New Grand Rapids Bishop: David John Walkowiak, 59

By Matt Vande Bunte
April 18, 2013

David John Walkowiak, a Cleveland priest, is the new Grand Rapids bishop.

David John Walkowiak will be the 12th bishop of Grand Rapids. The successor to Bishop Walter A. Hurley is a priest in the Diocese of Cleveland, according to an announcement from the Diocese of Grand Rapids.

Walkowiak (pronounced wall-COE-vee-ack) is set to be introduced to the public at a 10 a.m. Thursday, April 18, press conference at Cathedral Square, 360 S. Division Ave. He is scheduled to be ordained as a bishop and installed in Grand Rapids on June 18, which is when Hurley will retire.

You can watch live video of this morning's press conference here. The June 18 ordination Mass and installation will be a ticketed event, with details announced later.

“I am grateful to Pope Francis for entrusting me with this apostolic office as bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids,” Bishop-elect Walkowiak said in a statement.

“In accepting this appointment I renew my trust in the Lord who asks me to set out again on a new mission. I thank God for providing me with the opportunity to serve this local church, which I pray will be a blessing to its people.”

Hurley, 75, submitted his resignation last spring after reaching the mandatory retirement age for bishops, spokesman Carl Apple said. The replacement process began under Pope Benedict XVI and now is concluding under Pope Francis, he said.

Walkowiak, 59, is a Westlake, Ohio native ordained in 1979 as a priest for the Diocese of Cleveland. He currently pastors St. Joan of Arc Parish in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. He has a doctorate in canon law and has taught in seminary.

Catholic Central High School student Caitlin Saladin said she learned Wednesday from her religion teacher that a new bishop would be named this morning.

“New leaders seem cool. Like, I mean the new pope was cool, so maybe a new bishop will be cool, too,” said Saladin, who is not Catholic. “Maybe it will be cause for celebration, I’m not really sure.”

Hurley was 68 in 2005 when he was appointed by Benedict as the 11th bishop of the diocese, which covers 11 West Michigan counties and includes 82 parishes and more than 30 schools serving about 180,000 Catholics. He replaced Bishop Kevin Britt, who died suddenly the previous year.

During Hurley’s tenure - the shortest for a Grand Rapids bishop since the 1940s, aside from Britt's - the diocese moved its headquarters from Burton Street SE to the $22 million Cathedral Square.

On Hurley's watch, the church also demolished St. Andrew’s School, across from the downtown cathedral, and is implementing a restructuring program to merge some parishes.

Some MLive readers Wednesday expressed glee at the announcement of a new bishop, criticizing Hurley over management of diocesan finances, for example. But Coleen Redmond, a St. Thomas parishioner, said current leadership has fostered a West Michigan church more vibrant than in other places where she has lived.

She expects more of the same from the new bishop.

“We’ve been anticipating that they would be naming a new bishop so it doesn’t come as any surprise. And I’m sure that whomever they choose, they’ll choose someone for our community,” Redmond said.








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