AUSTIN – Habemus episcopum! (We have a bishop!)
Pope Benedict XVI has named Auxiliary Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston as Bishop of the Diocese of Austin. Bishop Vásquez will be the fifth bishop of Austin and the first Mexican-American to lead the diocese.
"I wish to thank Pope Benedict XVI for the confidence he has placed in me in naming me shepherd of the Diocese of Austin," he said. "I also offer prayers of gratitude this day for Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza and the priests, religious and laity of the Archdiocese for forming me as a bishop. Most of all, I give thanks to God for the gift of priesthood, which has brought me such joy for 25 years. I trust in the Holy Spirit to enlighten me for this next step in my journey."
The Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Pietro Sambi, made the announcement in Washington on Tuesday morning.
Bishop Vásquez, 52, was ordained as a bishop in January 2002 and has served as Galveston-Houston’s auxiliary bishop since then. Since 2006, Bishop Vasquez has been the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston's Vicar General/Chancellor, overseeing the administrative operations of the largest diocese in Texas and the 11th largest diocese in the U.S. He has also served as Episcopal Vicar for Hispanics and he has been the Archdiocesan Liaison for Youth during his years in Galveston-Houston.
Bishop Vásquez was born July 9, 1957 in Stamford, Texas to Juan and Elvira Vásquez (deceased). He is the oldest child and has three brothers: Robert Vásquez, Samuel Vásquez (deceased) and James Vásquez and two sisters: Cynthia Martínez and Consuelo Elrod. He attended public schools in Stamford and Abilene and then studied theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston from 1976 to 1980. He attended the Gregorian University, North American College, in Rome from 1980 to 1985. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of San Angelo on June 30, 1984 by Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza.
In the Diocese of San Angelo he served as associate pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Odessa from 1985 to 1987; as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Fort Stockton from 1987 to 1997 and as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in San Angelo from 1997 to 2002.
The Mass of Installation will be March 8 at a yet-to-be determined location.
Bishop Vásquez succeeds Bishop Gregory Aymond who was appointed Archbishop of New Orleans by Pope Benedict XVI last year. Since that time, Msgr. W. Michael Mulvey has been leading the diocese as Administrator. On Jan. 18, Pope Benedict XVI named Msgr. Mulvey as Bishop of Corpus Christi.
The Diocese of Austin includes 127 parishes and missions in 25 Central Texas counties spread over 19,000 square miles. There are approximately 500,000 Catholics within the diocese.