Pope names two new bishops for Mississippi and Texas

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(L-R) Bishop-designate Michael Sis (Photo credit Diocese of Austin) and Bishop-designate Joseph R. Kopacz, Ph.D. (Photo credit: Diocese of Scranton).

Pope Francis has named two U.S. priests as the next bishops of the Dioceses of Jackson, Miss. and San Angelo, Texas.

Father Joseph R. Kopacz, a priest of the Diocese of Scranton, Pa., will head the Jackson diocese, while
Monsignor Michael J. Sis of the Diocese of Austin will lead the west central Texas diocese.

Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton said the announcement brought “great joy” to Fr. Kopacz’s home diocese.

“In appointing him as bishop, the Holy Father has not only recognized Father Kopacz's many gifts and deep faith, but has also honored all of the faithful of the Diocese of Scranton by calling forth one of our own to the office of episcopal leadership and service in the Church,” he said Dec. 12.

He was born in Dunmore, Pa. and graduated from Dunmore Central Catholic High School, the Diocese of Scranton said. He attended St. Pius X Seminary in Dalton and received a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Scranton and a master’s degree in theology from Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, N.Y.

Bishop J. Carroll McCormick ordained Bishop-designate Kopacz to the priesthood in May 1977. He served at several pastoral assignments throughout the Diocese of Scranton before becoming vicar for priests and formation director at St. Pius X Seminary. He was named vicar general for the diocese in February 2005, a position he held until 2009.

In August 2009 he became pastor of St. Ann Church in Tobyhanna and oversaw its consolidation with two other churches to become Most Holy Trinity Parish.

Bishop Bambera said the parish will “undoubtedly feel a certain sadness” in losing their pastor and friend, but he voiced gratitude that the priest will “serve the broader Church,” particularly Catholics in the Diocese of Jackson.

Bishop-designate Kopacz has served as president of the Catholic Schools’ Board of Education, as an advocate in the diocese’s tribunal, as a member of the diocese’s finance council, and as a faculty member and formation director at St. Pius X Seminary. He was chaplain at a Catholic elementary school and coordinator of Hispanic ministry for Monroe County.

The bishop-to-be also holds a master’s degree in Latin from Fordham University and a master’s degree in counseling and psychology and a doctorate in human development from Marywood University.

He is the second of three children born to the late Stanley and Carmella Calormino Kopacz.

The Diocese of Jackson, based in the state capital, covers the central and northern area of Mississippi, about 37,600 sq mi. It has 52,500 Catholics in a population of over 2.2 million. The diocese has eighty priests, 31 of whom are priests of the diocese. The diocese has four permanent deacons and 197 vowed religious.

Bishop-designate Kopacz will succeed Bishop Joseph N. Latino, who resigned upon reaching the age limit for bishops of 75 years old.

The Diocese of Austin said Dec. 11 that the bishop-designate “considers his most precious treasure to be his personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Msgr. Sis served for more than 13 years as parochial vicar and then pastor of St. Mary Catholic Center at Texas A&M University, where he helped the Catholic campus ministry grow and flourish.

The future bishop, born on Jan. 9, 1960, is the fourth of the five children of Raymond and Jancie Sis. He grew up in Bryan, Texas where he attended St. Joseph Catholic School and public schools, graduating from Bryan High School in 1978. He received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1982 from the University of Notre Dame, where he attended Moreau Seminary.

Bishop John E. McCarthy of Austin ordained him to the priesthood in 1986. He studied theology at the Gregorian Pontifical University and at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He also has a licentiate in moral theology from the Alphonsan Academy of the Pontifical Lateran University.

Bishop-designate Sis has served in Hispanic ministry and as an administrator at Austin’s St. Mary Cathedral. In 2006 he left campus ministry at Texas A&M University to become a full-time vocations director fort he Diocese of Austin. Pope Benedict XVI named the priest a monsignor in 2009. The next year, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez named him vicar general and moderator of the curia.

Bishop-designate Sis has been a volunteer with Big Brothers / Big Sisters of America and spent a summer of volunteer missionary service in Tanzania. In Rome, he worked with Ethiopian Refugees.

In the west central Texas Diocese of San Angelo, he will serve more than 85,000 Catholics in a total population of 619,000 in a territory of over 37,400 sq mi. His new diocese has 57 priests, 81 permanent deacons and 39 vowed religious.

Bishop-designate Sis succeeds Bishop Michael D. Pfeiffer, O.M.I., who resigned upon reaching 75.

Bishop-designate Kopacz is scheduled to be ordained a bishop Feb. 6 in Jackson’s Cathedral Church of St. Peter the Apostle. Bishop-designate Sis will be ordained as a bishop on Jan. 27 at San Angelo’s McNease Convention Center.

Pope Francis also named a new bishop of Tulle, France, Msgr. Francis Bestion. He will succeed Bishop Bernard Charrier, who has resigned upon reaching 75. 

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