Tuesday, October 03, 2017

For Tucson, The Pope's "Tuesday Memo" – In Latest Border Run, Francis Looks to Kansas

(Updated with debut video, etc.)

Bringing the US' appointment docket back to life after the summer hiatus, at Roman Noon this Tuesday the Pope named Bishop Edward Weisenburger (left), 56 – the head of northwest Kansas' Salina diocese since 2012 – as the seventh bishop of Tucson, the 400,000-member fold comprising the Arizona Borderland.

Notably a key figure in the process which has now produced Blessed Stanley Rother – yet a low-key, surprising choice for this post – the Oklahoma City native succeeds Bishop Gerald Kicanas, who, in a rarity for these days, remained in office past his 76th birthday in August. Then again, as the new retiree's mother, Eva, has kept famously spry – marking her 105th birthday in June – the hat-makers clearly saw no need to rush.

The mother-diocese of an Arizona church undergoing a fresh round of expansion, Tucson is an almost unique nexus of the two defining challenges of this era in American Catholic history: the growth and vitality born of immigration, and the damage and need for rebuilding from revelations of a local history of sex-abuse and its coverup.

On the latter front, in 2004 – a year after Kicanas took office – the diocese became the second Stateside outpost to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy following a crush of over 30 lawsuits stretching back decades. In a striking turnaround, however, the Chicago native's transparency push scored a fresh sense of confidence, so much so that the diocesan appeal in the storm's wake raised record amounts.

A lead deputy to Cardinal Joseph Bernardin before his Southwest transfer, a significant part of Kicanas' outreach came in the form of a pioneering use of digital technology: from taking the diocese's reins in early 2003, the bishop began the online, fully public circulation of his weekly "Monday Memo" – an online bulletin of his own doings and events around the diocese – keeping the practice faithfully until the lack of one yesterday, when he ostensibly didn't want to spill any beans on today's news.

In terms of immigration, meanwhile, amid one of the country's flashpoint local situations over the ever-charged issue, it remains telling that Tucson's nearby border-town of Nogales was chosen as the site for Cardinal Seán O'Malley's evocative 2014 Mass at the fence separating Mexico and the US, at which Kicanas (above) joined Francis' lead North American adviser in distributing Communion into hands stretched through the barrier's slats from the other side.

All that said, this morning's move presents a rather striking study in contrasts: while the predecessor's Lebanese heritage (and Spanish motto) have helped Kicanas look and act the part of a Latino bishop for a diocese that's roughly three-fourths Hispanic, per early word from Salina, his Sooner-bred successor comes "not fully fluent" in the language, but with "a working knowledge" of it.

Then again, stranger things have happened before – and among the genre, the time Kicanas snapped on a fiddle-back to administer Confirmations in the Extraordinary Form returns vividly to mind.

According to late word circulated among the locals, Weisenburger will be introduced unusually early, with Kicanas slated to make the announcement at 7am Arizona time (10am ET/1600 Rome) in St Augustine Cathedral. The installation date yet to be disclosed is slated for Friday, November 29th.

With today's move, just four Stateside Latin sees now stand vacant. As all of three others are led by (arch)bishops serving past the retirement age, in the wake of yesterday's news, it bears noting that the largest among any of the open seats is Las Vegas – an ever-growing community of some 800,000 Catholics, where Bishop Joe Pepe turned 75 in April... and now, six weeks after burying one of his two closest brothers on the bench, is suddenly tasked with handling the fallout of the largest mass shooting in modern US history.

SVILUPPO – With the Pope's pick making a memorable first impression – by quoting "The Wizard of Oz" en español – here below, fullvid of this morning's Cathedral intro....