Pope Francis Names Rev. Stephen D. Parkes Bishop of the Diocese of Savannah
We send out our prayers and congratulations as your parish family! We have been blessed by your years with us and know that the Diocese of Savannah will be well served by your pastoral heart and leadership. May God bless and keep you!
Bishop-Elect Stephen Parkes offering a prayer and blessing to the people of the Diocese of Savannah.
Excerpt from Bishop Noonan’s letter regarding the announcement:
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Today I have joyous news to share with you about one of our beloved priests, Very Reverend Stephen Parkes. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has found him worthy of an ecclesiastical appointment to Bishop of the Diocese of Savannah and has made this announcement today. Bishop-Elect Parkes will be travelling to and from the Diocese of Savannah while continuing to serve as pastor of Annunciation Catholic Church until September 23 when he will be ordained and installed as Bishop of the Diocese of Savannah.
Letter from Bishop Noonan
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Today I have joyous news to share with you about one of our beloved priests, Very Reverend Stephen Parkes. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has found him worthy of an ecclesiastical appointment to Bishop of the Diocese of Savannah and has made this announcement today. Bishop Elect Parkes will be travelling to and from the Diocese of Savannah while continuing to serve as pastor of Annunciation Catholic Church until September 23 when he will be ordained and installed as Bishop of the Diocese of Savannah.
A priest of twenty-two years, Bishop Elect Stephen Parkes, in my humble opinion, will be an excellent bishop. He serves in many leadership roles in the Diocese of Orlando, including Chair of the Presbyteral Council, Vicar Forane for the North Central Deanery, member of the Priests’ Personnel Board and College of Consultors, member of the Diocese of Orlando Real Estate Committee, and on the Endowment Board of Trustees of the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe. He also serves on the Diocese of Orlando Seminary Admissions Committee and as the Diocese of Orlando Clergy Representative for the Board of Trustees at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary. He is Chaplain for Legatus, an association of the faithful, and recently resigned as one of the founding members of Board of The Catholic Foundation of Central Florida.
All of these committees and memberships have helped Bishop Elect Parkes to understand the workings of a Diocese and its various aspects. More importantly, Bishop Elect Parkes is a blessed and gifted pastor. Annunciation Catholic Church is one of the largest in the Diocese of Orlando and he entered the parish during a difficult transition with much sacrifice on his part. He is attentive to the spiritual gifts and needs of the people and immersed in parish life, so much so that when he learned of his appointment, his care and concern was about those young people who are scheduled to receive the Sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation and being able to confer those Sacraments before his departure. The blessing of the remodeled Sanctuary in which he led his parishioners to plan and build was one of great joy. As pastor of this well-established parish, he has met the holy people of God with the grace of a true shepherd.
In 2005, Bishop Elect Parkes was called to lead the faithful to form a community for the erection of Most Precious Blood Catholic Church in Oviedo. As a newly established parish, he gathered the scattered across various areas of rural Seminole County (not so rural any longer!) forming the people of God to lay the capstone of this parish in His glory. From the beginning, Christ was the foundation of this journey of faith.
In his leadership, Bishop Elect Parkes is attentive to the needs of the priests as he comes to know them. During his tenure at Annunciation Catholic Church, he was attentive to the spiritual and health needs of Monsignor Patrick Caverly, pastor emeritus, who died in 2017. Bishop Elect Parkes matured in his priesthood because of this gift. He has volunteered to serve on a committee to address the needs of senior priests because of this beautiful relationship.
I have attended various retreats and gatherings led by Bishop Elect Parkes. I am inspired by his meticulous planning of these spiritual offerings so that attendees encounter a closer experience with God. His choice of theme always is central to our faith in God and every aspect of his leadership is centered around God’s Presence among us.
I know you join me in my prayer of thanksgiving for Bishop Elect Stephen Parkes. We will miss him, but rejoice in having this time to know him and receiving the fruit of his priestly ministry here in the Diocese of Orlando. We will support him during this time of transition and offer him any assistance as he prepares to leave us. We say, Seek the face of the Lord, Bishop Elect Parkes. He is calling you. Be His light among us.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend John Noonan
Bishop of Orlando
A press conference was held on July 8th at 10am, at the Catholic Pastoral Center, Savannah. Click on the video below to watch replay of the press conference.
Bishop-Elect Stephen D. Parkes Speech - July 8, 2020 - Press Conference
Last Thursday morning, I woke up early and embarked on a 31-mile bike ride. Usually during the ride I take the opportunity to pray one of the mysteries of the Rosary. That morning, being it was Thursday, I prayed the luminous mysteries, but for some reason was inspired and I didn’t know why, to pray the joyful mysteries as well.
Upon arriving back home at the rectory, while preparing to make breakfast, I received a very unexpected phone call from Archbishop Christophe Pierre (apostolic nuncio to United States) informing me that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has appointed me as the 15th Bishop of the Diocese of Savannah. Needless to say, I was very surprised and, as you can imagine, my mind went blank for a few moments. I was very glad that I had prayed those extra mysteries earlier on the bike ride. I am humbled by the confidence that the Holy Father has placed in me to be the next shepherd of the beautiful Diocese of Savannah.
