Holy Goalie: A Two-Pole Tuesday
To make things official, this morning Pope Benedict named:
- Bishop Thomas Wenski, 59 (above), ordinary of Orlando since 2004, as metropolitan archbishop of Miami;
- and Bishop Thomas Paprocki, 57, auxiliary of Chicago since 2003, as bishop of Springfield in Illinois.
And in the 59 year-old prelate's hometown, this day's sentiment might well be strikingly similar.
In a historic move for the burgeoning church in the nation's fourth-largest state, the native son's been returned to Miami as the fourth archbishop, succeeding Archbishop John Favalora, whose resignation was accepted eight months before he reached the retirement age of 75.
According to an early report, the installation has been scheduled for Tuesday, 1 June, its venue still to emerge. (In 1997, Wenski, then 46, was ordained a bishop in the now-defunct Miami Arena, capacity 17,000.) This morning's traditional Appointment Day press conference has been called for 10am.
Now home to some 900,000 Catholics -- the Southeast's second-largest diocese, after Atlanta -- the Harley-riding archbishop-elect becomes the first homegrown cleric to take up the Sunshine State's top ecclesial post; as of last count, Florida's now home to some 2.3 million American Catholics.
Conversant in Polish, Spanish, Creole, public policy and the ways of the media -- and well-known and regarded in Washington, Havana and Port-au-Prince alike -- Wenski (shown above during a briefing in Cuba last summer) returns well-equipped to handle a complex local situation that'll put his motto ("Omnia omnibus" --"All things to everyone") to the test. Above all, though, the Miami nominee brings a mix of wonkishness, muscle and grit to St Mary's Cathedral that, in contrast to his genteel Louisiana-born mentor, promise to take his pulpit's visibility and voice far beyond South Florida to a degree heretofore unseen.
As a 50 year-old junior auxiliary, Wenski was elected chair of the US bishops' Migration Committee before being quickly entrusted with another of the "majors": the bench's International Policy arm, which the prodigal Miamian led from 2004-08. Along the way, he held a Mass of Reparation for President Obama's commencement appearance at Notre Dame, earned a Master's in Sociology from Fordham, gave an invocation at a Republican National Convention, spearheaded the delivery of 75 tons of food to Cuba in the wake of a hurricane, served on government commissions dealing with homelessness, and made his own path to Haiti in the days following January's quake, upstaging the Stateside church's lead delegation by virtue of his longstanding bonds with the island and its diaspora at home. (He returned during Easter Week.)
Ordained a priest of Miami in 1976, Wenski was thrust into the archdiocese's wildly diverse cultural scene from early on, serving first in a Hispanic parish before spending almost two decades at the helm of a Haitian apostolate he essentially built from scratch, only leaving it -- at least, formally -- on his appointment as auxiliary bishop.
As noted earlier, the returning Miamian leaves the Orlando fold in the early stages of both a $150 million capital campaign and an extensive renovation of St James Cathedral.
In a word, that just goes to underscore the degree to which that the native son was deemed not just the right man for the job, but the only one.