Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rector's Ark.

Back around the time of November's USCCB plenary, the administrator of the nation's longest-vacant diocese wrote of being tempted "to picket the meeting with a large sign reading 'LITTLE ROCK NEEDS A BISHOP!'"

It's taken 20 months, but it seems that Msgr Gaston Hebert's prayers have finally been answered -- the seventh bishop of Arkansas' statewide diocese will be named shortly, likely within the week.

Home to 112,000 Catholics, Little Rock "opened" on Bishop Peter Sartain's May 2006 appointment to the diocese of Joliet, which encompasses the western suburbs of Chicago.

In keeping with the template favored by B16 and his Super-Nuncio, the choice is reported to have fallen on a veteran pastor not lacking in administrative experience... a Texan just short of his 50th birthday. Described as a "people person," the presumptive bishop-elect is said to be "neither liberal nor conservative" and, yes, "a man of prayer."

In that light, he's currently on retreat.

With the Arkansas appointment in sight, a quick review of the docket shows eight US dioceses currently without a bishop, and another eleven with ordinaries serving past the retirement age of 75. While five more Stateside diocesans reach the milestone this year, last week's appointment to Springfield-Cape Girardeau didn't take place until almost 30 months after outgoing Bishop John Leibrecht sent his required "walking papers."

Two more US prelates born in 1930 remain in active ministry: Bishop Carl Mengeling of Lansing and, of course, Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit.

As always, stay tuned.