Wednesday, December 09, 2009

"Flowers" for Brownsville: Flores Home to Texas

On this feast of St Juan Diego, the Pope has tapped one of the US bench's rising stars to lead an emerging giant of the booming Southern church.

Barely three years after becoming an auxiliary of Detroit at 45, Bishop Daniel Flores is headed home to Texas' border country as bishop of Brownsville -- the Rio Grande Valley church that's nearly tripled in size since 1980 (and doubled since 1990), its Catholic population now standing just short of a million.

Flores succeeds Bishop Raymundo Peña, who reached the retirement age of 75 in February.

The move gives a notably young bishop to a especially young fold -- half the Brownsville church's population is under age 25, and at 48, Flores becomes Stateside Catholicism's second most youthful ordinary after 45 year-old Bishop Jim Wall of Gallup. Per capita, Brownsville's also the most-densely Catholic of the nearly 200 Stateside dioceses, with the church comprising a full 85% of the Valley's residents.

Ordained a priest in 1988, the smooth, brilliant Corpus Christi native -- who several top prelates fought to have as their auxiliary before the Motor City won out in 2006 -- picked up dual theology degrees in Rome around serving his home-church as vocation director, chancellor and rector of Corpus Christi Cathedral. A fan of Thomas, Tolkien and Sinatra -- and able to quote all three, and more, with equal ease -- Flores became the first Hispanic prelate ever to serve in Detroit, where he won plaudits for his easy-going mix of energy and savvy, especially among the Michigan church's younger set.

The first post to be filled in the current "Texas triangle" of vacant Lone Star dioceses (Corpus and Austin rounding it out), today's move likewise leaves the 1.5 million-member Detroit church with just one active auxiliary bishop... but probably not for long -- native son Archbishop Allen Vigneron recently announced plans to regionalize the archdiocese into four segments, placing each (at least, optimally) under an assistant high-hat still to be named.

The installation's already been called for Candlemas, 2 February... as ever, more to come.