Pope Francis announced on June 13 that he has accepted the early resignation of Bishop Fernando Isern of Pueblo, Colo., effective today, due to poor health and for the good of the local Church.
“In a spirit of prayerful reflection, the bishop recognized that his health may be an obstacle for the growth of the diocese,” a source within the Diocese of Pueblo told CNA.
“He chose to resign in order to entrust his flock to a man with the strength and energy necessary to be an effective shepherd.”
Bishop Isern was the fourth bishop of Pueblo, and has shepherded the diocese since December 2009. He is 54 years old.
Canon law “earnestly requests” that “a diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health” present early resignation from his office. The normal retirement age for bishops is 75.
“For some time I have had health concerns that have made it increasingly difficult for me to remain in office as shepherd of this diocese,” Bishop Isern wrote in a letter to the Pueblo diocese June 13. “Out of love for the Church and for the people I have served here, I have discerned it is best for me to step down.”
The bishop’s episcopal motto is “The love of Christ urges us on.” That love, he wrote, “will always lead me to place my life at the disposal of the will of God and of My Mother, the Church.”
He asked that the people of Pueblo welcome his successor as warmly as they welcomed him, and that “you continue to pray for me as I take up this cross that Christ has seen fit for me to carry.”
Bishop Isern was born in 1958 in Havana, Cuba. The following year, communist forces under Fidel Castro seized control of the nation, and his family went into exile in 1963. They went first to Venezuela, and then settled in Miami in 1967.
After studying business at university, he later entered the seminary for the Miami archdiocese.
He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Miami in 1993, and served there as a pastor, chaplain, and high school president, until he was appointed Bishop of Pueblo in 2009.
He was consecrated a bishop on Dec. 10 of that year by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who was Archbishop of Denver at the time.
While ordinary of the diocese, Bishop Isern instituted perpetual adoration at the Shrine of Saint Therese, and made pastoral visits to each of the 53 parishes and 44 missions of the Diocese of Pueblo.
A farewell reception for the bishop will be held June 25 at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.
The Pueblo diocese was erected in 1941, and serves some 121,000 Catholics, who are about 18 percent of the population of the diocese.
*Updated June 13, 1:36 p.m. EST to include excerpts from the bishop's letter and information about his farewell reception.