Posts Tagged ‘Bishop Fernando Isern’


Friday, December 9th, 2011

The Florida bishops (minus Pensacola-Talllahassee which is still waiting for a new bishop to be announced and installed) met in Miami on Tuesday as guests of Archbishop Thomas Wenski. It took us four hours to dispose of the business of the Florida Catholic Conference. Conference Executive Director Dr. D. Michael McCarron presented us with a lengthy agenda of action items about which there were no real differences of opinion but a need to know more about the challenges which face the Church in Florida in 2012. This state is so lucky to have a superb Executive Director who is assisted by a very able, competent and committed staff. The results of the Conference over the years in the public square far exceeds the per cent of the state population which is Roman Catholic and stands as a testament to prudent, respectful and appreciative engagement with past Administrations (Chiles, Bush, Crist, and Scott in my time) and legislatures.

From left, bishops who attended the Mass included: Bishop Victor Galeone, retired of St. Augustine: Bishop Fernando Isern of Pueblo, Colo.; Bishop John Noonan of Orlando; Bishop Felipe Estevez of St. Augustine; Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice; myself; and Bishop Gerald Barbarito of Palm Beach. Photo courtesy of Ana Rodriguez-Soto with The Florida Catholic.

In the evening we reconvened at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Miami to celebrate retired Archbishop John C. Favalora’s golden anniversary of priestly ordination and silver anniversary of episcopal ordination. I hope and pray that you remember kindly the five years that Archbishop Favalora served as our third bishop here in St. Petersburg. About one hundred and forty priests, nine bishops, and a good representation of the laity came for this special Mass of Thanksgiving.The Archbishop was both the principal celebrant of the liturgy and the homilist. I must say that St. Mary’s Cathedral has a music program to “die for” and as good as I remember it, it has never been better than this evening. The celebration took about seventy-five minutes which is not bad when one gathers that many bishops and others.

Archbishop John C. Favalora sits in the cathedra, a symbol of a bishop's authority, during the Mass. Photo courtesy of Ana Rodriguez-Soto with The Florida Catholic.

Archbishop Favalora gave a beautiful homily on the occasion, focusing not on himself but on the Lord’s call to serve in the priesthood. In twelve minutes (I time myself and everyone else who preaches because I firmly believe that the mind can not absorb what the tush can’t take) he gave a ratio fundamentalis or foundation reasons for what the gift of priestly ministry means in our own time. Only at the end did he quickly express his thanks to those gathered for nourishing his ministry in the past twenty-five and fifty years. At the conclusion, he was greeted with prolonged applause and standing appreciation, I believe not just for his lucid homily but for his many years of service. The Diocese of St. Petersburg is about forty-four years old now and its first bishop, Charles McLaughlin served for the first ten years, then Bishop W. Thomas Larkin succeeded him for just shy of ten years. Archbishop Favalora’s tenure was about five years and my own is soon to enter its sixteenth year. I think each of us has attempted in our own way to nourish and fashion a community of faith at the service of Christ’s Church. I have always been grateful that the Lord in his kindness allowed me to follow Archbishop Favalora because things were in great shape when I came. I only hope I can with God’s help leave them that way for my successor. In words spoken and written yesterday I extended to the good Archbishop the gratitude of the Church of St. Petersburg for his presence in our midst. He seems incredibly happy to be free of the burden of administration and I am admittedly jealous.



Monday, October 19th, 2009

Regular readers of this blog know that last week I took special delight in the naming of my associate pastor at St, Mark’s parish in Dania,  Father Fernando Isern, as bishop of the Colorado diocese of Pueblo. While celibates do not give birth to progeny, I hope we can be forgiven for the joy and satisfaction which is ours when someone with whom we have worked or know well is also entrusted with shepherding or assisting in shepherding a local Church. Today someone even closer to me over the years was chosen by Pope Benedict XVI as the next bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming, a huge territory with about 50,000 Catholics in the state.

Bishop-Elect Paul Etienne

Bishop-Elect Paul Etienne

Father Paul Etienne first came into my life as a graduate of the College of St. Thomas in 1985. He had been a college seminarian at St. John Vianney College seminary on the campus of St. Thomas and had decided to take some time off to reflect on the commitment to celibacy. The Rector then, now Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, called our office at the Bishop’s Conference and said he had a young man who was making a mistake, that he had a vocation to priesthood but needed time. Knowing that we were looking for temporary help for the upcoming 1986 papal visit, the General Secretary at that time and my boss, Monsignor Daniel Hoye and I interviewed Paul and were impressed with his very successful background as a young business man after high school graduation and his academic achievements. Even though he came to Washington wearing “cowboy boots” we hired him and I got to know my co-worker well. He did an outstanding job for the papal visit but hated Washington and its big-city, urban environment. He was from Tell City, a small but very Catholic town along the Ohio River where the public school had been run by the parish and nuns. He was from a close-knit family of six children, faith-filled, loving parents, a small town. When the trip was over, he could not wait to return to Tell City, search for a job, and see how a relationship with a young woman he had met developed. That was November.

In December his older brother Bernie announced that he was entering the seminary and studying for the Evansville diocese where he was living. In the first week of January, Paul called me and said that he felt called again to the priesthood and would be approaching the Archbishop of Indianapolis about entering the seminary. At first I was incredulous, skeptical and challenging, wondering if this was not a reaction to Bernie’s decision. His younger sister had already begun the process of entering the Beech Grove Benedictine community. To make a long story short, Paul entered the North American College that Fall and four years later was ordained the first of the Etienne brothers. I vested him at his diaconate and preached his first Mass in Tell City.

A year later, brother Bernie was ordained, and about ten years after that brother Zach (Zachary) was also ordained for the Evansville diocese. Bishop-Elect Paul has had a good priesthood and has been a much loved and admired pastor of now four parishes, although the last two prior to returning in the summer as pastor of his home parish in Tell City lasted only one year each due to his co-responsibilities as Vice-Rector of Indianapolis’ college seminary program. Sister Nicolette has just finished a term as her community’s Vocation Director and now has returned to her first love, teaching. Brother Richard and sister Angela are the two “normal” siblings who have chosen marriage and each have children. It is going to be hard for this family to say good-bye to Paul who is going quite far away.

One final note. The three priest brothers are avid hunters. For ordination gifts, they gave each other hunting rifles. Come deer season, the boys can be found on their wooded farm behind some blind waiting for a vulnerable deer. I know; I have inadvertently placed a phone call to them only to be greeted by the sound of a rifle going off and told to hang up. I have already cautioned the bishop-elect that if he chooses to go hunting in season in Yellowstone (almost entirely in his diocese) or in the Tetons, he would do well to find out where former Vice-President Cheney (who lives outside of Jackson Hole) will be hunting that day!

Cheyenne’s lucky. They are getting a pastor, not a Church bureaucrat, and someone who will love and lead them.



Thursday, October 15th, 2009
Bishop-Elect Fernando Isern

Bishop-Elect Fernando Isern

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.