Search For New Bishop Continues

February 7, 2007
Reported By: Lee Peck

The Diocese of Lake Charles has now been without a bishop going on two years. While local parishioners have been patient, they can't help but wonder what is taking so long? KPLC's Lee Peck has the latest on the Vatican's search to appoint a new leader.

After serving the Diocese of Lake Charles more than four years, it was with heavy hearts that Southwest Louisiana said farewell to Bishop Edward Braxton. Nearly two years later, the Lake Charles Diocese's 90,000 Catholics are still waiting for the appointment of a new bishop.

"I just was wondering, I don't understand the process, but I just was wondering when are we going to get one. It's been too long for us to be without one," said Shelley Vanderhey.

Vanderhey's question is one Monsignor Harry Greig wishes he could answer. "Sometimes I have to smile within myself when people ask me that question directly -- 'When are we going to get a bishop?' -- I want to respond back, I'm the first one that wants to know that."

Monsignor Greig was appointed administrator of Diocese of Lake Charles by the College of Consulters -- a local board of 12 priests. Greig says despite the challenges of Hurricane Rita, the transition has been smooth.

"We've been able to move along in many different areas and to grow as a diocese," said Msr. Greig.

As local Catholics wait for a new bishop, the Vatican is working to fill the vacancy, with the Pope making the final decision. It is a process in which the local diocese has little involvement.

"We don't get daily feedback or any type of feedback of where we are in that process," said Msr. Greig.

The Diocese of Lake Charles is just one of 164 around the world that are currently without appointed leadership. However, Monsignor Greig says it is uncommon for the church to have a vacancy this long.

"We were pretty nip and tuck with Youngstown, Ohio. They just got a bishop last week and we were about the same amount of time being vacant," said Msr. Greig.

Lee Peck: 'So do you think it's just a matter of time before a new bishop is appointed?"

Msr. Greig: "I keep saying that, or keep thinking that and yet we don't know when it will be."

No doubt Catholics will be glad, once the uncertainty is over. "It's exciting, it's a new chapter in our lives," said Vanderhey.

The next leader appointed by the Vatican will be the third bishop for the Lake Area since Lake Charles became its own diocese in 1980.