After working for dioceses for more than 14 years, I’ve seen my fair share of bishops come and go. Twice, I’ve been on the receiving end, part of the flurry of communications, joy and anticipation that comes with a new bishop for my diocese. I’ve gotten caught up in the research – learning who he is, conducting interviews with him for my diocesan publication, worrying about how he will change the status quo and hoping for exciting new things.
I’ve also been on the giving end: after more than a decade of service, a beloved bishop and friend was appointed to another diocese. It was bittersweet, knowing a shepherd I had come to respect and care for was moving away, fulfilling his pledge of obedience to serve the Church.
But in both instances, the giving and the receiving, there was a shared sense of the unknown. What will our new bishop be like? Or, who will be the new leader who fills the vacancy, and what will he be like?
Admittedly, Bishop-elect Earl K. Fernandes’ appointment to the Diocese of Columbus is a little different. Yes, he’s leaving the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, but his vacancy at St. Ignatius of Loyola Church is already filled; the anticipation there will be short. Bishop-elect Fernandes will also be nearby, just the next diocese over. And despite the sadness over his move, he is so beloved by the people in this archdiocese that those grieving his departure are also enthusiastically celebrating his elevation to bishop!
From a more personal standpoint, Father Earl was one of the first priests I met when I moved to Cincinnati from out of state. He greeted me warmly and sang the praises of The Catholic Telegraph (for which he wrote in its earlier newspaper format). When he returned to Cincinnati from the nunciature’s office, I approached Father Earl about again writing for us. Without hesitation he enthusiastically agreed to tackle whatever topics and themes I tossed at him each month, teaching me – and the whole CT staff – many things about our Catholic faith along the way. He tackled the theology behind Beacons of Light and synodality, readily agreeing to write a series of articles on those topics. And when asked to record a video series on those subjects, he said, “How about tomorrow?”
Bishop-elect Fernandes, Father Earl, has been a friend to Catholic media in general, and The Catholic Telegraph in particular, and for that my team is very grateful.
I can imagine the “what ifs” that the faithful of the Diocese of Columbus, particularly the diocesan staff, are contemplating about their new shepherd. If you are one of those and happen to read this, let me (and the faithful of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati) offer reassurance: you are receiving a kind, joyful, inspiring and faithful shepherd.
All of our love, prayers and best wishes to you in your new assignment Bishop-elect Fernandes!