Before family, friends, and supporters who overflowed Blessed Sacrament cathedral—and surrounded by twenty-three bishops, 160 priests, and thirty-nine deacons—two Sacred Heart alumni were elevated to the episcopacy on January 25.As the newest auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Detroit, Bishop Gerard W. Battersby (college 1994, theology 1998, STL 2009) and Bishop Robert J. Fisher (college 1987, theology 1992) will assist Archbishop Allen Vigneron in caring for the spiritual needs of the 1.3 million Catholics of the archdiocese. Bishop Battersby served as vice rector of the seminary from 2011 until January 1, when faculty member and formation director Fr. Stephen Burr succeeded Bishop Battersby as vice rector.
The three-hour Mass and ordination ceremony was rich in ritual and symbolism. The highlight was the act of ordination: Archbishop Vigneron, as principle consecrator, solemnly laid hands upon the kneeling Bishop Fisher and Bishop Battersby and prayed in silence. In turn, each of the twenty-three attending bishops placed hands upon the men, signifying the entry of Bishops Fisher and Battersby into the unbroken line of Catholic bishops going back to the original Apostles.
After reciting the Prayer of Ordination, Archbishop Vigneron anointed the heads of the new bishops with blessed oil and then presented to each man an episcopal ring, mitre (peaked bishop’s hat), and book of the Gospels, symbols of their new authority. Lastly, the archbishop placed into their hands a crozier, or shepherds staff, which represents a bishop’s responsibility to guide his flock in charity and right teaching. The congregation greeted this final action of the ordination ritual with long applause.
Co-consecrators of the ordination Mass included Archbishop Paul F. Russell, apostolic nuncio for Turkey and Turkmenistan and close friend of Bishop Fisher; Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States who read the mandates from Pope Francis that authorized the ordinations; and Bishop John M. Quinn of Winona. Bishop Quinn is a former auxiliary bishop of Detroit and faculty member of Sacred Heart, and a Sacred Heart alumnus (college 1967).
Sacred Heart Major Seminary has become something of a “school for bishops,” as Bishop Battersby and Bishop Fisher are the thirtieth and thirty-first Sacred Heart alumni to serve the Church as bishops.
“Today, it is the time of the New Evangelization,” Archbishop Vigneron expressed to the men, and to the congregation, during his homily. “It is for this New Evangelization that the Holy Father has nominated you as bishops, to lead in this great effort to re-evangelize and reignite the spark of the Gospel, and to help people understand that the Good News is the ‘best news.’”