Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Catholic Church appoints new Anchorage archbishop

A Wyoming bishop will be elevated to lead the Archdiocese of Anchorage, becoming the fourth person to hold the Roman Catholic Church's highest position in the city.

The local church publication Catholic Anchor announced early Tuesday that Pope Francis named Paul Dennis Etienne, 57, to the position of Anchorage archbishop at noon in Rome.

Etienne, who has been the bishop in Cheyenne, Wyoming, for the past eight years, will replace Archbishop Roger Schwietz, 76, who was required to submit his resignation at age 75 under church canon law. 

Schwietz's service was honored in a ceremony in July 2015 at the Our Lady of Guadalupe cathedral in West Anchorage.

Etienne was born in Indiana, where two of his brothers serve as priests in the Evansville diocese; a sister is a Benedictine sister at a monastery in Beech Grove. He received a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of St. Thomas/St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1986.

Etienne was first ordained as a priest in the Archbishop of Indianapolis in 1992. He held various pastoral positions in Indiana until 2009, when he was ordained as bishop of Cheyenne.

In an interview posted on the Archdiocese of Indianapolis website, Etienne said he received word of his elevation to the Wyoming post by phone from papal nuncio Archbishop Pietro Sambi, in early October 2009.

"I was up at the (family) farm with a chainsaw, working in the woods," Etienne said in the interview. "And, when he called, I was just getting out of my pickup truck. I was in my Carhartt jeans and in my work boots, and had nothing to take notes with. I was just sitting there in my truck listening to him tell me that I've just been named (a) bishop. And he had to say 'Cheyenne' four times before I could understand what he was saying."

No date has yet been announced for Etienne's Anchorage installation as archbishop, the Anchor said, but Schwietz will serve in an interim capacity until it occurs.

Schwietz's predecessor, Francis Hurley, died in January at age 88. His career as archbishop included an organizing role in Pope John Paul II's 1981 visit to Anchorage, as well as proposing what became the Brother Francis Shelter for the homeless.

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