Pope names vicar for Latinos in Minnesota archdiocese as auxiliary bishop

Bishop-designate Joseph A. Williams hugs his mother, Mary, after Mass Dec. 10, 2021, at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minn. Earlier that morning, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, announced in Washington thatPope Francis appointed him as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Francis has named Father Joseph A. Williams, who is vicar for Latinos in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as an auxiliary bishop for the Minnesota archdiocese.

Bishop-designate Williams, 47, is a native of Minneapolis and is pastor of the city’s St. Stephen Church. Ordained a priest of the archdiocese May 28, 2002, he also is administrator of Holy Rosary Church.

His appointment was announced Dec. 10 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

When he is ordained a bishop, Bishop-designate Williams will be one of the youngest U.S. Catholic bishops.

Bishop-designate Williams is scheduled to be ordained a bishop Jan. 25 at the Cathedral of St. Paul.

“It was with great joy that I learned of Pope Francis’ appointment of Father Joseph Williams as auxiliary bishop of St Paul and Minneapolis,” Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis said in a Dec. 10 statement.

“The priests and faithful of the archdiocese should be honored that the Holy Father has chosen a native son, nurtured, nourished and formed in this local church, to serve as a successor of the apostles,” he said. “His deep faith, pastoral heart, love for Christ and his flock, and impressive natural gifts all suggest that the Lord has long been preparing him to serve as a bishop.”

Archbishop Hebda said he has been inspired by the bishop-designate’s leadership at St. Stephen and Holy Rosary parishes and “his heart for the poor and those on the periphery, his evangelical zeal and his leadership as vicar for Latino ministry.”

He said he is confident the archdiocese “will benefit greatly from his example, discernment and leadership.”

Archbishop Hebda asked archdiocesan Catholics to pray for Bishop-designate Williams as he prepares for ordination and begins his episcopal service.

“May Our Lady of Loreto, on whose feast he was named, guide him always to the compassionate heart of her Son,” he added.

As auxiliary bishop, Bishop-designate Williams steps into a role recently vacated by Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens, installed Dec. 6 to head the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota. He was an auxiliary bishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis for eight years.

“I am humbled and honored by Pope Francis’ appointment,” the bishop-designate said in a statement from the archdiocese. “I love Jesus and his church, and I look forward to joining the faithful of St. Paul and Minneapolis in sharing that love with our neighbors, especially the poor and the immigrant.”

For over 15 years, he has had “the privilege of serving our Spanish-speaking sisters and brothers,” he said. “Their tender love of God and devotion to the priesthood have inspired me to live out my vows daily. I am confident the Holy Spirit will show Archbishop Hebda how I may best support him in caring for all the wonderful people of this archdiocese. Please pray for us.”

Born May 2, 1974, to Dr. Gary and Mary Williams, Bishop-designate Williams is the third of nine children. He grew up in Stillwater, Minnesota, where he attended St. Croix Catholic School and Stillwater High School. His brother Father Peter Williams, ordained in 2004, is a priest of the archdiocese, and is pastor of St. Ambrose Parish in Woodbury, Minnesota.

Bishop-designate Williams holds a bachelor of arts degree in biology from the University of Minnesota Morris, graduating summa cum laude in 1996. He studied philosophy and pre-theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, from 1996 to 1998 and attended the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul from 1998 to 2002, where he earned a master’s of divinity degree.

He was 28 when he was ordained a priest by Archbishop Harry J. Flynn.

After ordination, then-Father Williams ministered as a parochial vicar at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, 2002-2004, and at Divine Mercy Parish in Faribault, Minnesota, 2004-2005. After that, he was pastor for the next three years of two other parishes in the archdiocese, St. Mathias in Hampton and St. Mary in New Trier.

From 2003 to 2005, he served as coordinator of the archdiocesan outreach to persons with disabilities.

He was appointed the archdiocese’s vicar for Latino ministry in 2018. He is a member of the board of directors for The Seminaries of St. Paul, which include St. Paul Seminary and St. John Vianney College Seminary. He has served as chaplain of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Bishop-designate Williams began his longtime ministry to Latino and Spanish-speaking Catholics in Faribault, where he and other parish leaders worked to bring healing to a Latino community that had been affected by drug raids.

Members of both of his current parishes are predominantly Latino, and he has worked to change negative cultural perceptions of undocumented immigrants. He has been an advocate for federal immigration reform and for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.

At St. Stephen, he has led neighborhood-based evangelization efforts, which include knocking on doors and inviting people to Mass and faith formation.

He has a special interest in young adult ministry, and as a parochial vicar at the cathedral, he launched “Theology on Tap” at the parish, a program that continues to this day. He has led trips to World Youth Day celebrations, including the most recent World Youth Day in Panama in 2019.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis encompasses the 12 counties of the Twin Cities metro area, which includes about 725,000 Catholics served by 187 parishes. It has been led by Archbishop Hebda since 2015.

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Contributing to this story was Maria Wiering, editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.