Pope Benedict names Msgr. Knestout as auxiliary bishop for Washington
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 4:13 AM
Pope Benedict XVI on Nov. 18 named Msgr. Barry C. Knestout, 46, a native of Prince George's County, as auxiliary bishop of Washington, to assist Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl in the pastoral care of the 580,000-member archdiocese. His ordination as a bishop will be held on Dec. 29 at St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington.
Bishop-elect Knestout is moderator of the curia and vicar for administration Ð the "chief of staff" Ð for the archdiocese's central offices. In this role, he assists the archbishop in managing and overseeing all administrative affairs. His brother, Mark, also is a priest for the archdiocese. Born in Cheverly, Bishop-elect Knestout grew up in Bowie. Since the archdiocese was founded in 1939, he is the first priest from Prince George's County, Md., appointed to serve as a bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington.
At a press conference that morning at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Hyattsville, Md., Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl praised the appointment, calling the new bishop "a native son of this archdiocese. He was born, formed in the faith and educated here. He enjoys extensive personal experience of this Church and a sense of continuity with its pastoral life."
Also at the press conference, Bishop-elect Knestout said he was grateful to the Holy Father for his trust in him, and thankful for the example of the bishops and brother priests with whom he has served.
The bishop-elect, who served as one of two chairs of the Papal Visit Planning Committee which planned for Pope Benedict XVI's historic April 15-17 visit to Washington, said, "In this year when the Holy Father blessed this local Church with his visit to Washington, I pray that my service as a bishop will be an occasion when all will be filled with a greater sense of joy and hope, knowing of the faith that we all share in Christ, our hope."
At a Nov. 14 Mass at Our Lady, Queen of the Americas Church in Washington, then-Msgr. Knestout was one of 15 members of that committee to receive papal honors; he received the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice for distinguished service to the Church and the papacy.
Interviewed at Nationals Park just days before the Papal Mass as workers were constructing the stage for the altar in center field, the priest said, "It certainly is a work of the Holy Spirit, to help it all come together."
Bishop-elect Knestout, who has a degree in architecture from the University of Maryland, helped coordinate a contest for architecture students at the Catholic University of America to design the furnishings for the Papal Mass, and two CUA students designed the papal altar, chair and ambo.
His younger brother, Father Mark Knestout, serves as director of the Office of Worship for the archdiocese and was the principal coordinator for the liturgy for the Papal Mass.
Preparing for the Papal Mass at Nationals Park was a work of faith, Bishop-elect Knestout said in that earlier interview. He said the hard work of staff and volunteers "expresses the beautiful dedication and love for the Church and for the Holy Father among all those involved... It's a work of the whole community to prepare for the visit of the Holy Father."
At the Nov. 18 press conference, Bishop-elect Knestout said he will never forget the sound of the crowd of 50,000 people cheering for Pope Benedict as he entered Nationals Park, which he said expressed their "joy in the shared faith we have, in Christ our hope."
In his years as a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington, Bishop-elect Knestout served as a parochial vicar at St. Bartholomew Parish in Bethesda from 1989-93, as an associate pastor at St. Peter's Parish in Waldorf from 1993-94, and as priest secretary to Cardinal James Hickey from 1994 until the cardinal's death in 2004.
Bishop-elect Knestout delivered one of the eulogies and served as a pallbearer at Cardinal Hickey's funeral Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. He said he had the privilege of anointing the cardinal before his death and joining in the last Mass the cardinal celebrated. Cardinal Hickey, he said, "lived a long and fruitful life teaching about Christ. The cardinal taught the truth about Christ, in love."
At the Nov. 18 press conference, Bishop-elect Knestout was asked what he learned about being a bishop from Cardinal Hickey's example. "He gave his life in service to the Church... (He was) a wonderful pastor, with deep concern for his priests and his people... In his teaching, in his gentleness, in his pastoral care for the archdiocese, in his kindness to me over the years, as a mentor and a friend, (he was) an example of a good bishop."
In 1999, Pope John Paul II named the priest as a monsignor. Then-Msgr. Knestout served as executive director of the Office of Youth Ministry/Catholic Youth Organization from 2001 to 2003, as priest secretary to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in 2001 and from 2003 to 2004.
In 2004, then-Msgr. Knestout became pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Silver Spring, and two years later, he returned to administrative work as archdiocesan secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns. Last year, Archbishop Wuerl appointed him as moderator of the curia and vicar for administration for the archdiocese.
Bishop-elect Knestout said after the press conference that Cardinal McCarrick and Archbishop Wuerl had likewise been mentors to him, just as Cardinal Hickey had been.
In a 1999 interview, then-Father Knestout said it was a special blessing to accompany Cardinal Hickey on parish visits and see how people in the archdiocese are united in their faith, and how the Gospel is being lived in parishes. "That's where it happens, in the parish, where the Gospel has the most impact in people's day-to-day lives," he said. "It's beautiful to see the many ways that God works in people's lives." At his Nov. 18 press conference, he said that as a new bishop, what he looked forward to most is celebrating Mass and Confirmations for people at parishes across the archdiocese. "That will be a special joy," he said.
Bishop-elect Knestout was baptized at St. Ambrose Parish in Cheverly, and later grew up as a member of St. Pius X Parish in Bowie, with five brothers and three sisters. He is the son of the late Deacon Thomas Knestout, who headed the archdiocesan office for the permanent diaconate for many years, and Caroline Knestout, who worked as a nurse. In a 1989 interview, the future bishop said the example of his family played a key role in his vocation. Deacon Knestout would bring his children along with him as he ministered to a hospital that served people with disabilities.
"I was a seventh grader (then). He (dad) would cart us along, my brothers and me... We as a family felt very much a part of his vocation," the future bishop said. He said he was also inspired by the "quiet service" of his mom.
In June 1989, Deacon Thomas Knestout and his son, Deacon Barry Knestout, served as deacons together at Mass for the first time at St. Pius X Church, bowing together reverently before the altar. Caroline Knestout said then that the biggest similarity between father and son was "their love for the Lord."
That summer, Father Barry Knestout was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington, one of 10 new priests ordained by Cardinal James Hickey that year, the biggest local ordination class in many years. A decade later, the 10 priests had a "10 for 10" reunion. The close-knit group, serving in a variety of roles including as pastors throughout the area, had come from many different backgrounds but shared the same call. At that time, Father Knestout reflected on his priestly calling. "I find the priesthood to be a most profound experience of being close to Christ, in terms of being a disciple, being one of His close friends, like the apostles were," he said.
One of his priestly classmates who was also ordained that year, Father Ronald A. Potts, the pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in La Plata, Md., was at a meeting at the Pastoral Center on Nov. 18, and congratulated Bishop-elect Knestout.
"We've all looked out for each other and helped each other," Father Potts said of their ordination class. He said Bishop-elect Knestout would be a good bishop. "He's solid, solid in his faith. He has a great compassion for people, and a wonderful sense of humor."
Jane Golden Belford, the chancellor of the Archdiocese of Washington, said after the press conference that Bishop-elect Knestout was well suited for his new responsibility, saying that he was "a very kind, devoted priest." She said he is a "caring" man who is also "unflappable, and a real hard worker. He's really devoted to serving the archdiocese."
The Archdiocese of Washington has three other auxiliary bishops, Bishop Francisco Gonzalez, S.F.; Bishop Martin D. Holley; and retired Bishop Leonard Olivier, S.V.D.
The archdiocese includes 140 parishes, with Mass in over 20 languages, 98 schools and extensive social service programs in Washington, D.C., and Montgomery, Prince George's, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties.