When you are a small diocese, it is a rare moment when the Holy See taps one of your clergy for ordination to the Episcopate as a bishop. In the Diocese of Greensburg where I serve, it first happened way back before I was ordained. Cyril J. Vogel, a monsignor in our young diocese, was ordained here in 1965 and was appointed Bishop of Salina, Kansas where he served until his death in 1979. During a time when our second bishop, Bishop William Connare, was having some health concerns, one of our priests, Monsignor Norbert F. Gaughan, was ordained in 1975 as an Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese, and served in that capacity for nine years until being named as the Bishop of Gary, Indiana, in 1984. He served there until his retirement for health reasons in 1996. We also have a priest, Father Joseph DeAndrea, who came to our Diocese from Italy and became a member of the clergy of the Diocese of Greensburg in 1958, serving in a number of parishes before being released into the Vatican Diplomatic Corps. He served a number of posts before being ordained an Archbishop and given a posting as Ambassador, or Nuncio, to a number of Arab countries - Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen and Qatar. He is now retired and associated with Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. And then just this year, Monsignor Lawrence T. Persico was appointed as the Tenth Bishop of the Diocese of Erie in Pennsylvania. He will be ordained as a Bishop and installed on October 1st.
The announcement of Monsignor Persico's appointment came on July 31st. It began a flurry of activities that was the first wave of three for us. There was the announcement from the Nuncio in Washington that day. There were press conferences in Erie and Greensburg that week, and many expressions of congratulations. This week sees the second wave of activities. Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt of our Diocese, himself an Erie priest, hosted an informal dinner at his home for the priests of the Diocese on Monday evening. It was informal, relaxing and enjoyable, an opportunity for us as a presbyterate to share our joy with Larry, the Bishop-elect. Last evening we gathered again in Greensburg, this time at the Bishop William G. Connare Center, for a Diocesan Mass of Thanksgiving for the Thirty-five Years of Service to the Diocese by Monsignor Persico. The chapel was nearly full with people that know and have worked with Larry and are excited about this new call of the Lord in his life. Bishop Brandt presided and Bishop-elect Persico was the Presider and Preacher. He was joined by retired Bishop Anthony G. Bosco and many of the priests of the Diocese and the Benedictine Community. In his homily he introduced three seminarians from Erie that are studying locally at Saint Vincent Seminary, as well as an Erie deacon that, he pointed out, with God's grace, will be the first priest that he will ordain next Spring. He also pointed out that he began his seminary career in that same chapel in 1965. A wonderful reception followed. Bishop-elect Persico was presented with a crosier (the bishop's staff) and a ring. A great evening. And then Sunday, his parish of Saint James in New Alexandria, where he has served as pastor for fourteen years, will throw a party in his honor. He moves North on Tuesday.
Round three will begin the week of his ordination with Vespers in Erie on Sunday, September 30th and Ordination on October 1st, and then a whirlwind visitation of this very expansive diocese.
We are grateful for his service, I am grateful for his friendship, and we pray for his ministry in the Diocese of Erie.