In a rare move, Pope Benedict XVI has named Monsignor Joseph E. Strickland, the vicar general of the Diocese of Tyler, as the next bishop of the same east Texas diocese he has served as a priest for over 25 years.
“I know it’s a tremendous task that I’m given. But I’m here with family,” Bishop-designate Strickland told a Sept. 29 press conference in Tyler.
He thanked God for his “wondrous blessings” and thanked the Pope “for his expression of confidence.” He also expressed his gratitude to his parents and his siblings, who were not present.
“I thank God for my Catholic faith that I was baptized into as an infant,” he added.
Priests are not usually appointed bishops of the diocese in which they are presently ministering, the bishop-designate noted.
“I do feel greatly blessed. It’s a very real call from God to serve here.”
The press conference displayed the bishop-designate’s sense of humor.
He joked that he parked in the previous bishop’s parking space and said that the volume of congratulatory e-mails and text messages was so great that he needed a cooling system for his phone.
Bishop-designate Strickland, 53, was ordained a priest in 1985 for the Diocese of Dallas just before Pope John Paul II created the Diocese of Tyler from its territory in 1986. He has served as parochial vicar, diocesan vocations director, diocesan Scout chaplain, member of the diocesan tribunal and rector of Tyler’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
He was named a monsignor in 1995 and became vicar general of the diocese in 2010, the U.S. bishops’ conference reports.
The bishop-to-be was born Oct. 31, 1958 in Fredericksburg, Texas. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Dallas in 1981 and a master’s degree in divinity from Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas. He has a licentiate in canon law from the Catholic University of America.
Bishop-designate Strickland succeeds Bishop Alvaro Corrada del Rio, S.J., who is now Bishop of Mayaguez in Puerto Rico.
The Diocese of Tyler has 54,746 Catholics out of a population of almost 1.4 million. Its territory covers 23,443 square miles.