Pope Francis has named three priests of the archdiocese with extensive experience as parish pastors as auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese of New York.
They are Bishop-designate John Jenik, longtime pastor of Our Lady of Refuge parish in the Bronx; Bishop-designate John O’Hara, director of strategic pastoral planning for the archdiocese and the former pastor of St. Teresa of the Infant Jesus parish on Staten Island; and Bishop-designate Peter Byrne, the pastor of St. Elizabeth’s parish in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan and former longtime pastor of Immaculate Conception parish on Staten Island.
Their appointments were announced at 6 a.m. on June 14 in Washington, D.C. by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Cardinal Dolan, in a statement, said he received the news of the new auxiliary bishops, the first to be named in his five-year tenure as Archbishop of New York, “with much joy.”
The cardinal called all three “seasoned pastors of the archdiocese, with years of acclaimed ministry in all areas of the archdiocese.”
“Msgr. Jenik and Father Byrne have lived and served most of their priesthood in Hispanic parishes,” the cardinal said. “They will be especially attentive, I know, to the needs of this ever-growing community.”
The cardinal hosted the newly named bishop-designates at a luncheon at his residence the same day they were named.
Cardinal Dolan, in an interview with CNY, said the three priests of the archdiocese just chosen as bishops by Pope Francis are good examples of the type of priests the pope is seeking for the role of bishops, with pastoral service a key attribute.
“He likes men who love their people, who live simple, sincere, faithful lives,” the cardinal said, “and who are known to be on the street with their people, who are particularly attentive to the poor.”
“He has a great solicitude for the ethnic diversity of a given diocese, and two of the three auxiliaries are renowned for their long work in the Latino community.”
He said Pope Francis is seeking bishops “who are esteemed by their brother priests, and he likes parish priests who are also diocesan priests, meaning that they are attuned to the pastoral challenges of the diocese,” and are generous with their time and active in leadership roles in archdiocesan initiatives.
The three bishops-designate, in brief interviews with CNY, each seemed to express genuine surprise at their selections as bishops.
For his part, Bishop-designate Jenik, who is 70, said he thought that his time for consideration as a bishop had passed. “I never thought it would happen,” he said.
His 44 years of pastoral service—his entire priesthood—at parishes in the Bronx, both as a longtime pastor and as vicar of the Northwest Bronx, gives him a wealth of experience from which to draw upon in his new ministry.
“From my experience, maybe I have something to offer, from all that time in the Bronx,” he said.
Bishop-designate Byrne, 62, was another who couldn’t quite fathom his selection, even as he accepted calls of congratulations from friends and co-workers on his cell phone as he was being interviewed.
When he learned of his appointment, the bishop-designate said he expressed his surprise to Cardinal Dolan.
“I never thought of it,” he said of the possibility of becoming a bishop.
Still, as a priest who has spent more than two decades in inner city ministry, including 19 years at Immaculate Conception parish on Staten Island before his assignment to St. Elizabeth’s last summer, he was sanguine about his new responsibilities.
“I’ll put one foot in front of the other, wherever God leads me, because I didn’t expect this to happen,” he said.
Even Bishop-designate O’Hara’s current strategic pastoral planning responsibilities, especially relating to the Making All Things New initiative, point in large measure toward parish life, where he has spent much of his priestly ministry.
“We’re talking about the Church, about the parish, about the people…The skills you have as a pastor can come to bear on that,” he said.
Describing himself as “kind of a simple guy, not all that complicated,” Bishop-designate O’Hara, 68, said he finds it important to respond affirmatively when the Church seeks his assistance “because the call comes through the bishop from Christ Himself.”
The bishops-designate will be ordained as bishops at a Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Monday, Aug. 4, the feast of St. John Vianney, patron saint of priests. Cardinal Dolan will be the principal celebrant and consecrating bishop.
Also serving as co-consecrators will be the archdiocese’s other two active auxiliary bishops, Bishop Gerald T. Walsh, vicar general, and Bishop Dominick Lagonegro, vicar for the northern counties of the archdiocese.
Brief biographies of the bishops-designate are below:
Bishop-designate John Jenik has served since 1985 as pastor of Our Lady of Refuge parish in the Bronx, where he previously was parochial vicar for seven years. He also has served since 2006 as regional vicar for the Northwest Bronx, a position he continues to hold.
His first two parish assignments were also in the Bronx: St. Thomas Aquinas, 1974-1978, and St. Jerome’s, 1970-1974. His assignment to St. Thomas Aquinas marked the beginning of 40 years of dedicated service toward providing housing for the poor and fighting crime, corruption, drugs and prostitution.
After his ordination by Cardinal Terence Cooke in St. Patrick’s Cathedral on May 30, 1970, he was appointed to the Catholic University of Ponce, Puerto Rico, for the summer months to learn the Spanish language.
He studied for the priesthood at Cathedral College and St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie. He earned a master’s in education from Fordham University in the Bronx.
Born to John and Helen (Kelly) Jenik in Manhattan, he attended Immaculate Conception School and Cathedral College High School, both in Manhattan.
He has been elected to serve on the Priests’ Council; appointed to the College of Consultors; and named to a number of special archdiocesan committees, including education, health care and housing. He was named a monsignor in 1995.
Bishop-designate John O’Hara has served as director of the archdiocese’s Office of Strategic Pastoral Planning since its founding in July 2012. In that capacity, he’s led the Making All Things New parish planning process that is currently under way.
Previously, he had served for a dozen years as pastor of St. Teresa of the Infant Jesus parish on Staten Island. He also was parochial vicar there from 1992 to 2000. Before that, he was parochial vicar of St. Charles parish, Staten Island, 1988-1992.
Ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal John O’Connor in St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Dec. 1, 1984, he was first assigned to St. Augustine’s parish in New City, 1984-1988. He studied for the priesthood at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie.
Born to John and Helen (Quinn) O’Hara in Jersey City, N.J., he attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Ridgewood, N.J., and Don Bosco High School in Ramsey, N.J. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., with a concentration in English.
From 1967 through 1980 he worked in the field of journalism and broadcasting.
Bishop-designate Peter Byrne has served as pastor of St. Elizabeth’s parish in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan since last July. Before that, he had served since 1995 as pastor of Immaculate Conception parish on Staten Island, where he previously was administrator for a year, along with St. John the Baptist de La Salle, also Staten Island, which has since closed.
He also was administrator of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Bronx, 1992-1994. He served as parochial vicar of St. Teresa’s, Sleepy Hollow, 1984-1992.
Following the World Trade Center tragedy of September 11, 2001, he volunteered his priestly service to bereaved families for many weeks at the Ground Zero morgue.
He is also fluent in Spanish.
Born to John and Dorothy (Nolan) Byrne in Manhattan, he attended Immaculate Conception School in Manhattan and Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Fordham University in the Bronx with a concentration in history/social studies.
He entered St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, in 1974 and was granted a leave of absence in 1977. He then taught at Holy Name of Jesus School in Valhalla and Bishop Ford High School in Brooklyn. He returned to St. Joseph’s Seminary in 1983 and was ordained by Cardinal John O’Connor in St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Dec. 1, 1984.