We will soon have something NEW in Austin that we have never had before! And that is an Auxiliary Bishop. Fr. Danny Garcia, formerly pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in North Austin and currently the Vicar General of the Diocese of Austin, will be ordained a bishop on Tuesday, March 3 in the afternoon. The episcopal ordination (meaning the ordination of a bishop, NOT that Fr. Garcia will be an Episcopalian) will be celebrated at St. William’s Church in Round Rock. Because of the expected large turnout it is a ticketed affair, so unless you have a ticket, don’t plan on attending.
Since this is a new thing for us here in Austin, I thought I would give an overview of auxiliary bishops. Auxiliary Bishops are helper bishops. Bishop Joe Vásquez will still be our spiritual shepherd. He is what is known as the Ordinary. A good case can be made that Bishop Joe is truly extraordinary in many ways, but technically he is the Ordinary, which means he is in charge. That will not change.
But now, rather than have to do all “bishop things” in this diocese by himself, Bishop Vásquez will have the assistance of Bishop Danny Garcia. Mostly that will involve celebrating Confirmations and Ordinations, as well as the duties already done as Vicar General. Many dioceses have auxiliary bishops, and I believe it is long overdue for the Diocese of Austin to have at least one. I was stationed in the Archdiocese of San Francisco for 8 years, and they have two auxiliary bishops. But the Archdiocese of S.F. covers a mere FOUR counties, while the Diocese of Austin covers over 24 counties – a much larger area. In addition, according to the 2012 Official Catholic Directory (the last year we have purchased, we can’t afford it every year) San Francisco had FEWER Catholics than the Diocese of Austin: only 433,163 compared to 518,940, and I am sure the disparity has grown since 2012. So it is overdue for Bishop Joe to get some episcopal help. Pope Francis is the one who decided it was now time for us to have an Auxiliary Bishop, and I for one am glad he did.
However, Auxiliary Bishops are something of an anomaly. The Catechism of the Catholic Church never mentions them. The ancient ideal was that the bishop was in a sense the “spouse” of the church where he was bishop. Having several bishops in single see (i.e., diocese or archdiocese) is sort of the spiritual equivalent of polyandry (one wife with several husbands). In the ancient church this idea of the bishop as married to his local church also caused problems when a bishop transferred from one diocese to another. Partly for this reason, Auxiliary Bishops are named as Titular Bishops of some long abandoned and forgotten place that at one time had a bishop. These places often are in North Africa, where there was a Christian community in the 5th century with a bishop that was overran by Vandals or by Moslems (or both) at some time. So for example the two auxiliaries in San Francisco are the Titular Bishops of Proconsulari and of Gemellae in Byzacena, towns that probably do not now exist and have not been in business for millennia or more. I do not know yet what phantom diocese of which Fr. Danny Garcia gets to be the Titular Bishop. It will be interesting to see which “see” he has (sorry). In Catholic thought you have to be Bishop of someplace – you can’t be a “free-range” Bishop.
Anyway, I ask you to pray for Bishop-elect Danny Garcia. We are a growing Catholic community, and for the first time ever have an Auxiliary Bishop assigned to Austin.