.- On July 19, Pope Benedict XVI appointed 59-year-old Father Gregory Hartmayer, OFM Conv., to lead the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia.
He also accepted the resignation of Bishop J. Kevin Boland, 76, who is one year past the age of retirement. The Pope named Bishop Boland apostolic administrator of the diocese until the ordination of Bishop-elect Hartmayer in October.
“I am extremely grateful to Pope Benedict for his confidence in me as the bishop of Savannah,” Bishop-elect Hartmayer said at a press conference announcing his appointment on Tuesday.
“I am continually impressed with God's sense of humor and His incredible ability to surprise.”
The bishop-elect currently serves as the pastor of St. John Vianney parish in the Archdiocese of Atlanta and will become the 14th bishop of the Savannah diocese.
Catholics make up nearly three percent, or around 77,000 faithful, in a diocese that encompasses a population of 2.8 million.
Bishop-elect Hartmayer was born in 1951 in Buffalo, New York and later studied in the Conventual Franciscan novitiate in Ellicott City, Maryland. He was ordained a priest for the Franciscan order in 1979.
He said that his Franciscan formation will guide him as a bishop.
“I bring with me a spirituality of simplicity and joy,” he said. “For almost 800 years, the Franciscans have been preaching about the love and mercy of God. This friar and son of St. Francis will continue that mission of evangelization here a bishop of the Diocese of Savannah.”
In addition to a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy from St. Hyacinth College and Seminary, in Massachusetts, the bishop-elect holds three master's degrees: a master of divinity degree from St. Anthony-on-Hudson, in Rensselaer, New York; a master of arts degree in pastoral counseling from Emmanuel College, Boston and a master of education degree from Boston College.
Bishop-elect Hartmayer has spent 16 of his 32 years of priesthood in Catholic high school education and the remaining half in parish ministry.
His ordination will take place Oct. 18 at the Cathedral of John the Baptist in Savannah.
The bishop-elect praised his predecessor Bishop Boland – who has been a priest of the diocese for more than 50 years – saying, the “people of Savannah love him.”
“I can tell you without question, he loves you too. I have very, very large shoes to fill.”