Atlanta's new auxiliary used to be an Air Force captain

Opening Mass for the synod of bishops on the family Oct 8 2015 Credit Mazue catholicnewsorguk CNA Opening Mass for the synod of bishops on the family Oct. 8, 2015. | Mazue/

On Monday the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has named parish priest Fr. Bernard (Ned) Shlesinger of Raleigh, who was an Air Force pilot before entering seminary, as a new auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Ga.

Born Dec. 17, 1960, in Washington D.C., Schlesinger obtained the rank of "captain" piloting large aircrafts – specifically C-130 Hercules planes – before entering the seminary in 1990.

He flew the aircraft while stationed at Pope AFB, in Fayetteville, NC. The C-130 model is a four-engine turboprop military transport plane designed and built by Lockheed Martin, and is able to manage take-offs and landings from ungroomed runways.

In a statement coinciding with the Vatican's May 15 announcement of the appointment, Atlanta's Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory voiced his thanks to Pope Francis for naming a new auxiliary, and offered Shlesinger a warm welcome.

"Bishop-Elect Shlesinger comes to us from a diocese within the Ecclesiastical Province of Atlanta where he has longed enjoyed the endorsement of the bishops of our Province and the well-deserved respect, admiration, and affection of the clergy, religious, and faithful of the Diocese of Raleigh," he said.

"I warmly welcome him to the Archdiocese of Atlanta and I look forward to working with him in service to this local Church."

The archbishop praised Shlesinger as a man of "prayer, prudence and apostolic zeal," noting that he has served in various capacities in Raleigh, including as a pastor, vocations director, a member of the Presbyteral Council and most recently as Director of Spiritual Formation for St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia.

After graduating from Mount Vernon High School in 1979, the bishop-elect obtained a Bachelor's degree in Agricultural Engineering from Virginia Tech in 1983.

He entered the U.S. Air Force the same year and became a pilot, eventually achieving the rank of "captain." He left the force seven years later, entering the Theological College in Washington in 1990.

Shlesinger completed his philosophy studies there before delving into his theological studies at the Pontifical North American College and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He then began a Licentiate of Sacred Theology at the Rome's Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum).

After completing his studies in 1996, he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina the same year.

He then served the diocese in various roles, including as pastor of several parishes, before being named Director of Vocations and of Seminarians for the diocese in 2007, a position he held until 2013. Since that year, he has served as a spiritual director at the Saint Charles Seminary in Philadelphia, and has also served as President of the Presbyteral Council for the Raleigh diocese.

The bishop-elect will officially be welcomed to the Archdiocese of Atlanta during a May 15 news conference at the archdiocese's headquarters.

In his statement, Archbishop Gregory said Shlesinger is "eminently qualified" for his new role as auxiliary bishop, adding that he is ready to receive him with "an enthusiastic and jubilant heart."

"I am certain that we all will come to know and love him and discover how truly fortunate we are to have been sent this man of faith and pastoral skill."

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