.- Today, Pope Benedict XVI named a new bishop for the Diocese of Sioux Falls, Monsignor Paul Joseph Swain, an adult convert to Catholicism and Bronze Star winner. Bishop-elect Swain, who is currently serving as Vicar General for the Diocese of Madison, will be taking the reigns of a South Dakota diocese which has been with out a bishop for over one and a half years.
Bishop Robert J. Carlson, who served as bishop of Sioux Falls for nearly 10 years before his installation as fifth bishop of the Diocese of Saginaw in February 2005, said this morning that Swain’s appointment is “wonderful news for the Church.”
“He will bring exceptional experience and gifts to the diocese and will be blessed with many talented priests, committed religious, and faithful people,” Carlson said.
The 62 year old bishop-elect said that he looks forward to being a bishop in the Pontificate of Benedict. “I am honored and humbled to be named by Pope Benedict who has set forth such an uplifting yet challenging call in his first encyclical, homilies, and meditations to live the vocation of life in its deepest sense.”
The appointment of Swain is particularly notable due to the bishop-elect’s background - Swain grew up in a Methodist family and had a successful career before his conversion to Catholicism and subsequent ordination to the priesthood at the age of 44.
Swain was born and raised as one of six children in Newark, New York. He studied history as an undergraduate and received his Masters in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1965. After receiving the Bronze Star for his military service as an Air Force Intelligence Officer in Vietnam (1967-72), he received a law degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and practiced law in the city for the next several years. Swain’s proficiency at law eventually found him serving as Legal Counsel and Director of Policy for Wisconsin Governor Lee Dreyfus from 1979-83.
It was during the last years of Swain’s time in government that he began to feel spiritual awakenings which led to a deep and life-change conversion.
He was welcomed into the Church in 1983 and began his formation for the priesthood soon after. Swain received his Master of Divinity degree in 1988 and was ordained in May of that year by Bishop Cletus O’Donnell.
Bishop-elect Swain has served in various roles for the Diocese of Madison and since 1997 has been Vicar General for the diocese and rector of the cathedral. Madison Bishop Robert Morlino said the appointment of Swain is a great honor for the diocese. “The Holy Father has personally chosen Bishop Swain and I couldn’t be happier for him and for the whole church. His appointment brings great honor upon our fine priests and our wonderful, faithful people in the Diocese of Madison. His departure will leave a great void here, both in the chancery and in the downtown parishes, but I am confident that the Holy Spirit will provide for us. I will, in a deeply personal way, miss his close and faithful collaboration as my Vicar General.”
Swain is said to be known and loved by parishioners, fellow-priests, and co-workers for his prayerfulness, humility, even temper, and quiet humor. No date has been announced for his consecration as bishop and installation.