Former Southern Baptist to become next head of Louisiana diocese

Bishop David Talley Credit Michael Alexander Archdiocese of Atlanta 2 CNA Bishop David Talley, who was appointed coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Alexandria Sept. 21, 2016. | Michael Alexander/Archdiocese of Atlanta.

The Vatican announced Wednesday that Pope Francis has appointed Bishop David Prescott Talley, currently auxiliary bishop of Atlanta and a former Baptist, to serve as the coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Alexandria.

As coadjutor, Bishop Talley possesses the right of succession as head of the Diocese of Alexandria upon the resignation of its current ordinary, Bishop Ronald Herzog. Bishop Herzog will celebrate his 75th birthday – 'mandatory retirement' age for bishops – on April 22, 2017.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta said Sept. 21 that Bishop Talley "is a servant minister of our Church, who is graced with extraordinary wisdom, patience, kindness and dedication."

The bishop, he said, "developed these gifts as a priest and bishop here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, where he always cared for our people as a true minister of mercy and kindness. Thus, he now begins this new appointment with exceptional credentials."

Serving as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Atlanta since 2012, Bishop Talley, 66, was the first native-born Georgian to serve the Archdiocese of Atlanta as a bishop.

Born in Columbus, Georgia, Sept. 11, 1950, he was raised as a Southern Baptist, but left that ecclesial community as a teenager over the issue of racial segregation, he said. He then joined the Catholic Church when he was 24, after meeting Catholics and reading the writings of Thomas Merton while he was studying at Auburn University.

He was ordained a priest of the Atlanta archdiocese June 3, 1989, and earned a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University. He has served as pastor at three Atlanta area parishes, as the archdiocesan vocations director, as chancellor of the archdiocese, and as judicial vicar of the metropolitan tribunal. He was made a monsignor in 2001, and appointed auxiliary bishop of Atlanta in 2013.

As director of vocations, Bishop Talley, who speaks Spanish, helped the archdiocese to initiate a cross-cultural immersion program for seminarians to spend time living in El Paso and Ciudad Juarez so that they could learn Spanish and be more knowledgeable about the Hispanic culture and community.

He currently serves as chaplain to the disabilities ministry in Atlanta. Serving in this ministry has been key to his spiritual life: "all they do is ask the Lord for help. That simplicity and humility is where I think the Church should be – humble before God," he told the Atlanta archdiocesan newspaper, the Georgia Bulletin.

Archbishop Gregory said, "We will sorely miss him in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, even as we thank him sincerely for sharing himself with us over these years, but we will gladly accompany him with our prayers and warmest best wishes."

In Bishop Talley, the Pope has given the people of Louisiana a "tremendous gift," he said.

Bishop Talley met with the priests of the Alexandria diocese Wednesday morning, saying, "I'm happy, I'm excited to be here in the Diocese of Alexandria. I pray that I will be the bishop that I need to be for this diocese."

Located in central Louisiana, the Diocese of Alexandria serves 12 of the state's parishes, where nearly 10 percent of the population is Catholic.

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