Bishop Fisher greets a parishioner after celebrating a July 1 Mass at St. Mark the Evangelist in Hyattsville. (CS photos by Jaclyn Lippelmann)
Bishop Fisher greets a parishioner after celebrating a July 1 Mass at St. Mark the Evangelist in Hyattsville. (CS photos by Jaclyn Lippelmann)

Though it was not really a surprise to many parishioners at St. Mark the Evangelist in Hyattsville to hear that their priest-in-residence, Msgr. Michael Fisher, was named a bishop by Pope Francis, the new title still took some getting used to. When Father Roberto Cortés, St. Mark’s pastor, announced a reception for Monsignor Fisher after Mass, he was met with cries of correction from the congregation.

“Bishop! Bishop!” many people said.

“Bishop! I keep forgetting that,” Father Cortés said.

Newly-ordained Washington Auxiliary Bishop Fisher celebrated one of his first Masses as bishop at his “home” parish of St. Mark on July 1, two days after his episcopal ordination on June 29.

Bishop Fisher has lived in residence at St. Mark - just a few blocks from where he grew up - since 2005 as a monsignor, and where he will continue living as a bishop.

“I use to come to Mass here with my grandmother,” Bishop Fisher said. “I lived with her for a number of years only about two blocks from here. In many ways, this is my home, and I’ve always felt it.”

At the beginning of Mass, Bishop Fisher thanked the congregation for their support over the past many years and especially in the last few days.

“I’ve worshipped with you over these past 14 years,” he said. “What a joy to be with you on this day.”

In his homily, he spoke about how the Gospel of St. Mark emphasizes the humanity of Jesus, and how, in the day’s gospel, Christ enters fully into our human condition when he heals the woman from her hemorrhage and raises the little girl from the dead.

Through the sacraments, Bishop Fisher said, Christ appeals again to our humanity through visible and tangible signs, like the water of Baptism and the laying on of hands of Holy Orders.

“I just had hands laid on me at the ordination on Friday,” the bishop said. “One of the great memories I’ll have is when the cardinal poured chrism oil on my head. I still smell of the chrism from the oil.”

Though Bishop Fisher said he was shocked when he received the news he would be a bishop, for many parishioners it was a prayer answered.  

“For the last six years, I’ve been praying for him to be a bishop,” said George Guschwan. “The simplicity yet profundity of his homilies sends a beautiful spiritual message in a way that captures our understanding and enables us to really make another step of faith.”

A Bengali parishioner, Renu Quiah, said she has known Bishop Fisher for nearly 30 years.

“I saw you as a seminarian,” she recounted saying to Bishop Fisher. “I saw you as a priest; I saw you as a monsignor; I saw you as a bishop. I’ll see you a pope before I die!”

Many parishioners used similar words to describe their new bishop: calm, generous, holy, human, humble, a listener.

“He’s a saint, but we don't need to tell him that,” Maria Teresa Sanchez said. “Saints don't need to be told they are saints.”

“Humble is the word,” Anne Behneman said.

“He’s a humble man, a holy man, he brings in a very simple way the word of God,” Guschwan echoed. “We’ll keep him humble.”

Father Cortés said the parish is thrilled the local man was chosen for bishop.

“We are so happy because he grew up in this neighborhood,” Father Cortés said. “We pray for him that he will dispatch his office with greatness.”

St. Mark the Evangelist is a multicultural parish with parishioners from more than 47 different nationalities, including people from Africa, Bangladesh, China, India, Korea, Japan, and South America. Father Cortés said Bishop Fisher’s experience in this microcosm environment will help him in his new role.

“Just by being here, he has the experience of diversity,” Father Cortés said. “It’s just the Catholic Church here under one roof.”

“There’s a huge variety of different cultures here and it will give him a very good perspective on all the different cultures that exist in the Washington area,” Behneman said.

At the reception, Bishop Fisher noted how his heart has always been in parish work, and residing and serving at St. Mark has allowed him to live that out.  

Despite his new responsibilities, the bishop said he will continue working with priests and deacons in his role as Episcopal Vicar for Clergy and Secretary for Ministerial Leadership for the Archdiocese of Washington and celebrating his regular scheduled Mass at the parish.

“I will be spread a little thin,” Bishop Fisher said, “but the joy is knowing I can come back here and be at rest with my family at St. Mark.”