Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Bishop Holley Goes To Graceland – Pope Taps DC Aux. for Memphis

(Updated below with presser video/installation date.)

Roman Noon, Tuesday 23 August – As Cardinal Theodore McCarrick gradually returns to kicking after knee-replacement surgery earlier this month, the hits just keep on coming for his onetime top aides. (Put another way, Ted's reaping the "Wuerlwind"... still in all, as "get well" gifts go, it's hard to beat.)

Six days after dear Uncle's lead deputy in Washington was called to Rome as head of a Vatican dicastery, at Noon today – in an unusual August nod – the Pope named the cardinal's last "son," the veteran DC auxiliary Martin Holley, 61, as fifth bishop of Memphis in succession to the venerable Terry Steib SVD, a prelate of some 32 years and the longtime convener of the African-American bishops, who reached the retirement age in May 2015.

An exceedingly warm, kind, ever-smiling figure, Holley spent his life and priesthood as a pastor in the Florida Panhandle until his 2004 appointment as Washington's customary auxiliary with primary responsibility for its sizable Black church. Notably, before heading north the Pope's pick was assigned to the vocations office in his home diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee – a particularly key area for the 80,000-member Memphis church, which has boasted a disproportionately high number of seminarians over recent years, ordaining no less than five priests in 2014.

Among other unique attributes of the western Tennessee fold, Steib's stewardship of the diocesan schools is likewise a particular standout. In a move practically unheard of elsewhere, the retiring bishop reopened six shuttered inner-city schools in 1998, entrusting their future to a first-of-its-kind partnership model whose success has led to attempts to imitate it far afield. (Here's lookin' at you, Mary McDonald.)

On another front, as the bench's last active heir of one John Lawrence May – the St Louis archbishop/bench chief whose liturgical preferences were famously summarized as "wine, women and song" – Steib has been increasingly focused on the church's outreach to gays and lesbians, chartering one of the few diocesan offices dedicated to ministry to the same-sex attracted and, in January, devoting his last pastoral letter to what he termed "a new season" in the church, marked by a "compassionate response" to those in irregular situations vis a vis church teaching: a stance heavily echoed three months later by the Pope himself in Amoris Laetitia.

A Divine Word Father born in Louisiana, Steib became the first African-American bishop in the long history of St Louis Catholicism on his 1984 appointment as an auxiliary there, taking the reins in Memphis eight years later in succession to the Benedictine Daniel Buechlein upon his return to Indianapolis.

While Buechlein's own predecessor along the Mississippi – the princely Francis Stafford – would go on to become a cardinal in the Curia, as never before Steib's tenure saw Rome's spotlight fall on Memphis' homegrown clergy with the rise of Peter Sartain, a son of Graceland's Whitehaven neighborhood, who would be launched over a decade from being Steib's Chancellor to the helm of the million-member Seattle archdiocese.

SVILUPPO: Per Memphis Chancery, the installation has been scheduled for Wednesday, October 19th, to be held in the city's Convention Center.

Meanwhile, keeping to his custom for the province he's led for the last decade, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville made the trip west to preside at this morning's presser. His presidency of the USCCB now in its home-stretch before wrapping in November, Kurtz marked another milestone last week – his 70th birthday on Thursday, so belated auguri to the Father-Prez.

All that said, here's fullvid of Holley's introduction to his new charge: