.- Two United States dioceses received new bishops this week. Pope Benedict XVI named Msgr. Walker Nickless of Denver to head the Diocese of Sioux City.
The 58-year-old monsignor was ordained a priest in 1973. His ordination to the episcopate will be Jan. 20 at Sioux City’s Cathedral of the Epiphany.
At a press conference yesterday, the bishop-elect said he feels blessed to have been named to Sioux City.
Bishop Salvatore Matano succeeded Bishop Kenneth Angell Wednesday as bishop of the statewide Diocese of Burlington, Vt., following the Pope’s acceptance of the 75-year-old bishop’s retirement.
Bishop Matano had been named co-adjutor bishop in April. His priorities include regaining support for the Church among Catholics in Vermont; encouraging priestly vocations; urging parishioners to commit to attending weekly mass, reported Burlington’s Free Press.
At a press conference Wednesday, the 59-year-old bishop also said he intends to defend and promote the Church’s position on marriage and life issues, and does not intend to make any dramatic decisions about church closings, mergers or sales.
While Catholicism is the largest denomination in the state, the number of practicing Catholics has declined, forcing the diocese to consider closing parishes. According to chancellor Fr. John McDermott, only one-third of Vermont’s 118,000 Catholics attend mass on a given weekend.
The diocese has faced a sharp decline of priests. Since last year, the number of active priests has declined from 92 to 82 due to death or retirement. The bishop said he would address the priest shortage partly by bringing in priests from other countries.
Bishop Angell served the diocese for the last 13 years. During his tenure, he dealt with ongoing physical and sex abuse scandals and the same-sex civil union debate. The heated social debate resulted in the passage of a bill that legalized same-sex civil unions.