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New bishop eager for start in Buffalo

As tumult continues to shake the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, a new leader has been called upon to see the organization through the troubling times. Early Tuesday morning, Washington, D.C., Auxiliary Bishop Michael William Fisher was appointed by Pope Francis as the 15th bishop of the diocese in an announcement from the Vatican.

Fisher, through a diocese press release, said he was “deeply humbled and grateful” to be coming to the Queen City.

“I am eager to become part of this vibrant faith community, with a proud and distinguished legacy of Catholic education, ministry and civic service. … Though the challenges that currently confront the Diocese of Buffalo are many and significant, they are not equal to the resolve of so many committed lay women and men, devoted priests, deacons and religious across Western New York, who are no less determined to reveal God’s transformative love that has the power to bind every wound, renew and make us whole,” he said. “We would do well to recall the promise in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians: ‘No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.’ “

Fisher, 62, a native of Baltimore and the oldest of five children born to Margo and the late William “Bill” Fisher, was ordained to the priesthood in 1990. He was assigned to Sacred Heart parish in La Plata, Md., and in 1995 as a pastor of Holy Family parish in Hillcrest Heights, MD. Four years later, he became pastor of St. John Neumann parish in Gaithersburg, Md.

“At my core I am a parish priest and pastor,” he said. “All I ever wanted to be when finally discerning and accepting the call to ministry was to serve a parish family, to walk with its members and accompany them on their own journey toward holiness; to share in their joys, their heartaches and to have some part to play in revealing the incomparable love and grace of God as they experience life’s defining moments.”

Throughout his 30 years of priestly ministry, Fisher has served on various boards and committees of the Archdiocese of Washington. Much of Fisher’s ministry has involved the continuing education of priests, particularly in aiding new pastors in their roles and the planning and implementation of ongoing clergy training via convocations and retreats.

Fisher comes to Buffalo at a time of great uncertainty and plenty of concern. Since 2018, the diocese has been rocked by scandal and accusations of failing to protect children from clergy sex abuse. Just last week, the New York state attorney general filed a lawsuit against the diocese for its practice of shifting priests linked to abuse to different churches in Western New York.

In addition, the diocese filed for bankruptcy in February after being named in hundreds of abuse lawsuits filed in state courts.

Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger, who oversees the Albany diocese and oversaw the Buffalo organization after the resignation of Bishop Richard Malone last December, also praised the appointment of Fisher. “This is a blessed and wonderful day for the good people across Western New York,” he said. “In Bishop Michael Fisher, they have been given a priest, pastor and bishop whose passion to serve, to listen, to heal and comfort have distinguished his 30-year ministry. … I pledge my fraternal support to Bishop Fisher and my abiding love and care for the family of faith of this Diocese now and in all the days ahead.

Fisher’s installation is to take place on Friday, Jan. 15 at 2 p.m. in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Buffalo. His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Metropolitan Archbishop of New York, will preside and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, will be in attendance.

“Today the Archdiocese of Washington is privileged to share a generous gift with the Diocese of Buffalo with Pope Francis’ appointment of Michael William Fisher to become the 15th Shepherd of that local Church,” said Wilton Cardinal Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, D.C. “Bishop Fisher is an exceptionally compassionate and skilled servant of the Church. … May the Lord bring joy to his heart and to the hearts of the people who will welcome him.”

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