'Without hesitation,' Bishop Rice accepts appointment to lead Springfield-Cape Girardeau

St. Louis Review
April 25, 2016

Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Edward M. Rice the bishop of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. The appointment was announced by the Vatican at 5 a.m. St. Louis time on April 26. Bishop Rice currently is auxiliary bishop of St. Louis.

When a representative of the Vatican called about the appointment, Bishop Rice was praying Evening Prayer at Holy Redeemer Church, where he lives.

"Without hesitation, I said 'yes'." Bishop Rice said in an interview.

It's fitting that Bishop Rice learned of his new appointment during prayer. After he was ordained bishop in 2011, he was told by Archbishop Carlson that he'd likely serve in St. Louis for a few more years and then get his own diocese. "I've been praying for my future diocese ever since," he said.

"I think that praying for the place I would eventually go to kind of gave me the mentality that when it finally did come to that moment, I was at peace with it," Bishop Rice said.

After the call, the bishop lit a candle at the Shrine of the Blessed Mother, prayed before the Blessed Sacrament, and returned to Evening Prayer.

"It was pretty simple, nothing dramatic at all."

The path to leading a diocese has been a journey for Bishop Rice, who said he always wanted to be a parish priest. He was ordained in 1987, and in 29 years served four years as an associate pastor and eight as pastor, at St. John the Baptist from 2000 to 2008. The majority of his vocation has been spent in other roles: teacher, vocations director, seminary administrator and, as auxiliary bishop, leader of a ministry team that includes about a dozen offices.

Whenever called to another, non-parish role, Bishop Rice would pray for a return to parish work. So when he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop in St. Louis "I just thought ... the moment has come to me and I just have to step up and do it."

In this step of his journey, Bishop Rice will again be a pastor, this time of almost 66,000 Catholics worshiping in 66 parishes across 39 counties of southern Missouri. He'll be the seventh bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau and succeeds Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr., who became the bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph in November.

In a statement released April 26, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson called Bishop Rice "a pastor first, one who carries the joy of the resurrected Christ into his daily ministry."

That ministry, Bishop Rice said, will continue across the Ozarks and Bootheel.

"I hope to continue on the good work of Bishop Johnston and Bishop (emeritus John) Leibrecht," he said. "I want to get to know the people, I want to be a pastoral bishop, I want to be able to bond with (the) priests and really help all of us move forward in proclaiming the Gospel."

The youth of the diocese, in particular, will be a focus. "That's one of the things I was always praying for — the young people — that they come to know Christ and be zealous for the faith. If we can make some inroads with our young people, that would be awesome."

In a statement issued through his new diocese, Bishop Rice said "I owe a debt of profound gratitude to Archbishop Carlson, the priests, the religious and the good lay people of the Archdiocese of St. Louis."

Serving Springfield-Cape Girardeau "seemed like just the next natural step in the progression of all of this, of saying 'yes' to the will of God," Bishop Rice told the Review.

The Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau will live stream their press conference at 10:00a.m. on Facebook, here. 

Bishop Rice will be installed a 2 p.m. on June 1 at Cathedral of St. Agnes in Springfield. A farewell celebration to include a Mass of Thanksgiving and a casual reception is scheduled for May 23 at 5 p.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.


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