GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) - Pope Francis has appointed Bishop-elect David John Walkowiak, a priest of the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio to be the 12th bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids which serves 82 parishes and 182,000 Catholics in West Michigan.
The announcement was made by the Vatican this morning. Bishop-elect Walkowiak succeeds Most Reverend Walter A. Hurley who submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 at age 75 as required by canon law. Bishop Hurley will retire June 18th, the same day Bishop-elect Walkowiak will be ordained to the episcopacy and installed as bishop of Grand Rapids during a Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew.
"I am grateful to Pope Francis for entrusting me with this apostolic office as bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids," said Bishop-elect Walkowiak in a press release. "In accepting this appointment I renew my trust in the Lord who asks me to set out again on a new mission. I thank God for providing me with the opportunity to serve this local church, which I pray will be a blessing to its people."
At a morning news conference, the Bishop-elect said he would like to see more people in church on Sunday. "I certainly wish that more catholics would be able to be comfortable and proud of their faith and be able to in a sense speak up for it. One of the challenges we face is we may have lost our nerve and the beauty and the great treasure the church has been in spreading the gospel mission and really enriching the world in which we live."
Bishop-elect Walkowiak grew up in Westlake, Ohio and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Cleveland in 1979. His first assignment was to Saint Mary Parish in Lorain, Ohio. After receiving a doctorate in Canon Law from the Catholic University of America, he was assigned to the faculty of Saint Mary Seminary in Wickliffe and to the Chancery staff of the Diocese of Cleveland, positions he held from 1986 to 2006. He also served as an associate judge of the appellate tribunal for the Province of Cincinnati. His father John and sisters Sue, Jan, and Carol all reside in Cleveland. He is currently pastor of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Chagrin Falls and will celebrate his 60th birthday the same day he is ordained to the episcopacy.
"Catholics in the Diocese of Grand Rapids are fortunate to have someone with Bishop-elect Walkowiak's experience to lead the faithful of West Michigan into the future," Bishop Hurley said of the appointment. "Bishop-elect Walkowiak's education, service to the Church and pastoral ministry to the people of the Diocese of Cleveland will be of great benefit in this new role to which he has been called."
Bishop Hurley will retire after almost eight years as bishop of Grand Rapids. He was appointed bishop of Grand Rapids by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on June 21, 2005 and installed on August 4, 2005.
"I will continue to make Grand Rapids my home and assist our new bishop as needed and help in our parishes and the diocese as called upon to serve," said Bishop Hurley.
Bishop Hurley will serve as apostolic administrator of the diocese, functioning as bishop, until the June 18th ordination and installation.
The Mass of ordination and installation will be a ticketed event. Details, including media access, will be released in the weeks ahead.