Thursday, August 31, 2006

Sioux Falls, At Last

It only took slightly over 20 months, but this morning Pope Benedict named Msgr Paul Joseph Swain, heretofore vicar-general of Madison, as bishop of Sioux Falls, succeeding Bob Carlson, who had been dispatched to Saginaw in December 2004.

A convert from Methodism, the bishop-elect marks his 63rd birthday in two weeks. Having attended law school at the University of Wisconsin, he served in Vietnam in air intelligence and, after his return home, was legal counsel to then-Wisconsin Gov. Sherman Dryfus. Received into the church in 1982, he attended Pope John XXIII National Seminary at Weston and was ordained in 1988. Following Bishop Robert Lynch of St Petersburg, Bishop-elect Swain is the second alumnus of the seminary founded specifically for older vocations to be raised to the episcopacy.

In 2002, he was named Madison's vicar-general and rector of its Cathedral of St Raphael, which was heavily damaged by a March 2005 fire.

Swain is shown above in a photo taken on the morning of the cathedral fire. The future of St Raphael's remains a topic of discussion in the Madison diocese, with Bishop Robert Morlino beginning a series of six "townhall" meetings next week to solicit opinions on the rebuilding project.

Notably, last month the bishop and rector made a jailhouse visit to William Connell, who pled no contest to the arson charge in early July. The stated purpose of the visit was to forgive Connell, who apologized and offered his wish that the cathedral be rebuilt.

In accord with the norms of law, Bishop-elect Swain must be ordained and take possession of the diocese of Sioux Falls (comprised of "East River," South Dakota) within four months of this morning's appointment.

Oh, and one last thing: Bishop Aquila, you can breathe now.

Sarah Tews/Wisconsin State Journal