Bishop Sheen, Meet Bishop Reed – Pope Taps CatholicTV Titan, Tribunal Chief as Boston Auxes
Before anything else, a personal tale: after his broadcast of an episcopal ordination some years back, this scribe jokingly chided Fr Bob Reed that his commentary on the rites went just a bit over the top.
As Providence would have it, that won’t be happening again – not due to any words from here, but indeed, a call from above: after today, the next hat-giving Reed sees will be his own.
At Roman Noon this Friday, the Pope tapped the super-energetic impresario behind what's now become an international CatholicTV network over cable and internet, and Fr Mark O’Connell, the widely-beloved Judicial Vicar of Boston’s office-park Chancery, as auxiliary bishops to Cardinal Seán O’Malley OFM Cap....
...and so it seems, not just the Fenway crowd will go wild when the ordination takes place on 24 August.
As the dual nod represents the first appointments to the nation’s fourth-largest diocese since O'Malley's ascent as Francis’ lead North American adviser, it was always bound to be the case that the picks would receive a heightened amount of focus. Accordingly, then, to crib another analogy from sports, given the reputation both enjoy at home and beyond on complementary fronts, it wouldn’t seem a stretch to call these bishops-elect the church’s answer to the “Splash Brothers.”
in as many weeks, and more beyond – in choosing O’Connell, 51 (left), Francis has elevated another priest with campus ministry in his background, and (in a running theme all through the picks) whose parish assignments are spoken of with “love” from the people.
That said, the kindness and pastoral rep conceals some considerable chops in the canons – a JCD out of Rome, then a board seat for the Canon Law Society of America while serving as head of the Tribunal for the 1.9 million-member church since 2007. Yet law aside, out of nowhere as word of the moves began to emerge – but before the names were attached to it – one local op voiced a pure wish for the JV to be named, calling him "a true gem" and one of "Boston's best."
With today's move, O'Connell fills the canonist's slot among Boston's top rank left open by Bishop Robert Deeley's departure in 2014 for Portland; with three of the archdiocese's five episcopal regions currently lacking auxiliaries at the helm, however, what both of today's appointees end up doing going forward is the looming question in the mix.
As for Reed – 57 next week – suffice it to say, when you're talking about somebody who's been a wonderful friend and faithful champion of one's own work over these last ten years and beyond, both as friend and colleague, hopefully you'll understand how it's fairly impossible on this end to be anything other than completely elated. But well before he showcased varying stages of this scribe's hair to the wider world while building CatholicTV into a juggernaut across Stateside cable systems – and, most recently, Roku and AppleTV apps – the guy behind the best HD livefeed known to Church was simply a parish priest, leading four communities of his own before being assigned in 2005 to what was an old trusty of the Boston airwaves and guiding its transformation for the digital age.
On the wider scene, from a Pope who's no slouch in media himself, Reed's hat is the third Francis has given in less than a year to an English-speaking priest with deep experience in Catholic and secular communication alike, following December's appointment of the Irishman Paul Tighe as a bishop and #3 at the Pontifical Council for Culture, and last year's summer blockbuster launching the New Evangelization guru Robert Barron from his Chicago base to Hollywood as an auxiliary of Los Angeles, whose 5 million Catholics comprise the largest community US Catholicism has ever known.
Even closer to home, meanwhile, the bishop-elect now joins one of his own hosts on the bench: the native Pats fan Chris Coyne, who returned to New England early last year as head of Vermont's statewide diocese just before taking on the chairmanship of the USCCB's sprawling media apparatus.
In an extraordinary turn of events, this morning's twin appointments come as Boston was already preparing to mark another turn of history on this feast of the Sacred Heart with the afternoon ordination of Msgr Paul Russell as an archbishop-nuncio, the first priest of the Hub ever tapped to serve as a papal legate.
Having braved one of Vatican diplomacy's most complex assignments for the last seven years – namely, charge d'affaires in Taipei, which the Holy See recognizes as its posting to China (as opposed to the Communist Mainland) – the 57 year-old was handed yet another hornet's nest in March, when Francis named him to the Nunciature in Turkey, a nation whose tenuous relations with Rome over the Armenian genocide of the 20th century will make for a particularly tricky geopolitical tightrope as the Pope visits Armenia at this month's end.