The Holy See announced at noon Rome time today (600am EDT) that Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the request of Archbishop John Clement Favalora to retire as the third Archbishop of Miami and has appointed as Miami’s fourth archbishop, Bishop Thomas Wenski, formerly a priest of Miami but now serving as bishop of Orlando. This announcement is of special interest to our diocese as many of you will remember that Archbishop Favalora served as third bishop of St. Petersburg and as my immediate predecessor. I was the first priest ordained to the episcopacy by the Archbishop on January 26, 1996 and therefore I am in a way his “oldest son.” In his fifteen and a half years as Archbishop of Miami, he has ordained as bishops Bishop Victor Galeone of St. Augustine, Bishop Wenski of Orlando, Bishop Gilberto Fernandez, Bishop Felipe de Jesus Estevez, and Bishop John Noonan as assistant bishops in Miami and has installed Bishop John H. Ricard as Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Bishop J. Keith Symons as Bishop of Palm Beach, Bishop Norbert Dorsey as third bishop of Orlando, Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell of Palm Beach, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Palm Beach, Bishop Gerald Barbarito of Palm Beach, Bishop Wenski of Orlando and Bishop Frank DeWane of Venice. So one can easily see his presence as metropolitan archbishop of Miami just in episcopal ordinations and installations and is in addition to daily managing a large archdiocese.
So what does this change imply for our local Church and for myself? The Church asks archbishops to “mentor” the other bishops of his province, to monitor if necessary important things occurring in the other dioceses, and to call the bishops of the province together from time to time to discuss candidates for the episcopal office. In our case, the Archbishop of Miami is automatically the President of the Florida Catholic Conference so he convenes us as bishops four times a year to conduct the affairs of the FCC, and he is Chancellor of our theologate in Boynton Beach where most of our future priests and bishops are trained, and there we meet twice a year. For myself personally this is a bittersweet moment. I am happy for Archbishop Favalora that after many years of active ministry, as priest and bishop, he will soon be freed of the burden of administration and can begin to relax. As our “leader” he had a wonderful ability to help us relax when we were together and to enjoy the company of one another as bishops. He did not like or lead long meetings and he was available when we needed someone to talk to about anything. I will miss those wonderful gifts very much as I suspect will also my brother bishops. The last few years in Miami have been particularly stressful for not only the archbishop but for many others there so I wish him a stress-less and peaceful retirement.
Bishop Wenski knows what he is inheriting. He is a gifted linguist speaking fluent Creole, Spanish, and Polish in addition to his native tongue. It will be the first time when at a minimum a tri-cultural and tri-lingual urban archdiocese will have someone to easily communicate with the people in their native tongues. As I told him in a phone call, now I know who is likely to bury me and I assured him of my prayers and support in his daunting new ministry.
When the Diocese of St. Petersburg was created in 1968, Bishop Charles McLaughlin was appointed our first bishop. On the same day, the Diocese of Orlando was created and William Donald Borders was named first bishop of Orlando. Amazingly he died yesterday at the age of 96, one day prior to his successor three times removed being named to Miami. He himself retired as Arcbishop of Baltimore many years ago. Also yesterday (Monday) the mother of Bishop Barbarito of Palm Beach went home to the Lord after a long life and lots of love from her priest/bishop son. May we remember both of these people in our prayers.