Vatican Names First Indian-American Bishop

Source: National Catholic Register

Pope Francis names 49-year-old Cincinnati pastor, Father Earl Fernandes, as the next Bishop of the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio.

The historic appointment will make Bishop-elect Fernandes the first Indian-American to lead a diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.

The first Indian-American to head a U.S. Roman Catholic diocese, Bishop-elect Fernandes succeeds Bishop Robert Brennan, who now leads the Diocese of Brooklyn. Bishop-elect Fernandes’ episcopal ordination and installation is scheduled for May 31.

During a press conference in Columbus, the bishop-elect spoke about his experiences as an immigrant growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma experiencing racism while outlining his “syndol” approach for his new role.

“The Pope wants a synodal Church, a Church that walks together. I look forward to walking together with the people, the priests, the deacons and religious — actually, the whole people of God — in the Diocese of Columbus,” Bishop-elect Fernandes said.

“The Holy Father says sometimes the bishop has to walk in front of the people, leading them. Sometimes he has to walk in the midst of them, listening to them [and] their joys, their sorrows. And sometimes he has to walk behind him, so that no one gets left too far behind,” he continued.

“I want to walk with the people of God here in the Diocese of Columbus,” he said. “We need to be a Church that walks together and a Church that listens.”

The son of Indian immigrants, Bishop-elect Fernandes’ family came to the United States in 1970. The second of five children, he grew up on Tulsa’s southside in a working-class neighborhood located near an oil refinery.

Speaking emotionally about his parents’ Catholic devotion and concern for their children’s welfare, Fernandez, in a lighthearted moment, commented that his mother always wanted him to be a doctor, but God had other plans.

A graduate in biology from the University of Toledo, Fernandes initially pursued a career in medicine, matriculating at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine before discerning a call to the priesthood. Citing a life-changing experience as a student traveling through Europe and visiting the tomb of St. Peter beneath St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, as a decisive moment in that discernment process.

“I was just completely overcome and overwhelmed, and I dropped to my knees, and at that moment I knew God was calling me to be a priest,” he recalled.

Expressing his appreciation he said, “Having accepted the appointment to the Diocese of Columbus, I have to admit that, after Almighty God and the Holy Church, the people to whom I owe the greatest debt of gratitude are my parents, without whom I would be absolutely nothing.”

“I am grateful for the gift of life and faith that they imparted to my brothers and to me and for the many hidden sacrifices they made for us boys.”

Source: National Catholic Register