Monday, April 18, 2011

And Arturo Makes Three: For Hockeytown, an Auxiliary Hat-Trick

For the many who wondered about the lack of a word here on the new auxiliaries of Detroit named last month, suffice it to say, you've got your answer now, don't you?

Rounding out the second trio of auxiliaries given the Motor City in eight years, this morning the Pope named 41 year-old Fr José Arturo Cepeda (right) -- rector of San Antonio's Assumption Seminary for all of nine months -- to aid Archbishop Allen Vigneron in overseeing the 1.4 million-member fold.

Now the youngest member of the Stateside bench -- a distinction that, until today, had been held by Bishop Oscar Cantú, the blogging 44 year-old auxiliary of San Antonio, since his 2008 elevation -- the Mexican-born cleric joins Bishops-elect Donald Hanchon and Michael Byrnes, both Detroit natives, who were appointed on 22 March. As a result, Cepeda will be ordained in modern-record time for a Stateside designee, receiving the high-hat alongside Hanchon and Byrnes on 5 May, 17 days after his nomination.

For the last year and change, the Detroit church has had only one active auxiliary, Bishop Frank Reiss, whose energies have been limited as he's battled esophageal cancer. With the hat-trick of fresh nods, Michigan's mother-church returns to its traditional full complement of four assistants to the archbishop.

A native of San Luís Potosi (the same hometown as his heretofore-boss, Santone's Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller) ordained for the San Antonio church in 1996, the bishop-elect was named vice-rector of Assumption in 2009 by Archbishop José Gomez prior to the latter's departure for Los Angeles. With the Texas seminary currently boasting over a hundred students -- its largest student-body in a half-century -- and having opened major expansions to its facilities over recent years, Cepeda succeeded to the top post of the uniquely bilingual formation house last year on the departure of its longtime chief, Fr Larry Christian, for parish work. The bishop-elect previously earned a doctorate in spiritual theology at Rome's Angelicum.

In Detroit, the cleric known simply as "Arturo" will arguably take up where Hockeytown's first Hispanic prelate left off. Likewise a Texas seminary chief on his northern transfer in 2006, Bishop Daniel Flores was sent to minister to a rapidly-booming Latino community in Metro Detroit that, according to the recent Census, grew by over a third in the last decade, even as the archdiocese's total population fell amid the catastrophic fallout of the economic crisis on its dominant car industry.

Three Michigan winters after his ordination at 45, the rising Southwestern star was transferred home to South Texas as head of the million-member Brownsville diocese. Its Hispanic-dominant population doubled since 1990 -- and a majority of its Catholics younger than 25 -- Flores became the first American prelate under age 50 tapped to lead a local church of over a million since then-Archbishop Roger Mahony took the reins of the LA church in 1985.

As analysis goes, with Hispanics now a de facto majority among the nation's 68 million faithful and tipped to outnumber Anglos in the Lone Star State (where Catholics are still getting used to their new status as Texas' largest religious group) by late this decade, it's worth noting that Cepeda's ascent signals another hat-trick: he's the third Texas priest to be named a bishop in his early 40s in the last five years, alongside Flores and Cantú, each of whom were likewise the bench's youngest member on their respective arrival. The appointment equally reflects two signal trends of Stateside nods in B16's pontificate: for one, the pontiff's decided preference for bishops with significant experience in education and formation... but above all, the most-prized quality among US episcopabili these days: the "crossover" skills of linguistic and cultural fluency in Anglo and Hispanic communities alike, that the next generation of American bishops might successfully bridge the church's present and future on these shores.

With the slate now rounded out, the new Detroit auxiliaries present a curious contrast of backgrounds. Hanchon, 63, is a Notre Dame-trained liturgist who's spent the bulk of his priesthood ministering to the city's African-American community, picking up Spanish as the local Latino population boomed. An aspiring microbiologist in his college days, meanwhile, Byrnes, 52, earned his doctorate in theology from the Gregorian, returning to double-duty in parishes and at the archdiocese's Sacred Heart Major Seminary, where he's been vice-rector since 2004 alongside a pastorate.

For a taste of the appointees' respective styles, below are their remarks from their Appointment Day press conferences....

First, Hanchon and Byrnes' March turn:

And Cepeda earlier today:

But above all, as the most seismic demographic sea-change this Stateside church has known in nearly two centuries continues on, que cantamos a nuestra Madre amadísima, la estrella de Dios quien nos indica al futuro de esta iglesia en este país:

Morenita de Tepeyac, Cuidadera y Emperatriz de estas Americas, gracias a los cielos para su regalo de una vida nueva por nosotros.

¡Que viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!