Friday, May 13, 2016

Pope To Tulsa: "Gig 'Em. Again" – Aggie Pastor Named OK Bishop

Over recent years, it's become no secret that one of US Catholicism's most vibrant centers of life and vitality is found deep in the heart of Texas. While that's now come to apply to the whole state – where, late in the last decade, Catholics surpassed Southern Baptists to comprise the largest religious group – in a particular way, among the Lone Star church's brightest spots is the Catholic Center at Texas A&M: a place that routinely leads the country in numbers of graduates entering seminary and religious life (roughly a dozen this year alone), and where the standing-room only crowds for weekday Mass would easily pass for Sundays (if not Christmas or Ash Wednesday) most anywhere else.

And so, barely three years after the first time the pastor of St Mary's was named a bishop, it should come as no surprise that lightning's struck twice for the Aggies: at Roman Noon this Friday, the Pope named Fr David Konderla (above), the 55 year-old lead chaplain in College Station since 2005, as fourth bishop of Tulsa, retiring Bishop Edward Slattery nine months after the longtime head of the 60,000-member church turned 75. Given the prominence of the assignment the bishop-elect leaves behind, however, who ends up being sent to Aggieland's storied "vocation factory" feels about as crucial, if not even more.

Notably, the Tulsa pick is just the latest of several Francis has given to priests who've been college chaplains at some point in their ministry, clearly seeing that experience as a critically important mission-field for the church's future on these shores. (Indeed, another among the group is Archbishop Bernie Hebda, who formally takes the reins of the beleaguered church in the Twin Cities later today.) Meanwhile, in just the latest boast for a diocese whose energy level is widely reputed to be off the charts, Konderla is the fourth Austin priest to be elevated since the turn of the decade, following last year's selection of a first-ever auxiliary, now Bishop Danny Garcia, and two others tapped to lead their own sees: Bishops Michael Mulvey, the onetime vicar-general, sent to Corpus Christi in 2010, and Mike Sis – likewise Austin's second-in-command after launching the rise of the A&M juggernaut – named to San Angelo in late 2013, and whose crozier was memorably made by today's appointee from the limbs of a tree on the St Mary's property.

According to an early-morning drop from Austin Chancery, the bishop-elect will be ordained and installed on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, 29 June. With Konderla already in Tulsa for the announcement, the Oklahoma diocese announced that the appointee will help distribute food to the poor at a Catholic Charities center before today's noontime presser.

With the nod, just one Stateside Latin diocese stands vacant – Salt Lake City, now pending for over a year – with another six led by (arch)bishops serving past the retirement age pending the arrival of their successors. The latter group is led by Long Island's 1.6 million-member fold based in Rockville Centre, where Bishop William Murphy turns 76 tomorrow. And then, of course, there's the question of Newark.....

Developing – more to come.