Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Duca Goes to 'Port: Dallas Rector Named Bishop

No April Fool here, folks: for the first time in nearly two decades, the "Big D" has given the Big C a shepherd.

This morning, Pope Benedict named Msgr Michael Duca, the longtime rector of Dallas' Holy Trinity Seminary, as bishop of Shreveport in Louisiana.

A former diocesan vocations director, chaplain at Dallas' Southern Methodist University and Angelicum-trained canonist, the bishop-elect, 55, succeeds Bishop William Friend, who retired as head of the 40,000-member diocese in December 2006.

As with a majority of his episcopal nominations the world over -- including several on these shores -- Pope Benedict has yet again turned to the realm of priestly formation for an appointee to the episcopacy. What's more, two weeks before his arrival in the nation's capital (and a day before the dedication of its largest see's new hub) the pontiff has given yet another notable wink to the heart of Texas and one of the nation's fastest-growing dioceses, which welcomed 2,000 converts at this year's Easter Vigil, including a combined 500 newcomers in two parishes.

The last time a priest of Cowboys' Nation was elevated to the episcopacy was in 1990, when Dallas' judicial vicar, David Fellhauer, was named to the Gulfside diocese of Victoria. Before that, you'd have to go back precisely 25 years ago this week, when one of Duca's predecessors as rector of the Irving seminary, Fr Michael Sheehan, was named bishop of Lubbock. Sheehan is currently archbishop of Santa Fe.

Suffice it to say, it won't be another generation before you see such things again.

Described as "honest, earthy, funny, generous -- and just plain good," today's appointee is highly regarded by the locals, including his confreres-to-be; a bishop close to the region lauded the appointee as "a truly wonderful guy" and, were he ever allowed to have his pick, his "far and away first choice" to join the high-hat ranks.

In the midst of a local church that's quintupled in size since 1990, the Dallas seminary currently counts 28 students, with more than half coming from the Lone Star State's archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and diocese of Austin. Ordained in 1978, Duca has served as rector of Holy Trinity since 1996.

In accordance with the provisions of canon law, Bishop-elect Duca must be ordained and installed in his new charge within four months of this morning's appointment. The traditional appointment-morning news conference has been called for 10am at the Shreveport chancery.

As previously noted, the nod for the nation's second-longest diocesan vacancy is one of several expected to occur before Benedict XVI touches down in Washington two weeks from today. Among the others reportedly on-deck is (...at long last....) the most prolonged/agonizing Stateside succession of all: Little Rock, which has been open since Bishop J. Peter Sartain's 15 May 2006 transfer to Joliet. According to word quickly circulating in hierarchical circles, an early June ordination date has already been eyed for the seventh head of Arkansas' statewide diocese.

As always, stay tuned... and -- no joke -- pray.

SVILUPPO: Mark your calendars; ordination/installation "tentatively set" for 19 May in Shreveport....

And now, the statements:
Bishop-elect Duca said “I am humbled and honored by the Pope’s decision to appoint me as Bishop of the Diocese of Shreveport. It is an incredible blessing that I look forward to, but not without some mixed emotions. My 30 years as a priest in the Diocese of Dallas have been a very enriching experience. The opportunity to serve in parishes and to work with the future priests of our diocese as rector of Holy Trinity Seminary has helped me to grow as a minister and person.”

The Most Reverend Kevin Farrell [K-Far], Bishop of the Diocese of Dallas, issued words of support stating “I am delighted and thrilled for Bishop-elect Duca. The diocese has benefited from his ministry, his leadership and his many other talents. I will miss his support here but I am pleased the Diocese of Shreveport is getting such a strong and capable spiritual leader. We will pray for his success and happiness.
SVILUPPO 2: Also announced from Big D today: Fr J Douglas Deshotel, a classmate of Duca's and former vice-rector of Holy Trinity, has been named vicar-general of the Texas diocese.

As Farrell nears his first anniversary as head of the Dallas church, the fold of a million-plus Catholics remains the largest US see to lack an auxiliary bishop.

PHOTOS: Holy Trinity Seminary