LOS ANGELES — Known for his online videos that tackle everything from the saints to the “new atheism,” as well as the latest blockbuster films, Father Robert Barron will have a new responsibility: auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, one of the cultural capitals of the world.
“It was with enormous surprise that I heard the word of my appointment last week, but it is with a humble and joyful heart that I have accepted it,” said the Chicago native in a July 21 statement.
According to the Angelus, the online version of The Tidings, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, “While a date hasn’t been set, Msgr. Joseph Brennan, Msgr. David O’Connell and Father Barron are expected to be ordained bishops this fall.”
The newspaper stated that a press conference announcing their appointment is scheduled for 10am local time on Tuesday at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
“I am grateful to Pope Francis for his confidence in me and to Archbishop [Jose] Gomez for his willingness to allow me to minister in this beautiful, richly diverse and spiritually vibrant Church,” said Bishop-Elect Barron.
A priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago, the bishop-elect said he has visited California on various occasions for different speaking engagements.
“So although I cannot say that I know this archdiocese well, I have indeed been able to taste and see some of its goodness.”
Most of Bishop-Elect Barron’s priesthood has been served under the leadership of Cardinal Francis George, who died earlier this year, after having been archbishop of Chicago from 1997 until 2014.
Ordained to the priesthood in 1986 for the Archdiocese of Chicago, Bishop-Elect Barron said it was his “mentor,” the late Cardinal George, who taught him “the central importance of evangelizing the culture, bringing the power of Christ to the arenas of politics, law, the arts, higher education, the media and entertainment.”
“This has been my preoccupation over the years, informing my work as teacher, writer and evangelist,” he said, adding: “I cannot imagine a more exciting field for this sort of endeavor than Los Angeles, one of the great cultural capitals of the world.”
Since 2012, Bishop-Elect Barron has served as the rector and president of the Chicago Archdiocese’s Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake.
However, he is perhaps best known as the founder of the online initiative Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, as well as the producer of the documentary series Catholicism. His latest series, Pivotal Players, is currently in production.
The late Cardinal George’s successor, Archbishop Blase Cupich, extended his congratulations to Bishop-Elect Barron, saying the appointment as bishop in L.A. “brings honor to the Archdiocese of Chicago” as well as to Mundelein Seminary.
“He has been a singular blessing to our local Church and is recognized nationally for his great abilities and talents. We know that he will continue to make us proud as he begins his new ministry on the West Coast,” he said.
The July 21 announcement named Father Barron as auxiliary bishop for the California archdiocese alongside two others, Msgr. O’Connell and Msgr. Brennan, both already based in Los Angeles. The news coincided with the resignation of L.A. Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Wilkerson, who had reached the retirement age of 75.
A native of County Cork, Ireland, Bishop-Elect O’Connell, ordained 1979, has worked to end inner-city violence in L.A. and is a member of the archdiocese’s pastoral committee on immigration.
“The greatest joy of my life is being a pastor,” said the Irish-born bishop. “I think our parishes and schools are powerful instruments of transformation of people’s lives and of neighborhoods. I hope that as an auxiliary bishop I can continue to be a good pastor for the people.”
Bishop-Elect Brennan, ordained in 1980, has been serving as moderator of the curia for the L.A. Archdiocese.
“I am blessed to be able to continue to serve in such a beautiful community of faith deeply rooted in our Church’s mission of mercy and service,” he said, citing the “wonderful good works” helping those in need throughout the archdiocese.
L.A. Archbishop Gomez also praised the new appointments, as the bishops will help to oversee the ministry of some 5 million members, spread over 287 parishes in the archdiocese.
“I think it is clear that in appointing these new auxiliary bishops, Pope Francis really understands what the Church needs — not just here in Los Angeles, but also in the United States and across the Americas,” said Archbishop Gomez in a statement responding to the appointments.
“I believe each of these new auxiliary bishops will help us in our mission here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles — the beautiful mission we have of sharing the love of God and the message of Jesus Christ and promoting human dignity and mercy and justice in our society.”