LA’s four newest auxiliary bishops underlined Church unity as a top priority in remarks at an introductory press conference Tuesday morning.
“One of the big challenges is that our society draws so many lines for people to fall into this or fall outside of that,” said Father Brian Nunes. “I’m being called to remind people that they’re part of this family of God, and to maybe get to know people a little bit better.”
“I think the greatest opportunity and challenge is accompanying people, to walk with people where they’re at and to guide them in a way that gives a fuller sense of the truth,” said Father Matthew Elshoff, OFM, Cap. “It’s our greatest hope, our greatest opportunity to show that everyone is created equal in God’s image and likeness, and the dignity that they have is something to be appreciated.”
The press conference at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels came hours after Pope Francis appointed four local priests as new auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
The bishops-elect are: Elshoff, 67, pastor of St. Lawrence of Brindisi Church in the Watts area of South Los Angeles; Nunes, 58, the LA Archdiocese’s vicar general and moderator of the curia; Msgr. Albert Bahhuth, 66, pastor of Holy Family Church in South Pasadena; and Father Slawomir Szkredka, 49, professor of biblical studies and coordinator of human formation at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo.
The four bishops-elect will be ordained by Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles during a ceremony on Sept. 26 at the Cathedral.
During the press conference, each bishop-elect spoke about the surprise they felt about being appointed as bishops by Pope Francis and the complicated feelings surrounding the responsibility of their new assignments.
“Since it’s not something that I wanted for myself, being asked to do it — that’s how I knew it was from the Holy Spirit,” said Bahhuth. “How can you say no to him?”
“I feel like St. Peter in chapter 5 of the Gospel of Luke, who humbly fell to Jesus’ knees and said ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man,’ ” said Szkredka. “But like Saint Peter, I also hear the word of Jesus: ‘Do not be afraid; from now on, you will be catching people.’ I lower the nets at Jesus’ word, and I trust that the Lord will accomplish in me what he is calling me to do.”
Archbishop Gomez said he was pleased that the bishops-elect’s varied backgrounds reflected “the beautiful diversity of the Catholic community in Los Angeles.” Bahhuth is from Lebanon, Szkredka is from Poland, Nunes is the son of immigrants from Hong Kong, and Elshoff grew up locally in La Cañada Flintridge.
“As many of you know, we are a Church of immigrants, with faithful men and women and families who come from every continent and many nations,” Archbishop Gomez said. “Our new bishops reflect that diversity.”