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For US Bench, The Pope's "Doorbuster" – Nashville, Jeff City Land Long-Tipped Bishops

(Updated with presser video/statements.)

If anyone ever said the Vatican doesn't do Christmas ahead of December 25th, this Tuesday morning would prove them wrong.

In a significant double-shot of appointments following last week's November Meeting, at Roman Noon the Pope named Fr Joseph Mark Spalding, 52 (above) – until now vicar-general of Louisville and pastor of two city parishes – as 12th bishop of Nashville...

...and Fr William Shawn McKnight, 49 (right) – pastor of Wichita's flourishing Church of the Magdalen, already a familiar figure on the national stage from his five years as director of the USCCB's Clergy arm – to Missouri's capital as the fourth bishop of Jefferson City. With his appointment, the Sant'Anselmo-trained liturgist becomes the US' youngest head of a Latin-church diocese.

While the relative youth of both (not to mention their shared use of their middle names) will stand out on the wider scene – and, to be sure, their active service will stretch into the 2040s – the striking piece internally is the outsize experience and reputation each brings to the bench. Indeed, having known them both for what feels like ages, these choices respectively possess a degree of ecclesial firepower beyond their years, and from a national vantage, to see them come up together is the most significant thing of all.

Far unlike some recent nods which few, if any, could foresee, today's bishops-elect have been (pun intended) marked out for years by their colleagues and the prelates they now join. In Spalding's case, the Nashville pick has garnered "rising star" buzz since before 2011, when he replaced his close friend Chuck Thompson as Archbishop Joseph Kurtz's top deputy and pastor of the large, vibrant Holy Trinity parish upon Thompson's ascent as bishop of Evansville. (Likewise a son of Kentucky's "Holy Land," Thompson became the nation's youngest archbishop earlier this year on his transfer to Indianapolis.)

As successor to the beloved native son Bishop David Choby, who died in June after years of health struggles, Spalding inherits what is, by far, the most prominent of the posts for which he's been championed over recent years. Now comprising Tennessee's middle third, the Nashville church is in the midst of a significant boom – while diocesan figures state some 80,000 members on the books, a migration wave of undocumented Hispanics has been estimated at 200,000 or more on top of it, and that's not counting the ongoing addition of transplants from across the US amid the city's rise as a commercial and cultural capital.

Long story short, a young, enthusiastic "career pastor" steeped in administration and able to manage growth is just what the doctor ordered – and that the bishop-elect comes with sufficient Spanish to handle Mass and a scripted homily is icing on the cake. As an added sign of confidence, meanwhile, no priest from outside Tennessee has been elevated to the Nashville seat without prior episcopal experience since 1936... then again, as one of Spalding's email taglines once ran, quoting St Luke's Gospel, "To whom much has been given, much will be required."

In a notable nod to the diocese's burgeoning Latin presence – not to mention the horde of Louisvilleans angling to make the trip – early word from Nashville Chancery relays that Spalding's ordination on Presentation Day (February 2nd) won't be held at the century-old Cathedral of the Incarnation, but the far larger and newer Sagrado Corazon Church (above). Located just across the street from the Grand Ole Opry, the 2,500-seat Hispanic worship-space forms the centerpiece of the onetime Two Rivers evangelical megachurch, whose sprawling compound was acquired by Choby in 2014 to serve as the diocese's administrative and ministerial hub with an eye to its ongoing growth.

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As for McKnight, it's probably not a stretch to say that the happiest place over today's move won't be the Wichita mega-parish losing its pastor, nor the destination where he's arriving sight unseen, but the USCCB Mothership in Washington.

Over his term as director of the bench's secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, Bishop-elect Shawn became an exceedingly well-regarded figure among staff and hats alike, so much so that, after returning home to Jayhawk Country, he was sought for an encore, being nominated as the "outside candidate" for the conference's top day-to-day post, the General Secretariat, at the 2015 election.

While custom held and the building's incumbent #2, Msgr Brian Bransfield, won the post – the vote-totals for which are never released – it's likewise traditional that the runner-up for the job is eventually made a bishop in his own right. And considering how some Whispers ops have mused over recent weeks how Kansas' fresh in-state opening in Salina was tailor-made for McKnight to "get the call," his elevation has come even more quickly than expected.

All that said, no indication has yet emerged on the reason behind Bishop John Gaydos' early retirement nine months before reaching the canonical age of 75. An ever-chatty figure with a raucous sense of humor, the St Louis native – who led the North-Central Missouri fold for over two decades – appeared to be in fine form during last week's meetings in Baltimore.

