By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
LUBBOCK — On a calm and temperate day on West Texas’ South Plains, the Diocese of Lubbock received and celebrated a new chief shepherd when Bishop Robert M. Coerver was ordained to the Episcopacy and installed as the third bishop of Lubbock at Christ the King Cathedral on Nov. 21.
Bishop Coerver, a Dallas native with many ties to the Diocese of Dallas, cited St. Ignatius of Loyola’s “Prayer of Self-Offering”—which the new bishop chose for his motto—during his well-received remarks after an inspiring ceremony that incorporated 20 bishops and drew more than 200 from the Diocese of Dallas.
But in a special moment after his episcopal ordination, installation and acceptance of well-wishers’ regards, Bishop Coerver reinforced the fundamental blessing of the day:
“It’s all about the Lord,” Bishop Coerver said. “It’s the mystery of His plan.”
Bishop Coerver, 62, embraces a diocese that serves 136,894 Catholics in 63 parishes and 25 counties in an area of 25,000 square miles.
The “giant’’ aspects of Texas made their way into the message of Most Reverend Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., who indicated while reading Pope Francis’ letter that the Holy Father spoke of the “giant side of Texas” in referencing the vast Diocese of Lubbock.
Mirth and spontaneous applause punctuated a ceremony that lasted more than two hours and included an enthusiastic tone, with hymns and touches that highlighted the personality of the Diocese of Lubbock, including cultural gifts presented to the new bishop that represented the heritage of 12 nations.
San Antonio Metropolitan Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller served as principal consecrator at the cathedral, which drew 1,200 including its overflow seating areas.
His homily focused on the day’s readings and the message of gratitude to God. In Spanish and English, the archbishop called for thanks to the Lord.
“You have heard again the call of Jesus—‘Follow me,’ ” Archbishop Garcia-Siller told Bishop Coerver.
The archbishop encouraged Bishop Coerver with Pope Francis’ message that bishops, “…must be pastors close to the people.”
Archbishop Garcia-Siller preached that a bishop must be merciful, compassionate and close to the flock in three ways—in front of them, among them and behind them.
He emphasized the pope’s instruction to bishops to “Be servants of mercy,” and never to forget the empowering gifts of the Holy Spirit and Mother Mary’s help in seeing the fruits of God’s love.
In becoming the third Bishop of Lubbock, Bishop Coerver succeeded the Most Rev. Plácido Rodríguez, CMF, the Bishop Emeritus of Lubbock and a co-consecrator with Bishop Greg Kelly of Dallas.
“He’s beginning a whole new ministry and rejoicing in it,” Bishop Kelly said. “It was just such a joyful occasion. It seems like such a good fit.”
Bishop Coerver, who served as pastor of St. Rita Catholic Church since 2010, is a Dallas native who grew up in St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church—where he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Thomas Tschoepe on June 27, 1980.
Bishop Coerver, a 1972 graduate of Jesuit College Preparatory School, where he was the valedictorian, had many friends present in Lubbock on Nov. 21.
Chris Taylor, a longtime friend of Bishop Coerver, said that he has tremendous confidence in the new bishop’s ability to adapt and meet new challenges.
“He puts his priorities into place,” said Taylor, a parishioner at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Plano who also often attends Mass at St. Rita. “I often referred to Father Bob as a double-edged sword, because he has both great intelligence and common sense.
“So much of being a bishop is problem-solving.”
Michael George, a St. Rita parishioner, said that being present at the Episcopal Ordination and Installation was an inspirational event that resounded as a great blessing.
“It was almost a surreal experience, having known Bishop Coerver for more than 20 years,” he said.
Bishop Coerver served as parochial vicar of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Plano.
He also served as pastoral administrator and pastor at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church in Rockwall, starting in 2005.
Diane Daniels, Director of Marriage Ministries for the Diocese of Dallas, said that she and her husband, Jim, have known Bishop Coerver for more than 30 years, as he served as the spiritual formation director for Jim’s diaconate formation.
“Bishop Coerver introduced us to St. Ignatius of Loyola’s spirituality,” said Daniels, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Lake. “He loves people. Families are very important to him. He’s a bridge-builder.”
Bishop Coerver spent time on the Holy Trinity Seminary faculty; headed the Diocese of Dallas’ Office of Sacramental Life, and served as president of the National Federation of Spiritual Directors (1991-93) among his many areas of ministry.
Thomas W. Poore, President of John Paul II High School in Plano, said that the celebration mirrored Bishop Coerver’s decades of service.
“It was reflective of his pastoral ministry in the Diocese of Dallas,” Poore said. “The Diocese of Lubbock is blessed to have a shepherd who models mercy.”
Sharing the day with their beloved pastor gave many Diocese of Dallas parishioners a memory they said they will cherish.
“It was an exciting, joyful time for Father Bob and for all of us,” St. Rita parishioner Thomas Moore said. “His homilies always have been outstanding. We have grown to know him and love him.”