Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Bishop for the Forces

In just the fourth Saturday appointment in as many years for these shores, this morning the Pope named Fr F. Richard Spencer, 58 -- a priest of Baltimore on Army duty since 1988 -- as auxiliary bishop for the 1.5 million-member archdiocese for the Military Services USA.

Having served six years in the Army before entering Baltimore's St Mary's Seminary, the Alabama-born Lieutenant Colonel (right) was ordained in 1988, just shy of his 37th birthday; according to AMS, he initially enlisted to the Franciscans, but transferred to the Premier See on being scouted by the recently-passed Archbishop William Borders, an Army chaplain in World War II.

Since returning to the Forces, Spencer's been stationed as a chaplain in Korea, the Sinai Desert, the Pentagon, Iraq and most recently in Europe as deputy command chaplain for the forces stationed there.

Upon his ordination (date still pending), the bishop-elect will join Archbishop Timothy Broglio and his two auxiliaries in overseeing a particularly sprawling local church, one that encompasses every US military installation at home and abroad, its membership rivaling or exceeding such prominent outposts as Detroit, Philadelphia, Galveston-Houston and Miami. Its roots dating to 1917 -- when it was established as an ordinariate under the supervision of the archbishops of New York -- this year marks the silver jubilee of AMS' spinoff as a freestanding jurisdiction, led by its own archbishop.

The military nod wasn't the US church's only appearance in this morning's dispatches. In a move recognizing a canonist held as one of the nation's "premier" specialists in church law, the pontiff named Dr Edward Peters -- the discipline's lead hand at Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary -- as a referendare of the Apostolic Signatura, a consultant to the church's highest court. (One now, of course, led by its first-ever American prefect.)

A blogger and father of six beyond the classroom, the honor for a layman is unique -- Peters becomes the lone non-cleric among the dozen or so consultors. What's more, the four priests likewise added to the group this morning are all based in Rome or Milan.