RECORDED LIVE-STREAMED VIDEO OF 11-21-17 NEWS CONFERENCE (ABOVE) BEGINS AT 4:07. FOR COMPLETE YOUTUBE VIDEO CLICK HERE.
(PDF of complete news conference remarks by Bishop Gaydos and Bishop-Elect McKnight are at the bottom of the following article.)
By Jay Nies
Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop John R. Gaydos of Jefferson City and has appointed Father W. Shawn McKnight, 49, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, to be Bishop Gaydos’ successor.
Bishop-elect McKnight, upon his installation on Feb. 6, will become the fourth bishop of the Jefferson City diocese since its founding in 1956.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, announced the appointment Nov. 21 in Washington, D.C.
“As I see it, Pope Francis is not so much giving the Diocese of Jefferson City to me, but rather he is giving me to you in service to God to teach, sanctify and shepherd the people of our Local Church,” Bishop-elect McKnight said in remarks during a Nov. 21 press conference in Jefferson City.
Bishop Gaydos, 74, will serve as apostolic administrator of the diocese and work toward a smooth transition until Bishop-elect McKnight’s installation.
Bishop Gaydos plans to remain in Jefferson City in retirement.
He asked Pope Francis to appoint a successor for him, due health concerns that have diminished his energy.
Bishop Gaydos has known Bishop-elect McKnight for several years and is “extremely pleased that he will be the next bishop of our beautiful Diocese of Jefferson City.”
A man of letters
“We’re blessed,” said Bishop Gaydos. “Bishop-elect Mc-Knight … brings with him an abundance of gifts and experiences to continue and augment the ministry of Jesus Christ and His Church in the heartland of Missouri.”
Born on June 26, 1968, he grew up in a large Catholic family and attended Catholic schools.
He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Wichita on May 28, 1994.
He earned a Master of Arts degree and a Master of Divinity degree from the Pontifical College Josephinum (1993-1994) and earned a Licentiate of Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome in 1999.
In 2001, he earned a Doctor of Sacred Theology, also from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm, and wrote a dissertation on the permanent diaconate.
“Ever since then, I have been engaged in many activities for the formation of permanent deacons and the promotion of diaconal ministry throughout the country,” he said.
He later taught liturgy and homiletics at the Pontifical College Josephinum seminary in Worthington, Ohio.
From 2010 to 2015, he served in Washington, D.C., as executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.
“In this capacity I got to know a number of bishops throughout the country, including Bishop Gaydos,” he noted. “I had the privilege of working closely with Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis, who served as the Chairman of the Committee I staffed, especially in the development of the USCCB document Preaching the Mystery of Faith.”
Challenges and opportunities
Having served as a pastor at several parishes, Bishop-elect McKnight said he has seen how important it is for a bishop to:
• work in communion with the Pope and his brother bishops;
• work collaboratively with the priests, deacons, religious and laity of his diocese in the discernment of “the signs of the times,” and to implement a pastoral plan of action;
• foster a healthy, unified and resilient presbyterate for a flourishing, united and resilient Church;
• prioritize the pastoral care of the family;
• demonstrate a passion for evangelization, especially for young people;
• take seriously the moral commitment the U.S. Catholic bishops have made in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People;
• promote the works of charity as an integral part of the mission of the Church;
• make full use of the charisms of the diaconate;
• foster and uphold consecrated life as a special gift of God to the Church; and
• promote vocations to the diocesan Priesthood for service in the Church.
“In our time as a diocese, there are a number of challenging pastoral issues we are facing, but we are not alone or without the help we need,” he said. “We have the Deposit of Faith, the communion of the Church, and the charisms of the People of God.
“We must discern the difficult issues facing our families, our cities and towns, state, country, and our world not as individuals but together as a Church,” he said.
Working together brings joy to his heart.
“I hope and pray that in being a bishop for you, you may tangibly see my personal faith and love for Christ, and for you, His people,” he said.
The bishop-elect asked for prayers from the people of this diocese throughout the transition, and he assured them of his daily prayers for them.
“I entrust us to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose Presentation we celebrate today, to be our safeguard in the faith, now and forever,” he said.
Bishop-elect McKnight thanked God, especially for his priestly vocation; Pope Francis for appointing him bishop of Jefferson City; Archbishop Pierre, apostolic nuncio; Bishop Gaydos; Bishop Carl A. Kemme of Wichita; his brother priests; the people of Church of the Magdalen parish in Wichita, of which he is currently pastor; his family; and the people of the Jefferson City diocese.
“I pledge my loyalty to Pope Francis and to the College of Bishops in union with him, and I pledge with all my heart to work diligently with the priests, deacons, consecrated men and women, and the laity of the diocese to preserve our apostolic communion with the Universal Church,” he said.
“I pray that our local Church may fulfill the vision of Pope Francis for a missionary Church, reaching out to the margins with the beauty, truth and joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he stated.
Bishop-elect McKnight said he’s looking forward to getting to know the people here.
“I am especially eager to learn how we are evangelizing those in our community, especially the youth, and how we are promoting a culture of vocations among them,” he said.
“I anticipate that there will be opportunities for me to hear from the priests, deacons, religious and laity about your hopes and aspirations for our Church.”
He’s eager to help establish new friendships with members of other Christian communities, as well as leaders of non-Christian faiths, especially Jewish and Muslim communities.
He also wants to continue supporting the Church’s advocacy for sound public policy.
“With our governmental officials who hold the people’s trust in civil society, I plan to work cooperatively with them to bring about greater peace, justice, the defense of human life and dignity, and the protection of religious freedom within our communities,” he said.
Mutual call to prayer
Bishop Gaydos invited everyone to join him in praying for Bishop-elect McKnight “as he prepares for his sacred ordination as our bishop.”
“I know that you will give him a warm welcome, and I believe you will soon begin to see what a great gift we are receiving in this dedicated priest as he prepares to take up his episcopal ministry in our midst,” said Bishop Gaydos.