January 9, 2015

Bishop Coyne appointed to head Vermont diocese

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne is introduced as the 10th bishop of the Diocese of Burlington, Vt., at a news conference at diocesan headquarters in South Burlington on Dec. 22, 2014. Behind him is a portrait of the first bishop of Burlington, Bishop Louis De Goesbriand. (Photo courtesy Glenn Russell/Burlington Free Press)

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne is introduced as the 10th bishop of the Diocese of Burlington, Vt., at a news conference at diocesan headquarters in South Burlington on Dec. 22, 2014. Behind him is a portrait of the first bishop of Burlington, Bishop Louis De Goesbriand. (Photo courtesy Glenn Russell/Burlington Free Press)

BURLINGTON, Vt. (CNS)—Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Indianapolis to head the Diocese of Burlington, Vt.

Bishop Coyne, 56, succeeds Bishop Salvatore R. Matano, who was installed last January as the ninth bishop of Rochester, N.Y.

The appointment was announced on Dec. 22 in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Coyne, 56, has been an auxiliary bishop in Indianapolis since 2011 and was vicar general. Most recently, he served in episcopal ministry and assisted in special responsibilities in the New Albany, Seymour and Tell City deaneries and as administrator of Sacred Heart and St. Augustine parishes, both in Jeffersonville.

He will be installed during a 2 p.m. Mass on Jan. 29 at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington.

(Related: Evening Prayer and reception will serve as a farewell for Bishop Coyne)

“I could not have wished for a better assignment,” he said at a Dec. 22 news conference at diocesan headquarters in South Burlington.

In his first Vermont public appearance as Burlington’s newly named bishop, Bishop Coyne showed a deep sense of pastoral concern, fidelity to the Church, a desire to listen respectfully to the needs of laity and clergy of the statewide diocese, readiness to continue using current technology for outreach and a sense of humor.

When a reporter’s phone rang during the news conference, the bishop—who declared his devotion to Dunkin’ Donuts and the New England Patriots—was unflustered. “If it’s my mother, tell her I’ll call her back,” he said with a smile.

He expressed his appreciation to the people of the Indianapolis Archdiocese, saying his four years there have given Vermont Catholics “a better servant, pastor and man of the Church.”

He added, “While I will miss the great people of Indiana and all of my friends there, I am ready to commit myself fully to the work of the Catholic Church here in Vermont.”

(Related: See a photo gallery of Bishop Coyne's time in Indianapolis)

Bishop Coyne said his approach is one of “respectful listening,” learning from the people what the Church is doing well and what it’s not doing well. He plans to take the same approach in Burlington, traveling to parishes and institutions to meet with all who would like to speak to him, Catholic or not. He also hopes to foster healthy relationships with the state’s elected officials and ecumenical leaders.

And he said he is ready to experience what Vermont has to offer, including skiing.

“Whether on the slopes or in a parish, I know I will take a spill and make mistakes,” he said, and when that happens, he asked for the help of Vermonters.

Acknowledging that he is not coming to Vermont with preconceived answers to what the Church needs to grow and flourish, he said he would be here “to serve as a faithful disciple and believer in Jesus Christ.”

Msgr. John J. McDermott, who has served as apostolic administrator of the Burlington Diocese since last January, said in a statement: “The priests, religious and laity of the Diocese of Burlington have been praying all year for this announcement. We are grateful to Pope Francis for sending us Bishop Coyne, a shepherd with such a wealth of experience and a commitment to proclaiming joyfully the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis said he was delighted the Vermont diocese would be entrusted to Bishop Coyne’s pastoral care, but added: “I shall miss his companionship and personal gifts. I know that all the members of the archdiocese join me in thanking God for his unselfish labor as archdiocesan administrator and auxiliary bishop.”

Pope Benedict XVI appointed then-Father Coyne as an auxiliary bishop for Indianapolis on Jan. 14, 2011. Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein and two other bishops ordained him a bishop on March 2 of that year. Bishop Coyne was the first auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese since 1933.

He dedicated much of his early time in central and southern Indiana to administrative ministry, including serving for more than a year as the archdiocese’s apostolic administrator after Archbishop Buechlein was granted an early retirement in the fall of 2011.

Born on June 17, 1958, in Woburn, Mass., Bishop Coyne was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston on June 7, 1986. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, a master’s of divinity from St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass., and a licentiate and a doctorate in liturgy from the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Rome’s St. Anselm University.

He has worked as a lifeguard at the YMCA, at Sears in the sporting goods department and as a musician. He worked full time as a bartender before entering the seminary.

He served as associate pastor of St. Mary of the Hills Parish in Milton, Mass., before pursuing graduate studies in Rome. He also has been pastor of Our Lady of Help of Christians Parish in Newton, Mass. From 2006 until his appointment to Indianapolis, he was pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Westwood, Mass.

During his time as a priest in Boston, he also was a professor of liturgy and homiletics, the director of Office of Worship and spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston.

He wrote and hosted four television series for the Watertown, Mass.-based CatholicTV network; one such series, “Sacred Space,” was nominated for a regional Emmy award.

During a question-and-answer period with reporters at the diocesan headquarters, when the issue of clergy sexual abuse was raised, Bishop Coyne said he is “ready to help and listen” to victims and their families, and to “continue to move on in the good way we are now.” Policies to protect children are effective, he added.

Bishop Coyne—who said he hopes to empower more women to be in Church leadership—encouraged efforts in evangelization and social outreach, saying “that’s what Catholics do; Catholics feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless.”

In November, Bishop Coyne was chosen chairman-elect of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Communications.

Having kept a dedicated daily presence on both Facebook and Twitter for a current 10,000 followers, as well as producing a regular podcast, the bishop’s outreach has been featured on NBC’s “Today” show and in the nationally broadcast coverage of the Indianapolis 500, at which he delivered the pre-race invocation for the past three years.

Bishop Coyne described social media as a means to spread the Good News. A website, like a Church, requires people to go to it, but with social media, he can reach out to people.

He said he hopes to “ramp up” digital media in the Burlington Diocese, saying many elderly people—including his 86-year-old mother—use computers and related technology.

Established in 1853, the Diocese of Burlington is home to 118,000 Catholics and comprises the entire state of Vermont. It has 73 parishes, 75 diocesan priests, 40 religious order priests, 43 permanent deacons and 86 women religious who minister in the diocese. †

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