The Book of the Gospels is held over Bishop Michael Fisher's head during his June 29 ordination as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington. (CS photos by Jaclyn Lippelmann)
The Book of the Gospels is held over Bishop Michael Fisher's head during his June 29 ordination as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington. (CS photos by Jaclyn Lippelmann)

Following ancient Church tradition and accompanied by the applause of family and friends, Bishop Michael Fisher was ordained to the Order of Bishop June 29 as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington during a Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

About 1,000 people – including Catholics from across the archdiocese, along with representatives of other faiths, and civic leaders – attended the more than two-hour liturgy where the new bishop promised “to give untiring time to build this Kingdom of God.”

“The appointment of Bishop Fisher is a grace we have received from God and a blessing we have received from the Holy Father, Pope Francis,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl said. 

Cardinal Wuerl was the principal consecrator and celebrant of the Mass. Bishop Barry C. Knestout, the bishop of Richmond and a former auxiliary bishop of this archdiocese, and Washington Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville were the principal co-ordaining bishops. 

Concelebrants included a dozen bishops; and more than 140 priests. Among the other bishops participating in the episcopal ordination were Bishop Roy Campbell Jr., auxiliary bishop of Washington; Bishop Francisco Gonzalez, a retired auxiliary bishop of this archdiocese; Baltimore Auxiliary Bishops Mark Brennan and Adam Parker; and others.

Bishop Fisher noted that he and Bishop Knestout “have been friends since the seminary, as a mater of fact he was the first seminarian I ever met.” He also noted that Bishop Brennan “was my vocations director” when the future bishop was studying for the priesthood.

Cardinal Wuerl said that it was appropriate that the episcopal ordination took place on the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul. The cardinal – noting that “Peter was chosen to lead the Apostle and Paul carried the Word to the Gentiles” – said Bishop Fisher “is a new successor to the Apostles.”

The cardinal told the new bishop that he must “stand precisely in the midst of the Church as an icon of Christ.” He also urged Bishop Fisher “to teach, to lead, to sanctify … (and) be a steward of the mysteries of God.”

The episcopal ordination of Bishop Fisher, Cardinal Wuerl said, “has very special meaning for the Church of Washington. He is a son of this archdiocese who was formed in the faith here and served all his priestly ministry here.”

Bishop Fisher, 60, is a native of Baltimore. After studying at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, he was ordained as a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington in 1990 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle by Cardinal James Hickey, then the archbishop of Washington. 

Following his ordination, he served as a parochial vicar at Sacred Heart Parish in La Plata. Then-Father Fisher served as pastor of Holy Family Parish in Hillcrest Heights from 1995-99, and as pastor of St. John Neumann Parish in Gaithersburg from 1999 to 2005. That year, he was among 10 priests of the archdiocese named as monsignors by Pope John Paul II in one of the pontiff’s last official acts before his death. 

Busloads of parishioners from the parishes where he served – including St. Mark the Evangelist in Hyattsville, where he has been in residence for the past 14 years – attended the liturgy to watch their parish priest become a bishop.

Also in 2005, Bishop Fisher was named as the archdiocese’s Vicar General for the Apostolates, helping to oversee education, ethnic ministries, justice and service, parish life and youth ministry. The next year, then-Archbishop Wuerl appointed him as Episcopal Vicar for Clergy and Secretary for Ministerial Leadership for the archdiocese, work that he will continue as an auxiliary bishop.

“May you have the spirit of joyful hope as you preach the Word,” Cardinal Wuerl told Bishop Fisher.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the United States, read the papal mandate appointing Bishop Fisher as auxiliary bishop of Washington. Playing on the new bishop’s last name, Archbishop Pierre noted that “things have not changed since the time of Jesus. Jesus keeps calling fishers.”

“I am certain you will be a blessing for the clergy and laity of this local Church and even beyond,” Archbishop Pierre said prior to reading the letter by Pope Francis.

In his letter to his “beloved son,” Pope Francis noted that Bishop Fisher is “endowed with outstanding qualities of mind and heart,” and urged the new bishop to “make use of charity, the dean of all virtues that never fails.”

When asked to give their consent to the appointment of their new auxiliary bishop, the faithful in the National Shrine responded with a long and hearty ovation.

The rite of ordination for the new bishop included ancient prayers, incense, chanting, the laying on of hands and anointing  with chrism. 

Following an ancient tradition, Cardinal Wuerl asked the bishop-elect if “by the grace of the Holy Spirit,” he would “guide the holy people of God in the way of salvation as a devoted father and sustain them.” The new bishop promised that he would.

Cardinal Wuerl, prior to imposing hands on Bishop Fisher, prayed that “the kindness of almighty God, in providing for the welfare of the Church, will grant an abundance of his grace for this chosen one.”

After the Prayer of Ordination, Bishop Fisher received the symbols of his office – the Book of the Gospels, which represents his responsibility to preach; a ring, signifying his fidelity to the Church; a miter that represents his call to be a herald of truth; and crosier representing his role as spiritual shepherd – the basilica again rang out with applause as the new bishop was seated with his brother bishops on the altar.

At the end of the Mass, Bishop Fisher walked through the cathedral, holding his shepherd’s staff and blessing family, friends and the members of the Church of Washington who came to celebrate their new auxiliary bishop.

He expressed his “deepest appreciation and gratitude for [Pope Francis’s] confidence in me” and thanked Cardinal Wuerl for his example of serving the people of the archdiocese with zeal. He also told his brother priests that “words fail me as I try to express my affection for all of you.”

The new bishop called the Archdiocese of Washington “a most vibrant and diverse diocese” and “an incredible place to celebrate ministry.” He said he was happy to have his episcopal ordination take place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception because “since a young age, I have come here to the shrine to take in the faith.”

“This is a very precious moment for me to be ordained a bishop in Mary’s house,” Bishop Fisher said. “I beg Our Lady’s continued prayers and I ask Our Lady of Guadalupe to grant me a heart with a zeal for souls.”