Pope John Paul II Names Auxiliary Bishop of Washington; Bishop Olivier Retires

May 18, 2004

Pope John Paul II today named Rev. Martin D. Holley, 49, a priest from the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee to be an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington, where he will assist Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick in leadership of the 550,000-member Archdiocese. The Holy Father also accepted the resignation of Auxiliary Bishop Leonard Olivier, SVD, age 80. Bishop-Elect Holley will be ordained as a bishop on Friday, July 2 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, Washington, DC.

Washington has two other auxiliary bishops, Bishop Kevin Farrell and Bishop Francisco Gonzalez, SF.

In introducing the new bishop, Cardinal McCarrick said, “Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, has blessed the Archdiocese of Washington today with the great gift of Bishop Holley. Priestly service in the Archdiocese of Washington has always been characterized by a love of the Church and a deep concern for others. Bishop Holley brings to us a pastoral heart, a deep concern for the poor, a zeal for the priesthood and a real gift for bringing people of different backgrounds together in service for Christ. I welcome him today to this local Church, and I know our people will, as well.”

A native of Florida and one of 14 children, Bishop-Elect Holley was ordained a priest in 1987 and has been pastor of the 1,000-family Little Flower parish in Pensacola for the past two years. He previously served as the administrator of this diverse parish, which also has a 220-student school; was the parochial vicar of St. Paul in Pensacola from 1992-2000; administrator of St. Mary in Ft. Walton Beach from 1990-1992; and parochial vicar of St. Mary’s from 1987-1990.

He attended Faulkner State Junior College before receiving a B.A. in management from Alabama State University in 1977, where he played basketball and received several honors. After taking master’s level courses in business administration at the University of West Florida, he began his studies for the priesthood, first at Theological College of the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, from 1982-1984, and then St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida, where he received a Master of Divinity degree in 1987.

Bishop-Elect Holley is a member and past chairman of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee’s Council of Priests and a Tribunal advocate. He was director of the Department for Ethnic Concerns for several years and a member of the Diocesan Commission for Catholic Schools. Active in encouraging vocations to the priesthood and permanent diaconate, he has mentored a number of seminarians and served as spiritual director of the Serra Club of West Florida and, until 2003, as a spiritual director and instructor for the diocesan permanent diaconate program. He also is a member of the Joint Conference of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus.

“It is with deep humility and great joy that I accept this appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington,” Bishop-Elect Holley said. “I eagerly embrace the opportunities of assisting Cardinal McCarrick in serving the people of the Archdiocese of Washington. Although I will leave my family and friends behind, I look forward to making new friends, serving the Church in Washington and gaining a new extended family. I look forward and am excited to offer the gifts and talents that God has given me. It is my hope to be a sincere and faithful servant.”

Bishop Leonard Olivier, a member of the Society of the Divine Word religious order, had served as an auxiliary bishop of Washington since 1988 and, until today, was the senior active bishop in the United States.

“Bishop Olivier has been a wonderful brother and support to me and to my predecessor, Cardinal Hickey. His service to our people here in the Archdiocese of Washington has been a labor of love since the day he arrived,” Cardinal McCarrick said. “He has made many friends here through his gentle humor and cheerful graciousness. I am grateful he has decided to stay in Washington.”

In reflecting upon his retirement, Bishop Olivier thanked Cardinal McCarrick, Cardinal James A. Hickey, archbishop emeritus of Washington, and the people of the Archdiocese for “the heartfelt, selfless love and support shown me during the 15 plus years I have lived, worked and served here….Serving and living as an auxiliary bishop has been a huge blessing for me and, I hope, for the people of the Archdiocese.”

Born in Lake Charles, LA, Bishop Olivier was ordained a priest in 1951. Until 1973, he held a number of roles at his community’s seminary, including rector. From 1974-1982, he was Secretary of Studies for all United States Divine Word seminaries and rector of the religious community at Divine Word Seminary in Epworth, IA. He then became pastor of St. Anthony’s parish in Lafayette, LA, then Vicar for Black Catholics in the Diocese of Lafayette. Pope John Paul II appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of Washington in 1988.

Bishop Olivier has served as Regional Bishop of Deaneries in the District of Columbia, Prince George’s County and Southern Maryland, and Episcopal Vicar for the District of Columbia. He is a Fourth Degree Knight of St. Peter Claver, a Knight of St. John and a Knight of Columbus. He served as the convener of the African American Catholic Bishops and as the Episcopal liaison for the National African American Catholic Youth Ministry Network, and has served on a number of committees for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 550,000 Catholics, and has 140 parishes, 109 schools and extensive social service programs in Washington, DC and five Maryland counties, all serving a diverse community. Nearly 200,000 parishioners are of Hispanic descent while just over 100,000 are of African descent. Mass is celebrated in 26 languages.

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Susan Gibbs
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