Monday, October 20, 2008

Bishop to leave Catholic Diocese of Duluth to become archbishop of Cincinnati

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Bishop Dennis Schnurr, who has been instrumental in growing the number of priests in the Catholic Diocese of Duluth, soon will be leaving his post to become the archbishop of Cincinnati.

Bishop Dennis Schnurr, who has been instrumental in growing the number of priests in the Catholic Diocese of Duluth, soon will be leaving his post to become the archbishop of Cincinnati.

Pope Benedict XVI tapped the 60-year-old bishop for the position Friday. As archbishop, he’ll oversee an archdiocese serving about 500,000 Catholics, a giant step up from the roughly 60,000-member population he serves in Duluth.

Schnurr will serve alongside Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk, who will retire and turn over the reins in 2009.

In Duluth, he leaves a legacy of ushering new priests into the church.

“Bishop Schnurr gave our diocese great hope, and that was manifested in a dramatic increase in the number of seminarians to the priesthood,” said the Rev. Eric Hastings, the diocese’s vice chancellor and a priest at St. Benedict’s in Duluth. “He just had a way of inspiring young people.”

One of those is Duluth seminarian Drew Braun.

“His advice and encouragement really helped me decide I wanted to be in the seminary,” Braun said, calling Schnurr’s departure “very difficult to take because he was like my first father here.”

When Schnurr arrived in Duluth from Sioux City, Iowa, in 2001, eight men were enrolled in the seminary. Today there are 23. Cincinnati, with more than eight times the Catholic population, has only 29 seminarians.

Schnurr probably will remain in Duluth until sometime in November, at which point a new priest will be elected to serve as the diocesan administrator until the pope names a new bishop, said Kyle Eller, the Duluth diocese’s communications director. The process usually takes about a year.

Schnurr’s replacement will have challenges waiting for him, Hastings said. One is the aging population spread across the Iron Range.

“These are parishes where you see more funerals than there are baptisms,” Hastings said. “As a bishop, you have to make sure people still have a sense of hope.”

Challenges will be waiting for Schnurr in Cincinnati, where the archdiocese is still reeling from the priest sexual abuse scandal, said Dan Andriacco, the Cincinnati church’s communications director. The archdiocese set up a $3 million fund as part of a 2003 plea agreement to end a prosecutor’s investigation of whether the church failed to report sexual abuse of children to authorities, the Associated Press reported. The church pleaded no contest and was fined $10,000.

“The sexual abuse situation in the church is a tragedy and is a deep wound, and deep wounds take a long time to heal,” Schnurr told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

But David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told the News Tribune Schnurr has done little to curb abuse.

“I think he has done virtually nothing to distinguish himself from the vast body of bishops who continue to do the absolute bare minimum when it comes to child safety,” he said from St. Louis. “There are roughly 15 bishops around the country who have posted the names of all the proven, admitted and credibly accused predators on their diocesan Web site and sadly, he is not one of them.”

Yet Cincinnati’s Andriacco said his archdiocese is looking forward to Schnurr.

“I don’t think he is going to get bored here,” he said, adding the hope that Schnurr will help increase the number of priesthood candidates as did in Duluth. “If he could work his same magic here, that would be wonderful.”

Duluth News Tribune

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