Cardinal Dolan ordains two new auxiliary bishops
“We welcome them and pray with them and for them”
MIDTOWN MANHATTAN — Even before being ordained as the new bishops of the Archdiocese of New York, Auxiliary Bishops Joseph Espaillat and John Bonnici had already made their mark.
Auxiliary Bishop Espaillat, 45, known as “Father J,” is famous for his rap songs and his efforts to engage young people in the Church. For a time he served as director of youth ministry for the archdiocese. Auxiliary Bishop Bonnici, 57, had earned respect for his work on behalf of the unborn child as Director of the Archdiocesan Family Life/Respect Life Office.
On March 1, the pair were ordained at a special mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the main celebrant of the Mass, called them “two new shepherds” and said, “We welcome them and we pray with them and for them.”
It was exciting for priests in the Archdiocese “to see two of their own chosen by Pope Francis,” Cardinal Dolan added.
Auxiliary bishops Bonnici and Espaillat were appointed by Pope Francis on January 25. The announcement was made by Bishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.
Auxiliary Bishop Espaillat, who is now the youngest auxiliary bishop in the United States, is the pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in the Bronx and will remain in that position. He was ordained in 2003 and previously served as parochial vicar and then pastor of St. Peter’s Parish in Yonkers and parish vicar of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish in Manhattan.
“It’s really humbling,” he said of his appointment as auxiliary bishop. He is grateful, he said, for his time as youth ministry director, because of the opportunities it gave him to spread the word of God to people who need to hear this message. .
Having entered the cathedral that day as a priest, he would come out as an auxiliary bishop. But his thoughts were with his fellow priests. “To my brother priests in the Archdiocese of New York, I thank each and every one of you. I love you very much,” Auxiliary Bishop Espaillat said.
As she sat in her pew in the cathedral waiting for Mass to begin, Wanda Vasquez, director of the Archdiocese’s Hispanic ministry, said her community was overjoyed to see Auxiliary Bishop Espaillat’s big moment. . “And the work he does with young people is important. It speaks to them where they live,” she added.
Auxiliary Bishop Bonnici, who was ordained in 1991, is currently the pastor of Sts. John and Paul/St. Augustine Parish in Larchmont – a job he keeps. During his three decades of service, he served as pastor of St. Columba Parish in Chester, New York, pastor of St. Philip Neri Parish in the Bronx, and parochial vicar of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Elmsford. . Additionally, he spent time in the classroom as an assistant professor of theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers.
He was deputy director of the Family Life/Respect Life Office in 1995-96 and became its director in 1996, guiding that office for the next six years.
In his heart, he says, he is a priest.
Auxiliary Bishop Bonnici recalled that many years ago, while a student in Rome, he had the opportunity to meet Mother Teresa. She wrote him a message: “To Jesus through Mary”. He hadn’t realized it at the time, but there was more to this saying.
“I have been honored to serve so many of you as a priest, as a pastor. And by listening to your stories, by giving me the opportunity to learn more about your lives, I discovered and continue to discover new ways to make my way to Jesus through Mary,” he said.
For the two new auxiliary bishops, Bishop Pierre’s notification came as a shock. “I apologize for thinking this was an unwanted call,” Auxiliary Bishop Bonnici joked. “He called me six times!” Auxiliary Bishop Espaillat said of the nuncio. “I asked him if it was a joke.
“It’s not a joke,” Bishop Pierre told him.