By Seth Gonzales
The Texas Catholic
More than two weeks after the departure of former Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell for Rome, Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly is holding down the fort as the Diocese of Dallas waits to find out who will become its next bishop.
On Sept. 27, Pope Francis named Bishop Kelly as the diocese’s apostolic administrator. It is a temporary appointment that will allow him to govern the diocese until a new bishop is installed. The appointment ensures that the diocese will continue to function seamlessly during its transitional phase.
“My main priority is to just try to keep things moving in the same direction as Bishop Farrell had it moving in,” Bishop Kelly said. “All the essential functions of the church continue on such as parishes, schools, the capital campaign, etc. It’s not a time to start anything new or begin any new major projects. Anything like that should be left to the determination of the next bishop.”
Bishop Kelly said he will not be that person, emphasizing that his role as auxiliary bishop has more to do with providing assistance, rather than ensuring a line of succession.
“It’s almost like a parochial vicar in a parish,” Bishop Kelly said. “When the pastor leaves, the parochial vicar doesn’t automatically become the new pastor because he’s typically somebody that doesn’t have that experience. (Immediate succession) only happens if a diocese has a coadjutor bishop.”
The Diocese of Dallas has had three coadjutor bishops in its history.
While canon law does not mandate a timetable for a new bishop to be named, it does require that a new bishop be installed within 60 days of being named to fill a vacant episcopal see.
Bishop Kelly said he doesn’t know who will be picked, but believes it will likely be someone who is already a bishop.
“Oftentimes for dioceses as large as Dallas, they would look for someone who already has experience being a bishop, someone who is not in their first year of being a bishop,” Bishop Kelly said.
Bishop Kelly was installed as auxiliary bishop of Dallas on Feb. 11, 2016.
In mid-September, he was summoned to Rome for a seven-day gathering colloquially known as “baby bishop school,” where new auxiliary, coadjutor and ordinary bishops are given brief seminars on how to govern a diocese in their respective roles.
“The opportunity to be with twelve other bishops from the United States, including auxiliaries from Los Angeles, Brooklyn and Philadelphia, has given me a broader feel for the American church,” Bishop Kelly said.
As he waits for Bishop Farrell’s successor, Bishop Kelly encouraged all Catholics to continue to pray for Bishop Farrell and his new role in Rome, as well as his eventual successor.