.- The currents are set to change in the Diocese of Saginaw with the recent arrival of a new bishop. Bishop Robert Carlson was installed as the new spiritual leader of Saginaw’s 139,000 Catholics last week. He succeeds Bishop Kenneth Untener, who died in March 2004.
The new bishop of the Michigan diocese believes he was named to the post to encourage vocations to the priesthood — a task at which he was very successful in his previous diocese.
This is a welcome message for the Diocese of Saginaw, which has only seen six ordinations in the last 10 years.
Bishop Carlson told the Detroit Free Press in an interview last week that part of a priest’s potential is the forceful proclamation of Church teachings.
In an effort to nurture vocations in his former diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D., he encouraged praying the rosary.
He recorded an audiocassette and CD of himself reciting the rosary. The prayer intention was for more candidates to the priesthood. He had 25,000 copies distributed and also had the prayer posted on the Internet for downloading.
His approach seemed to work. He ordained 33 priests since 1994.
Bishop Carlson also differs from his predecessor on social issues. Bishop Untener was renowned for his best-selling devotional booklets and his liberal stands on a number of issues, including homosexuality.
But Bishop Carlson became well known for taking on pro-abortion politicians, in particular former U.S. Sen. Thomas Daschle. Last summer, he reportedly wrote in a church publication that Catholic politicians "cannot, on the one hand, support abortion rights and on the other, be a Catholic in good standing."
The 60-year-old, who has undergone several operations to treat bowel, prostate and colon cancer, also lobbied to abolish the death penalty for juveniles in South Dakota and reached out to the growing Hispanic population.
In Sioux Falls, the bishop also developed a reputation for being a good listener. The Detroit Free Press reported that in one year he had hosted 2,000 people for coffee, cake or dinner.