Thursday, January 26, 2006

Birth of the Baby Bishop

Speaking of the province of Detroit....

While the rest of the Catholic world -- and its hangers-on -- came down with (real or feigned) Caritas Fever yesterday, the diocese of Marquette was busy ordaining its new bishop.

Bishop Alex Sample, 45, is the first member of the American hierarchy to be born in the 1960s, and his elevation on Michigan's Upper Peninsula yesterday marked the first time in over a century that the expansive northern diocese hosted an episcopal ordination in its Cathedral, St. Peter's.

It didn't hurt that the new bishop is a native son of the diocese -- Sample, ordained for Marquette in 1990, served as the diocesan chancellor and pastor of a parish until his appointment to lead the 70,000 Catholics of the UP.

The ordination was, in all likelihood, the last time Cardinal Adam Maida will ordain a bishop. Sample was his twelfth. The builder of the legendary "Maida Stable" of US bishops, who turns 76 in March, is widely thought to be in his final months as archbishop of Detroit, and his retirement is expected to come shortly after celebrations for his Golden Jubilee of priesthood in early June.

Adding to the wide inside talk that something's quickly afoot on the Detroit succession, also present at yesterday's ordination was Cardinal Edmund Szoka, president of the Governatorato, the civil government of the Vatican City State. Szoka, archbishop of Detroit until 1990, is a member of the Congregation for Bishops, and has long worked in tandem with Maida on episcopal appointments in the Detroit province and beyond.

A notably good show of the hierarchy came north yesterday. Spotted were Archbishops Dolan, Burke, Pilarczyk, Favalora, the bishops of Michigan and a bevy of others. The two bishops-emeritus of Marquette, Jim Garland and Mark Schmitt, served as co-consecrators -- or, as they're called in Sioux City, concelebrants.

By that turnout, the writing's on the wall: this one's going places.

Also sighted by local press was Jerry Pokorsky, the erstwhile priest-head of Credo, one of the right's main agit-groups in the liturgy wars. Surprise, surprise: he's from Lincoln.

Now Sample can get to work, even though he's just moving down the hall to his new office.... The Baby Bishop has chosen as his motto "Contemplare Vultus Christi" -- "To Look Upon Christ's Face."

PHOTOS: The Upper Peninsula Catholic/Aaron Peterson