Father Konderla appointed bishop of Tulsa
By Shelley Metcalf
Catholic Spirit Staff
On May 13, Pope Francis named Father David Konderla as the fourth bishop of Tulsa, Okla. He will be ordained and installed on June 29 in Tulsa.
Bishop-elect Konderla has served as the pastor of St. Mary Catholic Center at Texas A&M University in College Station since 2005.
Bishop Edward Slattery, the current bishop of Tulsa, is 75, the age at which canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation. He has led the Tulsa Diocese since 1993.
Bishop-elect Konderla said he was shocked when he realized why the apostolic nuncio was calling in early May. He said it took him a few minutes to realize what was going on, but after the conversation concluded and he had accepted the appointment to Tulsa, he prayed.
“I hung up and went into the chapel and tried to understand everything that was about to happen,” he said.
Bishop-elect Konderla looks forward to serving the people of Tulsa, but he admitted “it will be hard to leave my native Texas, especially my family and friends here.”
However, “Tulsa is beautiful!” he smiled. I had never been there, but from what I saw in the few hours I was there on May 13, Tulsa is heavily wooded and very green with lots of lakes and rivers. And the people were wonderful, so I think I am going to enjoy the area very much.”
Bishop Joe Vásquez joyfully welcomed the news of the new appointment and expressed his gratitude to Bishop-elect Konderla “for his service to the Diocese of Austin and for his sincere love of the priesthood.”
He said Bishop-elect Konderla is well-loved by his fellow priests and all whom he serves, and he is known for his warm accessibility and a genuine desire to serve the people of God.
“Under his guidance and with the prayers of many, St. Mary Catholic Center in College Station is known across the nation for fostering vocations, not only to the priesthood but also to religious life,” Bishop Vásquez said. “I know he will serve the people of Tulsa well.”
Bishop-elect Konderla was ordained a priest by Bishop John McCarthy on June 3, 1995. He served as associate pastor of St. Louis Parish in Austin, St. Luke Parish in Temple, and St. Mary Catholic Center in College Station where he worked with his long-time friend Father Mike Sis (now bishop of San Angelo). In 2001, Bishop-elect Konderla was appointed the first full-time Vocations Director for the Austin Diocese. He held that position until 2005, when he returned to College Station to serve as the pastor of St. Mary Catholic Center.
The Catholic center ministers to nearly 20,000 students in the Bryan-College Station area and is in the middle of what Bishop Vásquez described as an “ambitious” capital campaign.
“St. Mary’s has an amazing future because of the people who are there, not because of the one who is leaving, but because of the ones who will remain,” Bishop-elect Konderla said. He commended Father Ryan Higdon, who is the associate pastor at St. Mary, the staff, the priests who come from across the state to help with the ministry there, and the Aggie students.
“They are full of faith and the desire to grow in their relationship with the Lord,” he said. “I have no doubt that St. Mary’s will continue to thrive.”
Bishop-elect Konderla was a member of the diocesan priests’ personnel board from 2004-2011; a member of the vocations team since 2006, and of the Presbyteral Council from 2008 to the present. He also is a member of the diocesan college of consultors.
Bishop-elect Konderla is the second of 12 children, and he grew up in Bryan. His dad and several of his siblings still live in the Bryan area. His mother passed away in 2012, and to honor her memory, he said he will use his mother’s wedding band to create his bishop’s ring.
“My brother Chuck is a jeweler, so he will make my ring from mom’s wedding ring, which will make it very special,” he said.
A master woodworker, himself, the new bishop has begun making his own crosier, which will be his fifth to make for a bishop. He has also made crosiers for Bishops Oscar Cantú (of Las Cruces), George Sheltz (of Galveston-Houston), Mike Sis (of San Angelo), and Daniel Garcia (of Austin).
With the announcement of his successor, Bishop Slattery said he prays for the good health and spiritual strength of the new bishop in the transitional weeks to come.
“I know our people have been praying that Pope Francis would send us an energetic and prayerful man to be our shepherd, and I believe God has heard our prayer,” he said.
Bishop Slattery was born Aug. 11, 1940, in Chicago and was ordained a priest of the Chicago Archdiocese April 26, 1966. He was ordained and installed as the third bishop of Tulsa in January 1994.
The Diocese of Tulsa (www.dioceseoftulsa.org) covers 26,417 square miles in the state of Oklahoma. It has a total population of 1,650,000 of which about 4 percent are Catholic.