October 23, 2009

Father Paul Etienne appointed new bishop of Cheyenne

Then-Father Paul Etienne prays part of the eucharistic prayer during a March 19 Mass at St. Joseph Church in Jennings County. The Mass celebrated the completion of the restoration of the church, where Father Etienne once served as a sacramental minister. (File photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

Then-Father Paul Etienne prays part of the eucharistic prayer during a March 19 Mass at St. Joseph Church in Jennings County. The Mass celebrated the completion of the restoration of the church, where Father Etienne once served as a sacramental minister. (File photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

By Sean Gallagher

Father Paul D. Etienne has been appointed the new bishop of Cheyenne, Wyo., by Pope Benedict XVI.

The appointment of the priest from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis was announced on Oct. 19 in Washington by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

On the day of the announcement, Bishop-designate Etienne was introduced at a press conference in Cheyenne, where he had traveled to meet with diocesan staff and members of the local media.

In a statement released afterward, Bishop-designate Etienne thanked Pope Benedict and Father Michael Carr, who had served as the administrator of the Cheyenne Diocese since its previous shepherd, Bishop David L. Ricken, was named bishop of Green Bay, Wis., in July 2008.

Then his thoughts turned to the archdiocese where he had spent most of his life.

“I also wish to thank the people of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, especially my brother priests, and the people who have allowed me to serve them these past 17 years as a priest,” Bishop-designate Etienne said. “Most especially, I thank my parents and my family. These are the people who have formed me into the man and priest before you today.”

Bishop-designate Etienne said that his appointment and trip to Cheyenne put on hold a fishing trip he had planned with a priest friend. This circumstance led him to reflect on Jesus’ calling of the fishermen who were his first Apostles.

“Jesus has stepped into the boat of my soul and said, ‘Put out into the deep and lower your nets for a catch,’ ”

Bishop-designate Etienne said. “… And as the first Apostles caught so many fish that it filled two boats to the point of sinking, I pray he will now bless the labors of the people of this diocese.”


Established in 1887, the Diocese of Cheyenne is home to more than 53,000 Catholics. It has 36 parishes and 36 missions. There are 52 active priests, 17 retired priests, 22 deacons and 15 women religious.

In an Oct. 19 statement, Bishop Ricken said, “While I have never met Father Etienne, his biography seems to have prepared him well for service as the eighth bishop of Cheyenne. I want him to know that he is coming to a diocese with good and faithful people, priests, deacons and religious, and a beautifully scenic and vast territory.”

Since July, Bishop-designate Etienne, 50, had served as pastor of St. Paul Parish in Tell City, where he was born and grew up, and St. Mark Parish in Perry County. His ordination to the episcopate is expected to occur in early December in Cheyenne.

Ordained in 1992, he received his first appointment as associate pastor of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis and associate vocations director for the archdiocese.

Bishop-designate Etienne served for three years as archdiocesan vocations director and for two years as vice rector of Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis.

He served at different times as pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany and St. Simon the Apostle and St. John the Evangelist parishes, both in Indianapolis.

He also served as the vice postulator for the beatification and canonization cause of the Servant of God Bishop Simon Bruté.

A graduate of Tell City High School, Bishop-designate Etienne managed a clothing store there before going to college.

He attended Bellarmine College in Louisville, Ky., and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1986 from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. He also attended the university’s St. John Vianney College Seminary.

In 1986-87, Bishop-designate Etienne served with the U.S. bishops’ conference as assistant coordinator for papal visits in preparation for Pope John Paul II’s September 1987 trip to the United States.

From 1988-92, he attended the Pontifical North American College in Rome and earned a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University there. In 1994-95, he attended the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, earning his licentiate in spiritual theology.

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein wished Bishop-designate Etienne well.

“All the clergy and faithful of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis are proud of Father Etienne,” Archbishop Buechlein said in a statement. He added that the bishop-designate and “all of the people of the Diocese of Cheyenne have our prayers. We are grateful for all that he has done for our archdiocese, and we’ll miss him.”

Among the Catholics of central and southern Indiana who will miss him, Bishop-designate Etienne’s parents may miss him the most.

St. Paul parishioners Paul and Kay Etienne of Tell City learned of their son’s episcopal appointment a couple of days before it was made public.

“I’ve been crying for two days,” Kay Etienne said. “I have mixed emotions. I’m proud of him. We’re going to miss the heck out of him.

“And it’s going to give us the chance to get out and go traveling to be with him. There are so many, many feelings. But pride has got to be number one. And I hope God doesn’t send me to the devil because of it.”

Ever the proud father, Paul Etienne thought that his son might someday be named a bishop.

“But when the call came, it was just a shock,” he said. “And then for him to be appointed [to a diocese] so far away from home, in mission country, I’d call it, it sort of made the hair stand up on the back of your neck, and ripples go up and down your spine, and the whole nine yards.”

Bishop-designate Etienne’s sister, Benedictine Sister Mary Nicolette Etienne, a member of Our Lady of Grace Monastery and a teacher at Holy Name School, both in Beech Grove, is certain that her brother will do a good job in his new ministry.

“He’ll do his very personal best,” Sister Mary Nicolette said.

“I do believe that saying that ‘God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called.’ I just believe that with Paul, and that he’s going to receive grace from the office, and that if God wants him to do that, he’s going to do his very best.”

Bishop-designate Etienne also has two brothers, Bernard and Zachary, who are priests of the Evansville Diocese.

Father Zachary Etienne, who serves as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Ireland, Ind., is keenly aware of the great changes that will be happening in his brother’s life.

“It’s going to be life-changing in so many ways,” he said. “When you think you understand life, you don’t. It’s going to go in another direction. And you just say, ‘By your grace, we’ll pull through this, too.’ ”

Changes will be happening, too, for the members of St. Paul Parish in Tell City, who were just getting used to the happy fact that a son of the parish was serving as their pastor.

Benedictine Sister Mary Emma Jochum, who has served as the director of religious education at the parish for 17 years, knows the parish, the Etienne family and Bishop-designate Etienne well.

“It’s going to be super bittersweet,” she said. “The [parishioners] were elated and they just loved his presence, his sermons from Sunday to Sunday, his ability to approach people.

“… It’s really Cheyenne’s gain and our loss.”

Sister Mary Emma knows that she is losing a pastor who was a man of prayer that helped her grow in her own life of faith.

“He will definitely be a person of prayer,” she said. “That’s one thing that struck me that I did not know about him until I saw him in action as a pastor—how much he is a person of prayer.”

Father William Marks was ordained the same year as Bishop-designate Etienne and has come to know his classmate well over the past 17 years. He succeeded him as pastor of St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis in 2008.

“It’s such an honor to know someone who is being named a bishop,” he said. “Knowing Paul, he will make a wonderful bishop.

“He has a great love for the Church. He has a great love for Christ. He has a great love for people. And he is a man of prayer.”

(Next week: Bishop-designate Paul Etienne talks in depth with The Criterion about his episcopal appointment and his hopes for the future.)

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