CONGRATULATIONS TO THE ONLY ASSOCIATE PASTOR I EVER HAD
Pope Benedict XVI today appointed Miami archdiocesan priest, Father Fernando Isern to the be next bishop of the 100,000 Catholic diocese of Pueblo in Colorado. What makes this particularly joyful for me personally is that Bishop-elect Isern is the only associate pastor I have had had the privilege of working with, which also makes him the “best” associate pastor I ever had. Father Fernando had already been at St. Mark’s parish in Davie when I was appointed pastor there on June 1, 1995. The large, growing population of both Anglos and Hispanics loved him and rightly so. He worked tirelessly for them all week long. We had an interesting beginning, the two of us. Three days before I was to begin my pastorate, he took me in a delirious state first to the doctor and then by EMT transport to Hollywood Memorial Hospital West in Pembroke Pines. I was in the emergency room all day and remember little except for the priestly presence of Father Isern giving me the sacrament of the sick. Late that night I was diagnosed definitively with spinal meningitus and fourteen days in isolation followed with visits several times daily by my associate who was administering the parish until I could get out and begin my new pastorate. It was the Monday after Thanksgiving, barely five full months later that the Holy Father’s representative in the U.S., the Apostolic Nuncio, called to tell me of my appointment to St. Petersburg as bishop. Bishop-elect Isern saw firsthand the sadness that accompanied giving up my first and wonderful parish and moving on and the toll it took on myself and others and today that experience is now his as well.
He will make a great bishop. It is also a great day for the priests of the Archdiocese of Miami who had to endure way too much negative publicity about the priesthood in recent months with the Albert Cutie matter and that of another priest who has now admitted that he fathered a child. Miami’s priests, like my own here in the diocese, consist of many exemplary and dedicated men living what is sometimes a very challenging life and to pick one more of their number for service in the order of bishop should make them feel very good.
Congratulations Bishop Fernando. I know how lucky the Church of Pueblo is to have you as their shepherd.