Bishop Leaving LC - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Bishop Leaving LC

March 15, 2005

By Theresa Schmidt

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Southwest Louisiana, Bishop Edward Braxton, is moving on to a new assignment. The Vatican is transferring Braxton to Belleville, Illinois.

It's been scarcely four years since the celebration during which Bishop Braxton took over the Lake Charles Diocese, followed by his installation as bishop the next day. Yet, already the Vatican has announced Braxton will move on to a new assignment as bishop of Belleville, Illinois-- a city just outside of St. Louis, Missouri.

As Braxton met members of his new flock in Belleville, he reflected on time spent with the people of Southwest Louisiana. "They have made a permanent impact on my life and ministry. I will carry these dear brothers and sisters in my heart always."

The announcement is a shock and a surprise to religious and lay people throughout the diocese. Even though father Aubrey Guilbeau admits, it's not really unexpected: "He is a well-educated and highly experienced bishop and priest and we knew that he would probably be moving on to other dioceses to share those gifts and talents."

Father Charles McMillin,  who was ordained by Braxton,  says he has been a true shepherd to this diocese: "One who has a genuine and deep concern for the spread of the gospel and the people of God. The fact that he calls every family who has had a death in their family in this diocese. He does many of those phone calls every week and speaks with them personally. He has been a shepherd in their sorrow, in their joy, in their excitement and in their coming to know and their learning."

Monsignor Jace Eskind explains measures are in place to continue business as usual throughout the diocese: "The setup is such that life and ministry continue without interruption."

Bishop Braxton says if he were to choose a symbolic reminder of his life and ministry in Lake Charles it might be the "Fountain of Life"  sculpture in front of the diocesan residence. Among other things, the three figures suggest faith, hope and love. The bishop asks that when people gaze on its shimmering beauty they remember and pray for him.

A diocesan administrator will be appointed until Braxton's successor is named--which could be in several months or a year or more. Braxton returns to Lake Charles tomorrow and will hold a news conference. The bishop expects to be here through Holy Week and Easter season. 

 Braxton will serve as the 8th bishop of the southern Illinois diocese. Braxton previously was an auxiliary bishop nearby in St. Louis. Diocesan leaders say his installation will likely be in May or June. Braxton succeeds Wilton Gregory, who is now the Archbishop of Atlanta.

For more details on Braxton's departure and local reaction click here.

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