EL PASO, Texas - Pope Francis has named Mark J. Seitz, auxiliary bishop of Dallas, to be the sixth bishop to lead the Catholic Diocese of El Paso.
Seitz, 59, said he was surprised by the news but grateful to the Holy Father.
"Since I entered the seminary here in Dallas as a young 18-year old boy, I have loved Dallas and the Church of Dallas. You have become my family. Dallas has become my home," Seitz said in a statement on the Dallas diocese website. "But when I presented myself for ordination as a deacon, I gave my life to God's service and I promised to be at the disposal of the Church. I accept this call as a new opportunity to follow the Good Shepherd and, with His help, to be one."
Bishop Armando X. Ochoa said in his introduction of Seitz that "our Holy
Father pope francis has hit another home run!"
Seitz was introduced to the El Paso media and about 100 members of the diocese at a Monday morning news conference where he displayed his sense of humor, as well as his fluency in Spanish.
He was asked about donating a kidney in 2009 to a parishioner in his Dallas-area church. Seitz said priests are called to give of themselves.
"So many priests do that in so many heroic ways," Seitz said during the news conference. "Some have even been martyrs. I am not a martyr. I found in this an opportunity to put it into practice. We all have two kidneys. God gave us a spare. This person had all of her options … were basically out. She was in her 40s and she had a lot of life to live. One day I was getting ready and started thinking, ‘she really needs a donor quick, we better find someone.' Then the fact came to me, ‘what about you?' And so I offered and it just turned out I was a match."
Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of the Diocese of Dallas said, "I happily congratulate Bishop Mark Seitz and applaud the decision of our Holy Father to appoint him to lead the Catholic faithful in this important border diocese. Bishop Seitz' ability to speak Spanish will be a tremendous asset but he also possesses a prayerful, pastoral manner, keen theological insight and deep devotion to our Church. His years as a hard-working pastor in the Diocese of Dallas will serve him well as he leads his new diocese and I wish him many blessings in this new chapter of his ministry. I know he will be a tremendous blessing to the people of the Diocese of El Paso."
Seitz has been auxiliary bishop and Vicar General of the Diocese of Dallas since April 27, 2010 and has spent much of his time in Texas after being ordained a priest.
In 2009, Seitz, then a monsignor in Dallas, donated a kidney to an ailing parishioner. Read more about that touching story here.
The Catholic population served by the El Paso diocese is 656,035 of a total population of 811,739. The diocese is made up of 55 parishes, 20 missions, and 17 ministries.
The El Paso diocese has been without a bishop for almost a year-and-a-half when Pope Benedict XVI assigned Bishop Armando X. Ochoa to the Diocese of Fresno in Dec. 2011.
Ochoa, El Paso's bishop for 15 years, has overseen both dioceses since then.
"I would hope and pray ... once again I'll go to bed invoking our Blessed Mother, that our paperwork is going to be right in front of him (to pick a new bishop for El Paso)," Ochoa said on March 13 after Francis was named pope.
Ochoa has weekly phone calls with El Paso diocese officials and visits the diocese at least once a month as the apostolic administrator.
The Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces installed its new bishop, Oscar Cantu, on Feb. 28. Benedict XVI had chosen Cantu as Las Cruces' new bishop after Bishop Emeritus Ricardo Ramirez retired. All bishops are required to submit their resignations when they turn 75 years old, as Ramirez did.
The ultimate decision in appointing bishops rests with the pope, and he is free
to select anyone he chooses.
The process for selecting candidates for the episcopacy normally begins at the diocesan level and works its way through a series of consultations until it reaches Rome. It is a process bound by strict confidentiality and involves a number of important players – the most influential being the apostolic nuncio, the Congregation for Bishops and the pope.
It can be a time-consuming process, often taking eight months or more to complete. While there are distinctions between the first appointment of a priest as a bishop and a bishop's later transfer to another diocese or his promotion to
archbishop, the basic outlines of the process remain the same.
More on Seitz
Bishop Seitz was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on January 10, 1954. He has lived in the Diocese of Dallas since 1972 when he began his priestly formation at Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 17, 1980. In 1985, he received a Master's Degree in Liturgical Studies from St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota. He also holds a Master's in Divinity and a Master's in Theology from the University of Dallas. He was named a Prelate of Honor (Monsignor) by His Holiness Pope John Paul II in December 2004. He has served on the diocesan Liturgical Commission and the Committee for Continuing Education of Priests. He is a member of the Presbyteral Council and the College of Consultors in the Diocese of Dallas.