As we all know, our diocese has an incredibly rich and longstanding history. When it was founded in 1850, it included the state of Georgia and a large part of Florida, including the area of Central Florida that I’ve called home for the past 37 years. My family has roots here, as my grandparents relocated to the Augusta area in the late 1940s and my father spent part of his childhood there. Bishop Emeritus Boland and I have something very unique and special in common in that we both have older brothers with whom we have shared not only the bonds of family, but also of the fraternity of the priesthood.
Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know my predecessor Archbishop Hartmayer while attending the board of trustees meetings at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary. I know that you are appreciative of his fine leadership these past years and remember him in prayer as he assumes his new responsibilities as the Archbishop of Atlanta.
In the very brief time since my arrival here, you have made me feel very much at home. I look forward to getting to know you and to ministering with you, the priests, deacons, religious, seminarians, and the holy people- the faithful people of God. I am grateful for the seeds of our Catholic faith that have been planted in the hearts of God’s people here in the 90 counties of the Diocese of Savannah. Together may we have the grace and vision to continue to tend and nurture these seeds of faith and to plant new ones as missionary disciples for years to come.
In my past 22 years of priesthood in the Diocese of Orlando, I have realized my deep love for parish ministry and have been blessed in my assignments in the parish communities of Annunciation and Most Precious Blood and in campus ministry at the University of Central Florida. I am grateful to all who I have looked up to as mentors in the Diocese of Orlando, but also to the people who I have served. They’ve taught me not only about ministry, but I have learned from them the inexhaustible nature and presence of God’s love, of His goodness and of His mercy.
My parents were dedicated to our Catholic faith and provided a beautiful example of family life to their sons. I am blessed with a special bond of family and priestly fraternity with my brother, Bishop Gregory Parkes of the Diocese of St. Petersburg. As his younger brother, I always looked up to him, believe it or not, in physical stature as he is four inches taller than I am, but also I appreciate his advice, his guidance and his love. Along with our sister-in-law and niece, we are a small family but blessed to be a close family. I also have relatives in North Carolina and I look forward to being within just a few hours driving distance of them.
It is interesting today that I also want to acknowledge those who join us on the livestream. My friends, we are living in extraordinary times as we face a pandemic and recent social unrest. For all of us, now more than ever, we need hope and healing. We need recognition of God’s image that is in the life of every human person. Over the past few months of challenge and unprecedented circumstances I’ve often reflected upon the words of Saint Paul from Romans Chapter 12 Verse 12, “Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.” Today I ask you to please pray for me that I can be the shepherd that Gad has called me to be and that you need and deserve. I also make my commitment to pray for you, your loved ones and your intentions. We may not see each other each day, but, my friends, may we meet each day
in our prayers. Amen.
Savannah Morning News Article - July 26, 2020
Click on the link to view the article.
How Bishops Are Appointed?
The ultimate decision in appointing bishops rests with the pope, and he is free to select anyone he chooses. But how does he know whom to select?
The process for selecting candidates for the episcopacy normally begins at the diocesan level and works its way through a series of consultations until it reaches Rome. It is a process bound by strict confidentiality and involves a number of important players – the most influential being the apostolic nuncio, the Congregation for Bishops, and the pope. It can be a time consuming process, often taking eight months or more to complete. While there are distinctions between the first appointment of a priest as a bishop and a bishop’s later transfer to another diocese or his promotion to archbishop, the basic outlines of the process remain the same.
The pope’s representative to both the government and to the hierarchy of a given nation; a key person in deciding what names are recommended to the Congregation for Bishops for possible episcopal appointment.
A bishop appointed to assist a diocesan bishop. Whether in a diocese or archdiocese, his title is bishop.
A bishop appointed to a Catholic diocese or archdiocese to assist the diocesan bishop. Unlike an auxiliary bishop, he has the right of succession, meaning that he automatically becomes the new bishop when the diocesan bishop retires or dies. By canon law, he is also vicar general of the diocese. If the diocese is an archdiocese, he is called coadjutor archbishop instead of coadjutor bishop. In recent years, a growing number of U.S. bishops in larger dioceses or archdioceses have requested and received a coadjutor in their final year or two before their retirement, in order to familiarize their successor with the workings of the (arch)diocese before he has to take over the reins. This minimizes the learning curve of a new bishop and eliminates completely the possibility of the diocese being vacant following the old bishop’s retirement.
Congregation for Bishops
A department of the Roman Curia, headed by a Cardinal. The head of the Congregation, called the “prefect,” is presently Cardinal Marc Ouellet, a Canadian. Among the congregation’s responsibilities are moderating all aspects of episcopal appointments; assisting bishops in the correct exercise of their pastoral functions; handling ad limina visits (regular visits to Rome by bishops every five years); and establishing episcopal conferences and reviewing their decrees as required by canon law. Its membership consists of approximately 35 cardinals and archbishops from around the world. Current U.S. members of the Congregation are Cardinal William J. Levada, Prefect Emeritus of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington.
