The Vatican has announced that Bishop Oscar Cantú will serve as the second leader of the Diocese of Las Cruces, N.M., following the retirement of Bishop Ricardo Ramírez.
Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of the diocese’s first leader who announced his retirement upon reaching the age limit in 2011, apostolic nuncio to the U.S. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò announced Jan. 10.
In a statement Thursday, Bishop Ramirez called the appointment an “historic moment” for the diocese and recalled his more than three decades of service as “a labor of love.”
He expressed confidence in his succesor’s “impeccable” credentials and said it was his “privilege and joy” to formally present Bishop Cantú as Las Cruces’ new bishop.
Bishop Cantú, 46, was ordained to the priesthood May 21, 1994.When he was just 41, he was ordained as a bishop in 2008 as auxiliary of San Antonio.
Although he will “deeply” miss his friends and mentors from San Antonio, Bishop Cantú said he looks forward “to forming new friends and working together to build up the Kingdom.”
“I come to Las Cruces with no particular agenda other than to humbly and joyfully proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said Jan. 10.
He currently serves on the committees on Catholic Education, International Justice and Peace, and Protection of Children and Young People, and as the Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs in the U.S. bishops’ conference.
As a seminarian, Bishop Cantú, who is fluent in English, Spanish, Italian and French, worked on a committee with then-Bishop James Tamayo of Laredo to promote Hispanic ministry.
He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Dallas and went on to earn his Masters in Divinity and Masters in Theological Studies from the University of St. Thomas in Houston before earning his Licentiate in Sacred Theology and Doctorate of Sacred Theology in Dogmatic Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
Before being ordained a bishop, he was pastor of his childhood parish, Holy Name, in Houston. He has served as parochial vicar at St. Christopher Parish in Houston and has taught at the University of St. Thomas and St. Mary’s Seminary.
Born Dec. 5, 1966, Bishop Cantú is the fifth of eight children to Ramiro and Maria de Jesus Cantú, who are natives of small towns near Monterey, Mexico.
Houston Catholic schools were vital in forming Bishop Cantú and six of his siblings who attended them for their primary education.
Although Bishop Cantú’s father only received schooling up to 6th grade, he taught the value of education to his children, four of whom graduated college and three of whom have earned master’s degrees.
The Diocese of Las Cruces, which was established in 1982, is home to 132,646 Catholics, 81 priests, 38 permanent deacons and 82 religious in the southern region of New Mexico.