Interview with our Bishop-Elect Medley

I just came across this interesting article on the website of the Archdiocese of Louisville. Father Medley named Bishop of Owensboro

by Glenn Rutherford ~ December 17, 2009

Pastor of St. Bernadette Church in Louisville will be ordained and installed on Feb. 10

    Father William F. Medley, currently pastor of St. Bernadette Church in Eastern Jefferson County, has been named by Pope Benedict XVI to be the next bishop of the Diocese of Owensboro, Ky.

    And no one could be more surprised about it than Bishop-elect Medley.

    The announcement of the papal appointment was made Tuesday, Dec. 15, in Owensboro, where Bishop-elect Medley appeared at a news conference with retired Owensboro Bishop John J. McRaith and with Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz and Archbishop Emeritus Thomas C. Kelly, both of the Archdicocese of Louisville.

    Bishop-elect Medley, 57, will be ordained and installed as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Owensboro at 2 p.m. CST on Feb. 10, 2010, at the Owensboro Sportscenter.

    In a brief interview at his office at St. Bernadette parish earlier this week, Bishop-elect Medley said he received a call about the appointment on Dec. 3. On the other end of the phone line was Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Vatican’s Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.

    The nuncio began the conversation by talking about a recent visit to the Holy Land, the bishop-elect recalled.

    “He talked about standing by the Sea of Galilee, and he noted that the apostles had to submit to the will of Jesus,” Bishop-elect Medley said. “Now, I knew who Archbishop Sambi was, but I’d never talked to him,” he said, “and then he told me that ‘we’re all called to abandon ourselves to the will of the Father, to the will of the Lord.’ Then he said ‘the pope wants you to accept the call to be the next bishop of Owensboro.’”

    At that point, Bishop-elect Medley said, he paused, not knowing exactly how to reply.

    “I don’t know if the position was on the radar screens of any other priests, but it wasn’t on mine, and I was just speechless,” he recalled. “I knew there was a vacancy in Owensboro, but I didn’t think that had anything to do with me. I was just silent.”

    And in response to the silence, the nuncio said “Father, do you accept?”

    “And I replied by saying, ‘Archbishop, I’ve never said no to anything the church has asked me to do,” the bishop-elect said. “So yes, I accept.”

    It was the proverbial bolt out of the blue, the pastor noted.

    “I mean, I was so surprised that during the conversation I never even thought to get up and close the office door,” he said. “I just wasn’t conscious that this would be that type of call.”

    All of a sudden, he said, his life as a pastor in the Archdiocese of Louisville had taken a remarkably surprising turn.“

    I realize that my life has changed dramatically in the past 11 days,” he said. “It’s one thing if you see changes on the horizon and can kind of plan for them. But when it’s a total blind-side, well, I don’t know what to tell you.”

    Bishop-elect Medley said that, over the years, he’d been fortunate enough to have friends and colleagues, parishioners and fellow priests tell him from time to time that he’d make a good bishop.

    “I took them as being sincere, and I took that as the wonderful affirmation that it was,” he said. “But it never seriously crossed my mind that it could happen, because there are so many good and wonderful and talented priests. ... I could make you a long list of those right here in the Archdiocese of Louisville that I would have proposed for this position long before myself.

    “So while people saying that was very affirming, it was never a realistic consideration on my part,” he acknowledged.

    The bishop-elect was born Sept. 17, 1952, in Marion County, Ky., a part of the state known as its Catholic Holy Land. He was baptized at St. Francis of Assisi Church in St. Francis, Ky., attended St. Thomas Seminary High School in Louisville and received a bachelor of arts in philosophy and psychology from Bellarmine University in Louisville. His master of divinity degree was obtained from the St. Meinrad School of Theology, and Bishop-elect Medley was ordained to the priesthood on May 22, 1982, at the Cathedral of the Assumption.

    Self-effacing and affable, the bishop-elect will bring to his new position a wealth of pastoral experience gleaned from service to a panoply of Archdiocese of Louisville parishes.

    “If I have a strength, I suppose what I bring is a broad pastoral experience,” he said. “When I was first a pastor it was in the West End (of Louisville) and involved bringing together three churches to create St. Martin de Porres Church. Then I was at St. Joseph (the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto Cathedral) in Bardstown, a large rural parish with a large school and a high school. And here I’m part of a new parish (St. Bernadette) straddling the line between Oldham and Jefferson Counties.

    “I bring a love for being a pastor of the people,” he added. “As a pastor I think I’ve been a competent administrator, though I don’t know what that means on a diocesan level.”

    The bishop-elect has told both Archbishop Kurtz and Archbishop Kelly that he intends to make use of their expertise and experience.

    “I’ve said I’ll be calling on them a great deal,” Bishop-elect Medley said. “They will be my mentors.”

    When the shock of the new appointment wore off a bit — the bishop-elect contended during the interview that it still hasn’t faded completely — Bishop-elect Medley began considering what he might do to plan for his new position.

    “I was in a fog for a couple of days; I have to admit it,” he said. “I received the call on Thursday, and by Saturday morning I got around to trying to make a list of things to do. I’m a great guy for making lists and the like, but I just couldn’t think.”

    So he decided to find a copy of the rite of ordination of bishops — something he found in a book he had on hand — and that has helped, he said, to bring his thoughts together.

    “I began to spend time reading that and praying over that,” he said, “and it was a great solace. The church rituals are rich and wonderful and tell you a lot of theology. So virtually every day I sit and read that over again, and I consider (what) the prayer and that ritual entail.

    “Prayer is the only definitive preparation that I know of,” the bishop-elect admitted. “I’m going to be on a pretty steep learning curve, I suspect.”

    He already knows quite a bit about the demographics of his new diocese — it has 79 parishes, he said, and 60 or more of them have 500 or fewer households. “For the most part all of the parishes there are small,” he said. “There are a handful of sizable parishes in Owensboro, Henderson and Paducah.”

    And since the Diocese of Owensboro’s inception in 1937, it has pretty much been the norm for pastors there to serve more than one parish, he said.

    As for early plans as the new bishop, Bishop-elect Medley said his learning curve will be “a process of listening and praying, of getting to know the sisters and priests and lay people. It’s a healthy diocese; there are no skeletons in the closet. There’s a healthy presbyterate and a healthy people. So I’ll go there and strive to do what we as a church do — be more evangelizing and work to bring the charity and love of Christ to more people.”