Per the canons, McKnight must be ordained and installed within four months of today's move. On the wider docket, meanwhile, today's twin nods leave all of two US Latin sees – Richmond and Salina – vacant, with just another three – Washington, Stockton and Las Vegas – led by (arch)bishops serving past retirement age until their respective successors are chosen.

SVILUPPO: From Nashville, Spalding's statement and video of this morning's introduction...



...and from Jefferson City, McKnight's opening remarks, and the presser vid:


Before introducing his successor, the retiring Gaydos told the locals that recent heart trouble, including a valve replacement, spurred his request to leave office a year ahead of schedule.

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Live From "Friar Field": A Blessed for Detroit

It's like deja vu – this time, just bigger.

Much bigger.

Less than two months since the first-ever beatification of a priest on US soil, today in Detroit brings an even more massive moment, as the Church takes over the city's NFL stadium and a crowd of 75,000 witnesses the rites elevating the beloved local Capuchin Fr Solanus Casey to the step before sainthood.

While early reactions saw the choice of Ford Field for today's Mass as something akin to "crazy," as happened at September's Oklahoma City raising of Blessed Stanley Rother – when 5,000 more pilgrims converged on the convention center than could fit in the 15,000-seat venue – the Motor City crowd actually showed uncanny judgment. Tickets for today's event were gone within hours of their public availability last month, and the last-minute logistical hurdles required the coordination of drop-off and pickup spots across downtown for some 400 buses coming in from across the Midwest. And as weather's always the going concern for November in Michigan, even that ended up cooperating, staying above freezing with a touch of rain.

One of sixteen kids raised on a Wisconsin farm, Barney Casey entered the Capuchins after being deemed academically insufficient for Milwaukee's diocesan seminary. Eventually ordained in 1904, the future Blessed was prohibited by his superiors from preaching or hearing confessions, finding his niche instead as the compassionate doorkeeper of his community's houses over a half-century – a ministry from which miracles would come to be claimed during his life, credited to his prayers.

His cause for sainthood opened within a decade of his death at 86 in 1957, the miracle which secured today's beatification involved the inexplicable cure of a pilgrim to Solanus' Detroit shrine, who was instantaneously healed of a genetic skin disorder after praying for herself at his tomb. As Rother's elevation was made possible due to his martyrdom, the healing was the first miracle ever confirmed through the intercession of an American-born priest. (Above, Archbishop Allen Vigneron is seen at Solanus' burial site on the miracle's confirmation earlier this year.)

With the Vatican's Saintmaker-in-Chief Cardinal Angelo Amato again acting as papal legate and celebrant of today's Mass, here's your worship aid...

...and – with the Mass now completed – on-demand fullvid to come.

Per custom for the newly-beatified, the Pope will mention today's event and offer a brief word on Casey's example at tomorrow morning's Angelus.

According to the Michigan Catholic, Blessed Solanus' feast is slated to be declared for July 30th, the day before the anniversary of his death.

As beatification only affirms local devotion to a Blessed, Solanus' liturgical celebration in this case is restricted solely to the 1.4 million-member archdiocese of Detroit and the wider Capuchin order, unless and until the US bishops vote to petition the Vatican for its wider observance.

SVILUPPO: As the well-produced livefeed ostensibly hiccuped under the weight of some 20,000 viewers, until on-demand video of the full Mass emerges, here's the Rite of Beatification itself, with the customary unveiling of the image on Casey's formal declaration as Blessed Solanus...


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"Nothing Will Be As It Was!" – In The Council and Francis, The Church's "New Consciousness"

As one of the bench put it, the week just past always makes for a "full immersion" experience... and to be sure, that the lounge of the USCCB hotel was dead by 10 on Wednesday night goes to show how knocked out everyone tends to be by Plenary's end.

Along those lines, while this scribe has five days of catch-ups and notes to unwind and assemble for print, let's start with something apparently lost in the wider mix (even if this crowd was duly forewarned).

Building upon his historic message to open the 100th Plenary, as the bench's elections unfolded on Tuesday morning, the Cardinal-Secretary of State Pietro Parolin delivered an even more extensive – and, quite possibly, even more significant – word, appearing at the Catholic University of America in Washington to propose Pope Francis as the ultimate figure of continuity with Vatican II, citing how he's "taken up anew" the Council's teaching and rebooted model of church.

Especially given two of the examples cited by Papa Bergoglio's top deputy – episcopal collegiality and what Francis has termed the "poor Church for the poor" (with global Catholicism's first-ever Day of the Poor accordingly being marked this weekend) – the hourlong talk is as salient to the moment as the interest in it has been sparse.

While publication of Parolin's text has been prohibited – Lord only knows why – gratefully a fullvid of his Italian address is around, with a captioned translation in English....

And here it is:


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