New Orleans, La., Jan 12, 2015 / 13:47 pm
Fr. Fernand Joseph Cheri III, O.F.M., was appointed on Monday by Pope Francis as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, his hometown.
"I look forward to just, working with the people of New Orleans again," Fr. Cheri said Jan. 12 at a press conference announcing his appointment.
"I never left New Orleans, it's always a part of me: wherever I go, I bring New Orleans, so it's gonna be great to be back in the city, and re-connect, re-invigorate, all the ways I grew up in the Church and was excited about everything I learned."
At the same press conference, Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans welcomed Fr. Cheri and affirmed his great respect for the Franciscan priest, and his work in the African-American community. The archbishop then added jokingly, "Just to remind you, there's a lot of work to do."
Fr. Cheri was born in 1952 in New Orleans, and attended St. John Vianney Preparatory Seminary there. He then attended St. Joseph Seminary College and Notre Dame Seminary, and was ordained a priest of the New Orleans archdiocese in 1978.
He then served in several parishes, and obtained a master's degree in theology from Xavier University's Institute for Black Catholic Studies.
As a priest of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Fr. Cheri worked a lot with the black community, and he said at his press conference, "a lot of my support back then was from religious communities."
He therefore entered the novitiate of the Order of Friars Minor in 1992, and professed solemn vows in the order in 1996.
As a Franciscan, he has served as a chaplain and teacher and high schools; director of the Office of Friar Life; vocation minister; and university chaplain.
He has written several articles and books on Black Catholic liturgy, and is nationally renowned as an archivist of Black religious music, according to the New Orleans archdiocese.
At the time of his episcopal appointment, he was serving as director of campus ministry at Quincy University. He noted that while at Quincy University in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, he has made a point of bringing students to New Orleans for mission work annually; "as someone who loves the city, it was very difficult," he said, to see the loss of lives and homes in the storm.
His episcopal consecration will take place at New Orleans' St. Louis Cathedral on March 23.