Bishop Michael W. Fisher Ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, today ordained Monsignor Michael William Fisher as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Cardinal Wuerl was the principal ordaining bishop and homilist at the Mass. Bishop Barry C. Knestout, bishop of Richmond, and Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, were principal co-ordaining bishops. The papal nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre presented and read the apostolic letter appointing Bishop Fisher as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington. Nearly a dozen bishops, and more than one hundred priests attended and concelebrated the Mass that was attended by nearly 1,000 people.

Pope Francis named Bishop Fisher an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington earlier this month. Auxiliary bishops in the Archdiocese of Washington assist the archbishop, Cardinal Wuerl, in the pastoral care of the more than 655,000 Catholics in the archdiocese. Currently in the archdiocese of Washington, there are two other active auxiliary bishops, Bishop Roy E. Campbell, Jr. and Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville. Bishop Francisco Gonzalez, S.F., who served as auxiliary bishop of Washington from 2002 until his retirement in 2014 was also a concelebrant at today’s Mass.

Bishop Fisher, age 60, was born and raised in Baltimore, where he played Little League baseball, wrestled, and worked as a paperboy for The Baltimore Sun. He attended the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute high school, and received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Accounting at the University of Maryland in 1984. After feeling compelled to discern a vocation to the priesthood, he entered seminary at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland in 1986. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington in 1990, and his parish assignments have included Sacred Heart parish in La Plata, Holy Family parish in Hillcrest Heights, and St. John Neumann in Gaithersburg. He was named a Chaplain to His Holiness, a distinction that comes with the title of “Monsignor,” in 2005.

In his homily, Cardinal Wuerl reflected on the appropriateness of the feast day, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, for the ordination of a new bishop. “Peter was called to head the apostles, the fledgling College of Bishops. Paul, whom the Church calls the Apostle to the Gentiles, was sent to expand the work of the Church,” the cardinal said. “The Scriptures recount that he appointed two of his disciples as bishops – Timothy and Titus.  What better day on which to celebrate the ordination of a new successor to the apostles.”

The cardinal also spoke about the important rituals of the ordination about to take place, such as the anointing with chrism oil and the imposition of hands. “By the laying on of hands, which confers the sacrament of orders in its fullness, the apostles passed on the gift of the Holy Spirit which they themselves had received from Christ,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “In that way, by a succession of bishops unbroken from one generation to the next, the powers conferred in the beginning were handed down, and the work of our Savior continues in our time.”

Bishop Fisher’s ordination has a special significance for the archdiocese, the cardinal said. “The bishop we ordain today comes also as a son of the archdiocese – one who was formed in the faith here, served his entire priestly ministry here, and who brings a sense of continuity with the challenges of pastoral ministry today,” Cardinal Wuerl said. Referencing Bishop Fisher’s role over the last twelve years as Vicar for Clergy and Secretary for Ministerial Leadership for the archdiocese, the cardinal continued: “Bishop Fisher’s closeness to the priests of this local Church in all of their ministries, whether in parishes or the great variety of special ministries, has allowed him an opportunity to draw near to the living mission and ministry of this Church.”

“Following your anointing in an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and your investiture with the signs and symbols of your office, you will rise to stand in the midst of this faith community as a true shepherd after the image and likeness of Christ,” said Cardinal Wuerl as he concluded his homily, and pledged his prayers for Bishop Fisher as he begins his new task of shepherding and teaching the people of God.

As the ordination rite began, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States shared the letter from Pope Francis affirming the appointment of Bishop Fisher as auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington. From ancient times, bishops-elect were questioned publicly about their resolve to uphold the faith and offer a ministry of service. As the ordination rite began, Bishop Fisher was questioned about his resolve to discharge the office of bishop until death, to preach the Gospel with constancy and fidelity, to guard the deposit of faith, to build up the Body of Christ, to render faithful obedience to the successor of St. Peter (the pope), to guide and sustain the holy people of God, to be welcoming and merciful to the poor and all who are in need, to seek out those who stray, and to pray without ceasing for God’s holy people. After the bishop affirmed these questions, Cardinal Wuerl concluded with the prayer, “May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment.”

Symbolizing his total giving of self, just as Jesus laid down his life to bring salvation to the world, the bishop then lay prostrate before the altar as the Litany of Saints was sung. The litany invokes the intercession of apostles and martyrs from the early Church as well as holy women and men of recent times, including St. John XXIII, St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta. The focal point of the ordination rite and a gesture of apostolic origin, Cardinal Wuerl, co-ordaining bishops, and other bishops present lay hands on the bishop-elect’s head, the essential act of ordination, as a sign that the Holy Spirit is poured out upon the individual and each is configured to Christ as Head of his Church. Following of the laying of hands, the cardinal recited the Prayer of Ordination and the Book of the Gospels was held over the bishop’s head as a sign that the bishop’s ministry is carried out in service to the gospel. The bishop’s head was anointed with chrism oil and he was presented with the symbols of a bishop: the ring, miter, and crosier.

At the conclusion of Mass, Bishop Fisher gave his first blessing to the faithful gathered, and offered brief remarks, expressing special appreciation and gratitude to Pope Francis and to Cardinal Wuerl. He offered personal reflections, acknowledging the support of family, friends, clergy and those in religious and consecrated life, and the faithful in the parishes where he has served in priestly ministry and thanking them. In a special way, he thanked the priests with whom he has worked closely over the last dozen years in his role as Vicar for Clergy. After the Mass, Bishop Fisher greeted well-wishers and took photos with them.

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