Pastoral and legal head and representative of a diocese.
A territory comprising one archdiocese, called the metropolitan see, and one or more dioceses, called suffragan sees. The Code of Canon Law spells out certain limited obligations and authority that the metropolitan archbishop has with respect to the dioceses within his province. The United States is divided into 33 ecclesiastical provinces.
A list of three candidates for a vacant office, including the office of bishop.
Stage 1: Bishops’ Recommendations
Every bishop may submit to the archbishop of his province the names of priests he thinks would make good bishops. Prior to the regular province meeting (usually annually), the archbishop distributes to all the bishops of the province the names and curricula vitae of priests which have been submitted to him. Following a discussion among the bishops at the province meeting, a vote is taken on which names to recommend. The number of names on this provincial list may vary. The vote tally, together with the minutes of the meeting, is then forwarded by the archbishop to the apostolic nuncio in Washington. The list is also submitted to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Stage 2: The Apostolic Nuncio
By overseeing the final list of names forwarded to Rome, the apostolic nuncio plays a decisive role in the selection process. He not only gathers facts and information about potential candidates, but also interprets that information for the Congregation. Great weight is given to the nuncio’s recommendations, but it is important to remember that his “gatekeeper” role, however, does not mean that his recommendations are always followed.
For Diocesan Bishops
- After receiving the list of candidates forwarded by a province, the apostolic nuncio conducts his own investigation into the suitability of the candidates.
- A report is requested from the current bishop or the administrator of a diocese on the conditions and needs of the diocese. If the appointment is a replacement for a diocesan bishop or archbishop about to retire, consideration will be given to the incumbent’s recommendations. Broad consultation within the diocese is encouraged with regard to the needs of the diocese, but not the names of candidates.
- The report is to include the names of individuals in the diocese with whom the Nuncio might consult and how to contact them.
- Previous bishops of the diocese are consulted.
- Bishops of the province are consulted
- The president and vice president of the USCCB are consulted.
- If the vacancy to be filled is an archdiocese, other archbishops in the United States may be consulted.
- At this point, the nuncio narrows his list and a questionnaire is sent to 20 or 30 people who know each of the candidates for their input.
- All material is collected and reviewed by the nuncio, and a report (approximately 20 pages) is prepared. Three candidates are listed alphabetically – the terna – with the nuncio’s preference noted. All materials are then forwarded to the Congregation for Bishops in Rome.
For Auxiliary Bishops
- A diocesan bishop must justify to the apostolic nuncio his need for an auxiliary bishop. This is easier if he is requesting a replacement for a retired or deceased auxiliary.
- The diocesan bishop prepares the terna, or list of three candidates, for his requested auxiliary and forwards it to the apostolic nuncio.
- The nuncio then conducts his own investigation of the priests on the diocesan bishop’s terna, sending the names to Rome with a report and his own recommendations.
- On average, this part of the process may take two to six months.
Stage 3: Congregation for Bishops
Once all the documentation from the nuncio is complete and in order, and the prefect approves, the process moves forward. If the appointment involves a bishop who is being promoted or transferred, the matter may be handled by the prefect and the staff. If, however, the appointment is of a priest to the episcopacy, the full congregation is ordinarily involved.
A cardinal relator is chosen to summarize the documentation and make a report to the full congregation, which generally meets twice a month on Thursdays. After hearing the cardinal relator’s report, the congregation discusses the appointment and then votes. The Congregation may follow the recommendation of the nuncio, chose another of the candidates on the terna, or even ask that another terna be prepared.
Stage 4: The Pope Decides
At a private audience with the pope, usually on a Saturday, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops presents the recommendations of the Congregation to the Holy Father. A few days later, the pope informs the Congregation of his decision. The Congregation then notifies the nuncio, who in turn contacts the candidate and asks if he will accept. If the answer is “yes,” the Vatican is notified and a date is set for the announcement.
It often takes six to eight months—and sometimes longer—from the time a diocese becomes vacant until a new bishop is appointed.
SAVANNAH, GA – July 8, 2020 – This morning, His Holiness Pope Francis announced his appointment of Reverend Stephen D. Parkes to serve as the 15th Bishop of the Diocese of Savannah.
“Today, Pope Francis has honored the Diocese of Savannah with the gift of our 15th bishop,” said the Very Reverend Daniel F. Firmin, Diocesan Administrator. “How fortunate we are to welcome a seasoned and gifted pastor! In his 22 years of priestly ministry, he has served in parishes, directed souls, and was the campus minister at the University of Central Florida for nearly a decade. His pastoral zeal and concern are immediately evident when meeting him.”
Bishop-Elect Parkes’ Episcopal Ordination will occur at the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist, Savannah on Wednesday, September 23rd. Further information will forthcoming.
To learn more about the Diocese of Savannah please visit www.diosav.org
Additional links for the announcement: