A day of joy, surprises

By Sam Lucero | The Compass | December 19, 2013

A new bishop for Marquette

Dec. 17 turned out to be quite a day for the Diocese of Green Bay. Not only did local Catholics celebrate Pope Francis’ 77th birthday, they also rejoiced in celebrating the episcopal appointment of Fr. John Doerfler, ordained a priest of the diocese in 1991.

Bishop-designate Doerfler will be ordained and installed as the 13th bishop of Marquette, Mich., on Feb. 11, 2014. He is the second priest from Green Bay to be named bishop of the Marquette Diocese. The first was Bishop Mark Schmitt, auxiliary bishop of Green Bay, who was installed as Marquette bishop in 1978. He died Dec. 14, 2011.

Bishop-designate Doerfler and Pope Francis have a spiritual connection that will continue to grow as Marquette’s new bishop begins his service to the nearly 50,000 Catholics living Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

According to Germaine Doerfler, the bishop-designate’s mother, her son’s middle name is Francis. Like Pope Francis, he was named after St. Francis of Assisi.

When he introduced himself to reporters Dec. 17, Bishop-designate Doerfler announced that his episcopal motto will be “Evangelii Gaudium” (“Joy of the Gospel”), which is the title of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation released Nov. 26.

“Pope Francis speaks of this joy in the opening words of his recent apostolic exhortation,” Bishop-designate Doerfler told reporters in Marquette. Quoting Pope Francis he said, “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.”

Bishop-designate Doerfler also said that he will look to Pope Francis and “Joy of the Gospel” to guide his episcopal ministry.

Modeling his ministry after the example of Pope Francis, who was named Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” on Dec. 11, should help Bishop-designate Doerfler make a smooth transition into his new position. In Pope Francis, he has a spiritual leader who exudes joy, love and compassion — and these qualities resonate with people in the pews.

Pope Francis has a gift for making people feel welcome and respected. On his 77th birthday, rather than celebrate with fanfare, Pope Francis had breakfast with three men who live on the streets near the Vatican. He has told us that we must be “a church which is poor and for the poor.”

These are words that Bishop-designate Doerfler will take to heart as he begins his new ministry. It is an exciting time for the bishop-designate, just as it is for the church. Morale is trending upward and people are enthusiastic to be part of the new evangelization. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, 92 percent of Catholics have a favorable view of Pope Francis and 95 percent have the same view about the church. The poll was released Dec. 11.

Catholics in the Diocese of Marquette are thankful and happy about Pope Francis’ selection of their new bishop. Their joy should grow as they come to know him.

We congratulate Bishop-designate Doerfler and wish him all the best. We thank him for his service to the church of Green Bay and look forward to working with him in the future.

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