Pope Francis appoints first Indo-American bishop in Columbus, Ohio

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WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Francis has appointed Father Earl K. Fernandes, a former staff member of the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington and currently pastor of Cincinnati, as head of the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio.

He succeeds Bishop Robert J. Brennan, appointed head of the diocese of Brooklyn, New York, last September. It was installed on November 30.

At 49, Bishop-designate Fernandes will be one of the youngest American Catholic bishops. Ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati on May 18, 2002, he served in the nunciature from 2016 to 2019. He has served as pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish since 2019.

His appointment was announced in Washington on April 2 by Bishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio.

Bishop-designate Fernandes will be the 13th bishop of Columbus. His episcopal ordination and his installation will take place on May 31 at Saint-Joseph de Colomb Cathedral.

“His incredible intelligence, tireless energy and concern for all will be missed, but know that these traits will stand him in good stead as he expands his ministry to guide the faithful people of Columbus,” said Archbishop of Cincinnati Dennis M. Schnurr in a statement.

At 49, Bishop-designate Fernandes will be one of the youngest American Catholic bishops.

“Through all his missions, Father Fernandes has been an ever-joyful witness to the goodness, beauty and truth of the Catholic Faith,” the Archbishop said, asking the faithful of the Archdiocese to join in him to congratulate the Cincinnati priest “on this joyous news.”

“Let us keep our beloved brother in prayer as he begins this new ministry,” he added.

Bishop-designate Fernandes said he was “grateful to Almighty God and the Blessed Virgin Mary for my vocation.”

“Recognizing my own unworthiness, I accepted, with fear and concern but also with joy, the appointment by Pope Francis to serve as the 13th bishop of the Diocese of Columbus,” he said in an April 2 statement. He thanked the Pope and Archbishop Peter “for giving me the opportunity to proclaim the joy of the Gospel in the Diocese of Columbus, the capital of our beloved State of Ohio.”

“I look forward to meeting the people of God – the priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful of the Diocese of Columbus – and working with them to announce the joyful good news and build the kingdom of God,” said the designated bishop. Fernandes added.

“Recognizing my own unworthiness, I accepted, with fear and concern but also with joy, the appointment by Pope Francis to serve as the 13th bishop of the Diocese of Columbus,” he said.

“I ask for your prayers, not only for me but also for our diocese, so that the Holy Spirit can ignite in each of us the fire of his divine love,” he said. “May God grant me the grace to serve his people well and to be an ardent but meek shepherd, whose heart is formed after the heart of Jesus.”

Bishop-designate Fernandes served as secretary of the nunciature from 2016 to 2019. Prior to that, he served as dean and assistant professor of moral theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati from 2008 to 2016.

He is the published author of a book and numerous articles and essays, and has given talks and retreats across the country.

Born September 21, 1972 in Toledo, Ohio, he is the fourth of five boys born to Indian immigrants. After graduating from St. Francis de Sales High School in Toledo, he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Toledo.

He moved to Cincinnati to study at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. He had completed two years of medical school when he felt called to the priesthood. In 1996, at age 24, he went to a house of spiritual discernment in Rome. A year later he entered Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati, where he earned a master’s degree in divinity and theology.

After his ordination in 2002, he was assigned to Holy Angels Church in Cincinnati as associate pastor and taught at Lehman Catholic High School.

In 2004, he was sent to Rome to study at the Alphonsian Academy, a doctoral school specializing in moral theology. He obtained a doctorate in moral theology in 2008.

Born Sept. 21, 1972, in Toledo, Ohio, Bishop-designate Fernandes is the fourth of five boys born to Indian immigrants.

For the next eight years he served as Dean of Studies and Adjunct Professor of Moral Theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. From 2008 to 2014 he was a weekend assistant at Guardian Angels Church in Cincinnati, and from 2014 to 2016 he was a trustee at Sacred Heart Church in Cincinnati.

In 2016, he joined the apostolic nunciature in Washington where he was secretary. In 2019, he returned to Cincinnati and was appointed pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish.

He was a board member of the Starfire Council of Greater Cincinnati, which helps people with disabilities. He is the published author of a book and numerous articles and essays, and has given talks and retreats across the country.

In 2020, he was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Pontifical Josephinum College of Columbus.

An avid reader and writer, Bishop-designate Fernandes has a particular interest in education, culture and languages. In addition to English, he is fluent in Italian, Spanish and French.

The Diocese of Columbus comprises 23 counties in central and southern Ohio. It covers 11,310 square miles and has a Catholic population of approximately 207,000 out of a total population of over 2.8 million.


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