Wednesday, June 03, 2009

For Omaha, a Priest-Maker: Springfield's Lucas Heads to "Paris"

In the "Paris of the Pigbelt," "The Force" has arrived.

This morning, the Pope named Bishop George Lucas of Springfield as the fifth archbishop of Omaha. In the Nebraska church of 220,000, the archbishop-elect succeeds Elden Curtiss, the senior active Stateside prelate by age; a bishop since 1976 who's served in the Heartland since 1993, Curtiss turns 77 later this month.

Described all around as "sweet" and "a delight," the appointee -- 60 next week -- signals a B16 shot for the archdiocese's priestly recruitment efforts.

For the first time in its recent history, the 125 year-old Omaha church will ordain no new priests both this year and next after a series of large classes in the 1990s. Before his appointment to Illinois' capital in 1999, Lucas oversaw St Louis' Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, where his boss was then-Archbishop Justin Rigali, now "The Force" in his own right thanks to his membership on the Vatican's all-powerful Congregation for Bishops.

One of the handful of the bench to delve into podcasting, Lucas' installation date has been set for 22 July in Omaha's St Cecelia Cathedral, where the traditional Appointment Day press conference gets underway at 10am Central time.

Before that, though, he'll receive the archbishop's pallium at month's end from Pope Benedict in Rome alongside (as of this writing) three other Americans, including his hometown confrere, now Archbishop Tim Dolan of New York, and St Louis' incoming Archbishop Robert Carlson, who formally takes the reins in the "Rome of the West" a week from today.

With this morning's move, nine US dioceses are now led by an ordinary serving past 75; newly atop the pile is Fort Wayne-South Bend, where Bishop John D'Arcy sent his letter in August 2007. The newly-created Springfield vacancy leaves six Latin-rite sees without a head -- it's been 11 months since the longest-waiting among that group, Cheyenne, lost Bishop David Ricken to Green Bay.

SVILUPPO: Presser video, in full.

PHOTO: Archdiocese of Omaha