PUEBLO, Colo. (CNS) — The Texas priest named by Pope Francis to be the fifth bishop of Pueblo said his appointment was unexpected, but he could see God’s providence in the move.
“From the time I received the call from the nuncio telling me that Pope Francis had appointed me bishop of Pueblo, I knew that my life had changed,” said Bishop-designate Stephen J. Berg, a priest of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas.
He made the comments at a news conference at the Pueblo Pastoral Center Jan. 15, the same day Pope Francis named him to head the Diocese of Pueblo.
The appointment was announced Jan. 15 in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican’s nuncio to the United States…..
Bishop-designate Berg is currently serving as administrator of the Diocese of Fort Worth and will continue in the post until Bishop-designate Michael F. Olson is ordained a bishop and installed to head that diocese Jan. 29.
In Pueblo, the Texas priest was introduced by Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs, who has been apostolic administrator of the Pueblo Diocese since its previous bishop, Bishop Fernando Isern, resigned last June for health reasons.
“This is a big day not only for the Diocese of Pueblo but for the church throughout Colorado,” Bishop Sheridan told a room full of priests, diocesan employees and others gathered to meet the newly named bishop. “His Holiness, Pope Francis, has given you a bishop, a good bishop — and a Texan!”
Bishop-designate Berg said he was “humbled and deeply moved” about his appointment.
“I know Colorado to be a beautiful land of beautiful people and I look forward to serving the faithful of Pueblo as their shepherd in Christ,” he said. “I eagerly anticipate our future together as we grow and build our local church.”
His episcopal ordination and installation Mass will be Feb. 27 in Pueblo, with Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila as the main celebrant.
The “consolation” in such a life-changing appointment, Bishop-designate Berg said, “was the word ‘Pueblo.”
“My background is growing up in eastern Montana in the wide-open spaces. My happiest moments in ministry were in the rural ministry of northwest Texas,” he explained. “And then it occurred to me that I would be coming back to Colorado, where I spent three years studying piano at the University of Colorado in Boulder. So the best times of my life seem to be coming together, and they seem to fit.”
He has bachelor of music degree in piano performance from Boulder and a master’s degree in music from Eastern New Mexico University in Portales. He was music teacher, then worked for several years in the retail nursery industry before being ordained a priest in 1999.
He served several parish assignments, as parochial vicar and pastor. In 2012, he was named moderator of the curia and appointed parochial administrator of Holy Name of Jesus Parish, also in Fort Worth.
In December 2012, he was elected diocesan administrator by the diocesan college of consultors, after Fort Worth’s bishop, Bishop Kevin W. Vann, was installed to head the Diocese of Orange, Calif.
At the news conference, Bishop-designate Berg said he would do what was necessary to win over the people of Pueblo, including switching allegiances when it came to professional sports teams.
“The Dallas Cowboys are off the table,” he joked. “In my family, we either root for the Denver Broncos or the Minnesota Vikings.”
“I’m very much at peace with this situation. I promise everyone in the diocese that you will have all of me; you will have all that I can give,” he added.
Switching to Spanish, he said that, although Spanish is his second language, he has been to Mexico many times, has visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, and takes a deep interest in Hispanic ministry.
“We’ll be looking together at Pope Francis’ program for the new evangelization, understanding that this will not be done the same here as it was in Texas,” he said.
He noted that, while he was still adjusting to the altitude and dryness of Colorado — having just arrived the previous day – he appreciated being able to see the stars clearly in the sky the night before.
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Ambuul is assistant editor of The Colorado Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Colorado Springs Diocese.
Copyright (c) 2014 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops