Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Breaking the Barrier

The American episcopate has entered the 1960's.... No, I'm not talking about in terms of style -- although that observation is quite applicable in some quarters.

Benedict XVI this morning accepted the resignation of Bishop James Garland of Marquette, Michigan, and -- in an affirmation of the Montalvo principle of keeping it "within the family" (even though a new nuncio to Washington is coming "soon and very soon," sources say) -- named its diocesan chancellor, Fr. Alexander Sample, as the Upper Peninsula's new bishop.

While more chancery officials have become the bishops of their own dioceses in this decade than in any since the late 19th century (Charlotte, Fall River and Harrisburg, among others), what makes Sample a touchpoint is his age. Born 7 November 1960, he is the first US bishop born in that decade. As the bishop-elect was a late vocation, ordained at 30 in 1990, he's also the junior in terms of priestly ordination. Sample has a Master's degree in "Metallurgies Engineering" (I guess the priesthood was a surprise?) and a JCL from the Angelicum.

Message? B16 wants to start young and rebuild from there. And the Upper Peninsula requires someone vigorous who knows the lay of the land.