William Patrick Callahan on Wednesday will be installed as the new Bishop of La Crosse in Wisconsin. The incoming bishop will celebrate one of his first Masses in the diocese at a church where the parish priest stepped down after charges of possession of child pornography.
The 60-year-old Bishop Callahan, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, will succeed Jerome Listecki, who is now Archbishop of Milwaukee. He will be installed on Wednesday afternoon at St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral.
The incoming bishop told the La Crosse Tribune that he will learn about the diocese, over 15,000 square miles in area, and meet its people and priests.
"I've stepped in more than one cow pie in my life, so I have no fear in any of that," he commented. "People are people, whether they live in cities or on farms. And I love the people. I think the most important thing to do is to make contact with the people."
He said everyone has told him that the diocese is “wonderful.”
"My coming is a little bit different, because I'm not coming in with degrees after my name. I am basically a parish priest. I want to come in with a pastor's heart,” he told the La Crosse Tribune. "We have a common faith, so let's try to work from there."
On Sunday he will celebrate Mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Onalaska, where parish priest Fr. Patrick Umberger recently stepped down after being charged with possession of child pornography.
"I want to be with those people. That's the high priority," Bishop Callahan commented. "I want to pray with them. I want to listen."
He told the La Crosse Tribune that the turmoil at St. Patrick’s was “a sad way to start” but he wants parishioners to know “I’m their guy.”
"The most important thing is our faith in Jesus Christ and that we come together. In praying with them, I'll have the opportunity to listen. I'm sure they'll want to talk."
The bishop said his new assignment makes him “a little nervous, a little excited, happy, enthused, ready to come and do my job.”