in Atlanta, Peachtree Street's posted the audio from this morning's jubilant press conference announcing the elevation of Bishop-elect Luis Zarama.

Suffice it to say, cheers were had... and laughs... and, no joke, howling.

As another senior Stateside prelate memorably observed that the Second Coming would likely arrive before the auxiliary he petitioned from Rome, those keeping score might enjoy knowing that The Wilt set into the path leading up to today's appointment roughly 18 months ago.

On a process note, see, these days, an ordinary must receive the Holy See's consent to seek out an auxiliary before he's invited to submit names of worthy candidates.

Put bluntly, he has to ask for one before he can ask for one.

That's no typo, either.

After his late September ordination, Zarama will "keep his day job" in full, adding the standard bishop-fare of confirmations, ordinations, dedications, national obligations, etc. to his already overflowing plate as the 800,000-member see's vicar-general, judicial vicar and Gregory's delegate to North Georgia's Hispanic community, whose estimated 250,000 undocumented members place the Atlanta church's de facto Catholic population within striking distance of a million.

As if his iPhone's battery wasn't already taxed enough.

And lastly, on a historic note, this morning's move brings to thirteen the number of foreign-born clerics who've become US bishops this decade. The lion's share were chosen for their Hispanic cred... but for two of the group (at least, so far), the high-hat was just the beginning the ride.

In 2001, 49 year-old Fr Jose Gomez was named an auxiliary bishop of Denver. Within four years, the Mexican-born prelate -- the first Opus Dei priest ever to join the Stateside bench -- was rocketed to archbishopric of San Antonio, becoming the nation's ranking Latino churchman.

The following year, Dublin-born Kevin Farrell -- fluent in Spanish from having spent the bulk of his priesthood ministering to the community -- was named an auxiliary of Washington. Today, the ex-Legionary of Christ serves as head of the 1.2 million-member diocese of Dallas, its Catholic population likewise increased five-fold over the last two decades.