Bishop's Interview: Growth leads to new auxiliary bishop for Austin
Editor: Bishop, the Diocese of Austin has a new auxiliary bishop. Tell us about that.
Bishop Vásquez: What wonderful and exciting news! It was with great excitement and joy that we received the remarkable news on Jan. 21 that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, had appointed our vicar general, Father Daniel Garcia, to be auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Austin. He will be the first auxiliary bishop in the 67-year history of the diocese. As the bishop, I consider this a great blessing for the newly ordained Bishop Garcia and for our diocese.
The pope is the only one who names bishops, and with this appointment, I believe he has recognized the tremendous growth and development of the Catholic Church in Central Texas. In the last few years the growth in Texas has been evidenced by several of the Holy Father’s appointments. For instance, several years ago, Cardinal DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston was named the first Texas cardinal, and more recently auxiliary bishops have been named in Dallas and Houston. As the Catholic faith continues to flourish in our great state, our Holy Father is definitely taking notice, and I am especially grateful that he has named Bishop Garcia as auxiliary.
A few years ago we presented our ad limina report to Pope Emeritus Benedict who was pope at the time. The report, which is compiled by my staff at the Pastoral Center, was then received by the various dicasteries (departments) at the Vatican who help our Holy Father carry out his role as leader of the church. The dicasteries review how the diocese is doing with priestly ordinations, baptisms, marriages and confirmations in our parishes. They look at religious education numbers and Catholic school populations as well as many other factors that are contributing to the life of the diocese.
I am sure the Vatican reviewed the ad limina with great detail and then brought the growth to the attention of Pope Francis, who then blessed us by naming Bishop Garcia as our first auxiliary.
Editor: What is the role of a bishop?
Bishop Vásquez: A bishop is a successor to the apostles who receives through his episcopal consecration (ordination) the fullness of the priesthood. He also becomes a member of the body of bishops, called the “College of Bishops.”
One of the principal documents given to us during the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, or the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, states with regard to the doctrine concerning bishops, “…episcopal consecration, together with the office of sanctifying, also confers the office of teaching and governing, which however, of its very nature can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the head and the members of the college. For … it is clear that, by means of the imposition of hands and the words of consecration, the grace of the Holy Spirit is so conferred, and the sacred character so impressed, that bishops in an eminent and visible way sustain the roles of Christ Himself as Teacher, Shepherd and High Priest, and that they act in His person.”
The principal duties of a bishop are to teach, sanctify and govern. To teach means the bishop passes on the faith as handed down in tradition, making sure that it is clear and understood. Secondly, the bishop is called to sanctify and is one who celebrates all the sacraments. And, the last role of the bishop is to govern, meaning to shepherd and care for the people of his diocese.
Editor: What does an auxiliary bishop do?
Bishop Vásquez: An auxiliary bishop is appointed to assist the ordinary (or chief shepherd) of a diocese, which means Bishop Garcia will help me carry out my duties and responsibilities to provide pastoral care for the people of our diocese.
We have a large diocese, spanning more than 20,000 square miles, and there are many requests for my presence at different events. There are some days when I travel many miles across the diocese from one event to another. Bishop Garcia will assist me in celebrating Masses and the sacrament of confirmation and will be present at other important events in the diocese.
Editor: What is the difference between an auxiliary bishop and a coadjutor bishop?
Bishop Vásquez: An auxiliary bishop is appointed to a diocese to assist the ordinary. Bishop Garcia will continue his duties as Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia. A coadjutor bishop, however, is appointed with right of succession, which means that when the current bishop retires, the coadjutor will then become the ordinary of the diocese. Some may remember that Bishop Gregory Aymond (who is now the archbishop of New Orleans) was appointed coadjutor of our diocese for several months before Bishop John McCarthy was granted retirement. Once Bishop McCarthy retired, Bishop Aymond then became the shepherd of the diocese.
It is important to note that the pope may appoint an ordinary or an auxiliary bishop to another diocese at any time. Bishops are called to serve the universal church. I pray Bishop Garcia will serve in our diocese for a long time. We, as a diocese, have to be open to the will of the Holy Spirit and to what God has planned for Bishop Garcia.
Editor: Describe a typical day for you and Bishop Garcia. Do you meet regularly?
Bishop Vásquez: Indeed, in his role as vicar general, Bishop Garcia and I see each other on a daily basis unless one of us is out of town. If it is not possible to meet in person, we communicate by phone and e-mail. As Bishop Garcia settles into his role as auxiliary bishop, we will continue to work closely together.
Bishop Garcia and I are always discussing the needs of our people in Central Texas. Particularly, I am interested in the well-being of our priests who are my chief collaborators in serving the people. We will continue to discuss these topics on a daily basis in the future.
Editor: What is your prayer for Bishop Garcia?
Bishop Vásquez: I have been praying for Bishop Garcia since I received the news of his appointment! I pray that God will continue to fill him with the gift of the Holy Spirit and that he may have the heart of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Bishop Garcia is a wonderful priest, and I am truly blessed to have him help me serve the people of this great diocese.