Friday, December 23, 2005

New Bishop in Nashville

From the Columbia Daily Herald :

Maury — and 38 other Middle Tennessee counties — have a new bishop.
The Vatican announced Tuesday Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to name the Rev. David R. Choby, a Nashville native, as the 11th bishop of the city’s diocese. Choby, 58, has been serving as the diocese’s administrator since Nov. 2, 2004, after Bishop Edward Kmiec was installed as the bishop of Buffalo, N.Y.
Choby said one of the immediate challenges he would face as the new bishop of Nashville is finding a way to serve a growing Catholic population with a shrinking number of priests.
“I feel very comfortable with being Bishop of the Diocese of Nashville,” Choby told The Associated Press. “I have so much support.”
He said he’s confident that the Diocese of Nashville will be able to properly serve its population, which includes about 75,000 members in 51 parishes and 3 missions across 38 Middle Tennessee counties. The number of seminarians in Middle Tennessee studying to become priests has grown in the past few years from four to 15, he said.
“I believe we may soon have 20 to 25 seminarians,” Choby said. “Plus, we’ve got a lot of very talented lay people that serve the diocese well.”
He was first notified of the Pope’s selection on Dec. 6, when Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the Holy See’s representative in the United States, called him.
Nashville-area priests and Catholics said Choby will serve the Diocese of Nashville well, having grown up in the area. The bishop-elect attended Cathedral School and St. Edward School and graduated from Father Ryan High School in 1965.
“He’s from this community. He knows Nashville; he knows the people,” said Lily Ayala-Berlyn, vice president for advancement at the Dominican Campus in Nashville.
Choby was ordained a priest for the diocese in 1974 and studied church law at a pontifical university in Rome.
He said he was at first reluctant to accept the diocesan administrator position because he was content serving St. John Vianney in Gallatin, where he has been serving as pastor for 16 years.
“Initially I thought about declining the election, but then I really sensed that it would be fine,” Choby said. “I talked to a couple of priests, and they were very enthusiastic. People were very supportive.”
In 1999, the Diocese of Nashville became embroiled in the nationwide Catholic priest abuse controversy when two ex-Catholic priests confessed to molesting children when they worked in the Nashville Diocese.
A settlement was reached earlier this month in a lawsuit against the diocese brought by two young men who claimed they were molested by former priest Ed McKeown when they were children. The specifics of the agreement were not made public.
Both men argued that the diocese knew McKeown, who is now serving a 25-year prison term, was a sexual predator and didn’t warn the community about the possible danger when he left the priesthood.
Choby said the issue was not solely a Catholic one, but one that “clouds our whole society.”
“Certainly I will make the effort to do anything I can do to respond to the victims,” he said.
The Rev. John Kirk, associate pastor of St. Philip Catholic Church in Franklin said Choby, who he has known for more than 30 years, is an excellent choice for bishop.
“It’s a good Christmas present,” he said.

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