Pope Francis names new bishop to shepherd Harrisburg Diocese

Bishop Timothy Senior Pope Francis on April 25, 2023, appointed Bishop Timothy Senior, who serves as the chancellor of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, as the next bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. | Credit: Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Pope Francis on Tuesday appointed Bishop Timothy Senior, an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, as the next bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 

Senior, who also serves as the chancellor of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, will assume his new role on June 21. A Mass of installation will be held at the Cathedral of St. Patrick in Harrisburg at 2 p.m. that day.

He will succeed Harrisburg Bishop Ronald W. Gainer, who offered his resignation when he turned 75 in August of last year, which is required by canon law. 

“I am profoundly grateful to Pope Francis for his confidence and trust in appointing me to serve the faithful of the Diocese of Harrisburg as their next bishop,” Senior said in a statement. “Trusting in God’s will and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I pray that I may be a faithful, holy, and worthy shepherd for the people of central Pennsylvania in service of Jesus Christ and for the good of his Church.”

Senior will be the 12th bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg, which was founded in 1868 and serves more than 200,000 Catholics from 15 counties in central Pennsylvania. 

The bishop is a Pennsylvania native who graduated in 1977 from Lansdale Catholic High School, located outside of Philadelphia. He was ordained to the priesthood in the archdiocese in 1985 and obtained a master’s of divinity and a master’s of arts in theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, located outside of Philadelphia. 

After earning those degrees, Senior served as an assistant pastor in Bucks County and taught religion at Archbishop Kennedy High School, which is located in the archdiocese. He then received a master's in social work and business administration from Boston College in 1992 before returning to the archdiocese. 

Senior was named Honorary Chaplain to His Holiness in 1998 and a Prelate of Honor in 2005. He was ordained as an auxiliary bishop in 2009 to serve Montgomery County and Philadelphia-South and appointed as the rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in 2012. He was appointed as the chancellor of the seminary in 2022. 

Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez said in a statement that “this moment is one of great joy for the Church in Philadelphia” and congratulated Senior on his appointment. 

“I’ve known and worked closely with Bishop Senior since long before either of us were bishops,” Pérez said. “He is an exemplary priest who has served his hometown faithfully for many years with great wisdom, intelligence, and apostolic zeal for the good of souls. It has been an inspiration for me to witness his humility, devotion, and unending dedication for many years. Pope Francis has given the people of the Church in Harrisburg a true gift in making this appointment. I know Bishop Senior will serve them joyfully as a faithful shepherd.”

Senior is the chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and serves on four other committees. He is also a classically trained pianist. 

The outgoing Bishop Gainer, who became bishop in 2014, also congratulated Senior in a statement. 

“This is a joyous day for our clergy, staff, the people of the diocese and for me personally,” Gainer said. “I have known Bishop Senior for well over 25 years and have full confidence that he will be a caring, faithful shepherd who will speak the truth with love and conviction, leading the Diocese of Harrisburg with the truths of the Church as a witness of Jesus Christ.”

“I am grateful to our Holy Father in sending the Diocese of Harrisburg a man devoted to answering the call of the Gospel, who also has numerous skills in business, education, and human service administration,” Gainer added. “The Diocese of Harrisburg will be well cared for in the hands of Bishop Senior.”

According to a news release from the Diocese of Harrisburg, Gainer intends to stay in the diocese as its bishop emeritus.

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