Pope Francis appoints new bishop to lead Wisconsin diocese — By: Catholic News Agency

Pope Francis on March 19, 2024, appointed Bishop Gerard Battersby to lead the Diocese of La Crosse in western Wisconsin. / Credit: Marek Dziekonski/courtesy of the Archdiocese of Detroit

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 19, 2024 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Tuesday appointed Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Gerard Battersby to lead the Diocese of La Crosse in western Wisconsin after accepting the resignation of Bishop William Callahan.

The pope’s appointment was communicated to the U.S. bishops by the apostolic nuncio to the U.S., Cardinal Christophe Pierre.

Erik Archer, a representative for the Diocese of La Crosse, told CNA that Battersby will be officially installed as bishop of the diocese on May 20 at St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral. 

At 63 years old, Battersby will become the 11th bishop to lead the Diocese of La Crosse. He was born in Detroit and has been serving as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Detroit since 2017. He issued a statement on Tuesday upon learning of his appointment.

“It is with joy that I received the news that the Holy Father had named me the 11th bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse,” Battersby wrote. “When I was baptized, ordained a priest, and consecrated a bishop, I received a call within a call, an invitation to follow. The Risen One has bid me to follow him to western Wisconsin, to the banks of the Mighty Mississippi. I leave with hope and anticipatory joy.”

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit congratulated Battersby, saying: “The gift of bishop Battersby’s ministry now goes to the people of La Crosse. The priests, religious, and faithful of Detroit send him there with our heartfelt prayers of gratitude.”

Battersby’s predecessor, Callahan, is retiring at age 73 after serving the Diocese of La Crosse since 2010. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Callahan is retiring for health reasons.

Callahan was the first conventional Franciscan to be named a bishop in the United States. He led the diocese through some turbulent periods. In 2021 he decided to remove Father James Altman from ministry for disobedience and for proclaiming that “Catholics can’t be Democrats.” Altman later went on to release more controversial videos, one notably making statements understood by some as calling for the death of Pope Francis.

The retiring bishop released a statement obtained by CNA on Tuesday in which he expressed his gratitude for his time as bishop of La Crosse.

“In 2010, I was called by His Holiness, Pope Benedict, to become the 10th bishop of La Crosse and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to work with some of the best priests and deacons in the Church in this capacity,” Callahan said in a statement. “Looking back, it is a great blessing and I simply say ‘thank you’ to all the wonderful people who have been part of my journey, especially the priests, deacons, religious, and holy women who have been so kind to me over these 14 years.”

According to Callahan’s statement, he will remain in La Crosse, continuing to serve the Church as a retired bishop.

“I look forward to continuing my service to Bishop Battersby and spiritual service to brother priests and deacons in La Crosse,” he said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to remain in this wonderful community for as long as God allows, and I will cherish the memories and experiences I have had here.”

The Diocese of La Crosse spans 19 counties in Wisconsin and consists of 156 parishes and 65 schools serving a population of 135,000 Catholic faithful.

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