Bishop Barry C. Knestout named 13th bishop of Richmond

Brian T. Olszewski, The Catholic Virginian

Referencing Advent and its emphasis on hope, and imploring the presence of the Holy Spirit, Bishop-designate Barry C. Knestout introduced himself to the Diocese of Richmond, Tuesday, Dec. 5 — the day on which Pope Francis named him the 13th bishop of the diocese — at a press conference.

Left, Msgr. Mark Richard Lane, diocesan administrator, and, right, Msgr. R. Francis Muench, judicial vicar, concelebrate Mass with the bishop in the Pastoral Center, Wednesday, Dec. 5. Deacon Bob Griffin is assisting. (Photo/Vy Barto)

Speaking in person to the priest consultors, diocesan staff, and media gathered at the Pastoral Center, and to the faithful via a livestream on the diocesan website, Bishop-designate Knestout, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington since 2008, spoke about what he termed “significant goals” for the diocese.

“In a time when we are challenged by many divisions, my hope and prayer is for the Church of Richmond to be a strong voice for unity and charity — an impactful example of reconciliation for those who are divided – a model of solidarity among the neglected, poor and forgotten — and a communion among those who are painfully separated brothers and sisters,” he said.

Noting that this would be accomplished with “the grace of our Lord, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, seeking the maternal intercession of Our Lady,” the bishop continued, “My firm hope is to bring prayerfulness, familial love, charitable service, missionary zeal, and dedicated priestly oversight to my new role as your shepherd.”

After stating his gratitude to Pope Francis “for his trust in naming me bishop of Richmond,” Bishop-designate Knestout acknowledged his parents, the late Thomas, a deacon who served as head of the permanent diaconate office for the Archdiocese of Washington, and his 90-year-old mother, Caroline, and his siblings, whom he said, “do a great job of keeping me humble.”

The bishop acknowledged the three archbishops whom he had served — Cardinals James A. Hickey, Theodore E. McCarrick and Donald W. Wuerl.

He compared the 10 years he worked with Cardinal Wuerl as “a graduate level education” that he said was “replete with a myriad of experiences.”

Bishop-designate Knestout, a native of Cheverly, Maryland, also acknowledged Msgr. Mark Richard Lane for “his sensitive and wise pastoral leadership” during the four months following the death of Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo in which he served as Richmond’s diocesan administrator.

“The faithful of the diocese are profoundly grateful for your service,” he added.

Bishop-designate Knestout, whose motto, “Christ Our Hope,” is the same as that of Bishop DiLorenzo, acknowledged his predecessor as one “who served this diocese with devotion, steadfastness and a pastor’s heart.”

Bishop-designate Knestout related how he learned of his appointment as he was finishing dinner at his mother’s residence, Saturday afternoon, Nov. 25.

“I was just getting ready to leave and return to the rectory where I live and the call came (from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States) to my cellphone – he has all of our cellphone numbers — and he just informed me very beautifully that I was asked by the Holy Father to serve in Richmond. And he said, ‘You accept, yes?’

“Yes, your excellency, I accept, and I am grateful for the trust the Holy Father has placed in me,” the bishop replied.

The bishop said the next question was of himself, not the nuncio.

“‘What do I say to Mom as I’m trying to go out the door here? How do I handle this with Mom because it is under the papal secret?’” he said, noting he was able to leave without her seeking an explanation about the call.

“Someone said this (his appointment) was probably the worst kept papal secret for a long time,” he told those gathered, generating laughter.

jAfter the press conference, the bishop attended a reception with Pastoral Center employees, and then celebrated Mass with them and the priest consultors. During his homily, he described the vibrant mixture of oranges, peaches, roses and blues he had seen reflecting off of the clouds in the previous day’s sunset. Noting that the colors enhanced one another and made each other vibrant because of the contrast, he compared them to the work of people in the Pastoral Center.

“There are many who are called in the aspect of administration – finance, facilities, the nuts and bolts, the underpinnings of doing all the work,” he said. “Then there are others doing spiritual application — proclamation, the teaching, charity, and sacramental life.”

He said sometimes one group might look down upon the other group, one side might not see the other as “doing the pastoral work of the Church,” while the other side might not have “an appreciation for the details we have to deal with.” But, he added, in the Church of Richmond, people work together.

“We’re participating in a magnificent design, a magnificent creation of our Lord, and we’re able to bring the Good News to those around us,” Bishop-designate Knestout said. “It’s a beautiful and magnificent work, and as long as we’re seeing each other as part of that composition, we’re going to be able to have that dynamism and energy which is going to attract people and draw them into the beauty of the Gospel, and into that understanding of the truth and the Good News of God.”

He said that both groups do important work for the Church.

“We work with one another and harmonize our efforts in the details and the substance; they are there, as well as the power and spirit and in the proclamation, so the work of the local Church can be done in a beautiful and magnificent way,” the bishop said.

The afternoon provided Bishop-designate Knestout with opportunities to meet people of various age, starting with a visit to Our Lady of Lourdes School, Richmond (see related story, Page 3), followed by a stop at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, where he was given a tour by Edie Jeter, archivist for the Diocese of Richmond. He later prayed in the crypt where Bishop DiLorenzo is entombed.

During the cathedral stop, the bishop spent more than an hour with 21 students from Catholic Campus Ministry at VCU, greeting them individually, asking their year in school and field of study.

The final stop was at the Little Sisters of the Poor in Richmond where, going from table to table, he met individually with more than 100 staff members and residents.