New Reno Bishop Was Inspired to Become a Priest After Meeting Blessed Stanley Rother
Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg used Father Rother’s chalice to celebrate his first Mass as a priest on July 16, 1989.
The Vatican announced Tuesday that Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg to lead the Catholic Diocese of Reno, Nevada.
Bishop Mueggenborg, 59, has served as an auxiliary bishop and vicar general of the Archdiocese of Seattle since 2017.
In Reno, he will replace Bishop Randolph Calvo, 69, whose resignation was accepted by Pope Francis on July 20.
Growing up in Oklahoma in the 1970s, Bishop Mueggenborg spent time as an altar server, boy scout and tuba musician in a marching band. After being named an Eagle Scout in 1980, he decided to study geology at Oklahoma State University.
During his trips to study rock formations and other natural phenomena, Bishop Mueggenborg said that he would discuss his Catholic faith with his geology classmates.
“I began to realize that discussions of faith were of greater interest than conversations of science. Those discussions, combined with the practice of praying the Divine Office, led to becoming the chief ‘Catholic Resource’ for questions by classmates concerning the faith,” he wrote in an autobiographical article posted to a website where he formerly served as pastor.
But Bishop Mueggenborg said that he was still closed off to the possibility of becoming a priest at that time, until he was asked to be an altar server at a Mass for his aunt and uncle’s wedding anniversary.
“The priest who celebrated the Mass was Father Stanley Rother. I knew nothing of him, not even his name, prior to that Mass and yet was captivated by the deep spiritual presence that surrounded him,” Bishop Mueggenborg said.
“There was a spirit of profound peace and love [that] filled the room when he entered. I noticed that presence, and it made an impact on me. He possessed the qualities of character that I desired most yet had not found in my secular pursuits of college life. As a result of that Mass, I began allowing myself to once again consider the possibility of becoming a priest.”
A few months after this encounter, Blessed Stanley Rother was martyred in the rectory where he served as a missionary priest in Guatemala in 1981.
“The witness of his radical commitment to Jesus Christ and his love for the people left a lifelong impression on me. I will be forever grateful to him for that impact. To honor the influence he had on my journey to priesthood, I used his chalice to celebrate my first Mass as a priest on July 16, 1989,” he said.
After Bishop Mueggenborg was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1989, he served in St. Mary, St. John and St. Pius X parishes in Tulsa and worked with high-school students as the chaplain of Bishop Kelley High School until 1994.
He later served as a chaplain of the University of Tulsa’s St. Philip Neri Catholic Newman Center from 1998 until 2001, before taking over as pastor of St. Clement parish and leading the diocesan synod office until 2005.
Bishop Mueggenborg moved to Rome in 2005. He had previously studied in the city as a seminarian and earned a licentiate in biblical theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
As a priest, he returned to the Pontifical North American College, where he had once been a student, to minister as the assistant director of formation and later as the vice rector for the administration until 2011.
Upon his return to the United States, he served as pastor of Christ the King parish from 2011 to 2017 before Pope Francis appointed him as an auxiliary bishop of Seattle in 2017.
His episcopal consecration took place on May 31, 2017. For his episcopal motto, he chose Misericordes Sicut Pater, meaning “Merciful Like the Father.” This had been the theme of the Jubilee Year of Mercy the year before.
In Reno, Bishop Mueggenborg will oversee a diocese of 80,000 Catholics, with 28 parishes, five Catholic schools and 70 priests and deacons. Bishop Calvo lifted the Diocese of Reno’s general dispensation from attending Sunday Mass on July 1 due to a significant decline in the number of COVID-19 cases in the city.