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Diocese gets 'homegrown' bishop

By Angela Ward award@news-journal.com
Oct. 1, 2012 at 11 p.m.


Pope Benedict XVI has named Monsignor Joseph Strickland as the fourth bishop for the Diocese of Tyler.

Strickland is the first "home grown" bishop of the diocese, said the Rev. Gavin Vaverek, pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Longview. Strickland grew up in Texarkana and Atlanta and has spent most of his priesthood in Tyler. He has also served parishes in Mount Pleasant and Nacogdoches.

Strickland, 53, said he is looking forward to his new position as shepherd of the diocese with 80,000 Catholics.

"I feel abundant joy," Strickland said. "It's awesome, but it's also a huge responsibility."

The diocese - an administrative division of the Roman Catholic Church - was created in 1986 and includes 33 East Texas counties that were formerly parts of the dioceses of Dallas, Beaumont or Houston.

"It's actually relatively rare for a bishop to be selected from the priests within a diocese," Vaverek said. "Usually a bishop comes in from elsewhere and has to invest time in getting to know the people and priests in the area. There will be less of a learning curve this time around, because he's already very familiar with East Texas."

Two of the three previous bishops came from San Antonio while the most recent, Bishop Alvaro Corrada, came from Washington, D.C. Corrada was reassigned from East Texas about 14 months ago to become the bishop of his native Puerto Rico.

"I've worked closely with Monsignor Strickland for many years and am happy that he has been selected as our new bishop," Vaverek said. "I believe this will be a very positive step for the diocese as we continue to establish a stronger Catholic presence throughout East Texas."

The Catholic Diocese of Tyler has grown in the 25 years since it was formed, but remains one of the smallest in the nation in terms of population.

Strickland said one of his first goals as bishop will be to get out of the "Tyler bubble" and become better acquainted with the priests and parishioners in other parts of the diocese. Longview, Tyler and Texarkana are the three largest cities within the diocese, but it also includes many smaller towns and rural areas.

"It's a big job, but I believe that with the grace of God and the goodness of the people of East Texas, I can continue to build on the foundations my predecessors have put in place," Strickland said.

While Strickland technically became the bishop as soon as the pope announced his appointment, a formal ordination is scheduled for 2 p.m., Nov. 28 at Caldwell Auditorium in Tyler.

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