Mark Zimmermann, Catholic News Service
In an interview just before his ordination to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington in 1989, now-Bishop Barry C. Knestout said his family’s example of love and faith played a key role in his vocation.
His late father, Deacon Thomas Knestout, who headed the Washington Archdiocese’s Office for the Permanent Diaconate for many years, would bring his children along with him as he ministered at a hospital that served people with disabilities.
“I was a seventh grader (then). He (his dad) would cart us along, my brothers and me. … We as a family felt very much a part of his vocation,” he said in the interview with the Catholic Standard, Washington’s archdiocesan newspaper. He added that he also was inspired by the “quiet service” of his mom, who was a nurse.
The son of Deacon Knestout, who died in 1997, and Caroline Knestout, he grew up in a family of nine children — with three sisters and five brothers, including his twin brother Thomas, born about five minutes after him.
Nine years after his priestly ordination and many pastoral assignments, he was named by Pope Benedict XVI to be an auxiliary bishop of Washington. Now another nine years later, Bishop Knestout has been named the 13th bishop of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia.
On Dec. 5, Pope Francis appointed him to head the diocese, succeeding Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo, who was Richmond’s shepherd from 2004 until his death Aug. 17 at age 75.
For the past 10 years, Bishop Knestout has served as moderator of the curia for the Archdiocese of Washington, the “chief of staff” for its central offices, where he assisted Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl in managing and overseeing all of the archdiocese’s administrative affairs.
Bishop Knestout, a 55-year-old native of Cheverly, Maryland, was ordained as a bishop at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle by then-Archbishop Wuerl.
At that time, Archbishop Wuerl praised the new bishop as a “native son of this archdiocese” known for his “patient and kind manner” and pastoral approach to ministry.
Bishop Knestout chose “Christ Our Hope” as his episcopal motto. It reflected the theme of Pope Benedict’s pastoral visit to Washington that he had helped plan that year. A highlight of the 2008 visit was a papal Mass attended by about 50,000 people from across the archdiocese and from around the country at the newly opened Nationals Park.
Bishop Knestout’s brother, Father Mark Knestout, was ordained as a priest of the archdiocese in 1998 and now serves as the pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish in Bethesda, Maryland.
The brothers worked together on the planning team for Pope Benedict’s visit, with Father Mark Knestout serving as the principal coordinator for the papal Mass.
“All my siblings have always been both loving family and true friends,” said Bishop Knestout.
He also has credited the foundation he received as a student at St. Pius X Regional School in Bowie, Maryland, where he graduated in 1976.
After earning a degree in architecture from the University of Maryland and working in that field, he entered Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
In Washington, Bishop Knestout has been a close aide to three cardinal archbishops. He served as priest secretary to Cardinal James Hickey from 1994 until the prelate’s death in 2004.
The future bishop also served as a priest secretary to Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, now archbishop emeritus of Washington. Bishop Knestout has said he admires Cardinal McCarrick for his ability to “identify with a whole range of people within the church, from the wealthiest to the humblest.”
In an interview before Cardinal Wuerl’s 50th anniversary as a priest last year, Bishop Knestout — who has been his top aide for the past decade — praised him as a dedicated, hard-working teacher of the faith with a pastoral approach to his ministry who “focuses on the heart of the mission of the church.”
Bishop Knestout has said that the church’s administrative work should be carried out in a pastoral way, reflecting Christ’s charity and truth.
He has noted similarities in his architectural background and in the Catholic Church’s spiritual and pastoral work, which can involve teams of people working together to solve problems and build something that will meet needs and endure.
After being ordained as an auxiliary bishop in 2008, he became the 50th graduate of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary to become a bishop. His episcopal ordination happened in the year when the seminary sometimes called the “cradle of bishops” was celebrating the bicentennial of its 1808 founding.
“At the Mount, I was prepared to be a parish priest, with a good pastoral heart to care for the needs of people,” said Bishop Knestout, who added, “You teach by words, and by example.”