Bishop-elect Michael Fisher speaks at a June 8 press conference at the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington. (CS photos by Jaclyn Lippelmann)
Bishop-elect Michael Fisher speaks at a June 8 press conference at the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington. (CS photos by Jaclyn Lippelmann)

Saying that he is “very humbled and overwhelmed,” Bishop-elect Michael Fisher, whom Pope Francis named as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington on June 8, said that in his new role, he wants to share the faith with people, educate children, serve the poor and embrace the region’s diversity.

“I look forward to being with the people, celebrating the sacraments with them and teaching the faith and celebrating the faith with joy,” he said.

Speaking to the Washington media just hours after the archdiocesan Episcopal Vicar for Clergy and Secretary for Ministerial Leadership was named as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington, Bishop-elect Fisher said this archdiocese “has been my home all my life. I’m thrilled I’m able to serve God’s people here.”

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, introducing the bishop-elect at a June 8 press conference at the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington, called the appointment “wonderful, good news,” and said that he was “deeply grateful” to the Holy Father for the appointment of Bishop-elect Fisher.

“The great gift Monsignor will bring as a bishop is his love of the Church. He’s a native of this archdiocese, he grew up in the archdiocese, he learned his faith in this archdiocese and his faith was nurtured in this archdiocese. It permeates his response to ministry,” Cardinal Wuerl said.

Asked what his goal as a bishop is, Bishop-elect Fisher said, “It’s what the Holy Father tells us, to be there for people” and accompany them. “For me, it’s walking with them, showing kindness. They just want to know their pastor cares.”

He added that “I am grateful for the faith His Holiness, Pope Francis, has placed in me.”

Bishop-elect Fisher called his appointment “a happy moment” and said when Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio, informed him of the pope’s decision, he told the bishop-elect that “the Holy Father said we need a ‘fisher of men’ to be the (auxiliary) bishop of Washington.”

“I promise I’ll strive to be a ‘fisher of men’ as he (Pope Francis) requested,” the bishop-elect said, adding that when he learned of his appointment, “I was startled and overwhelmed. I immediately ran to the chapel we have in the rectory.”

He also said he was grateful to his parents, Margo and William Fisher, “who gave me life and guided me in my faith.” Bishop-elect Fisher said that he was at the cemetery visiting his parents’ grave when he received word that the apostolic nuncio would be contacting him.

He said his vocation was fostered by “a cauldron of love” for the Church that was taught to him by his mother and father. “The Church was an important part of our family life,” he said.

He added that while he did not have an “ah-ha moment” or was struck by lightning, his vocation “was built along the way, with daily Mass – I would leave my office in Bethesda to make the 5:15 p.m. Mass at the National Shrine – spending time in front of the Eucharist and falling in love with the Eucharist.”

He entered the seminary, he said, when in his late 20s he was at a crossroads with his career, and “I decided I think the Lord is calling me to priesthood.”

He said one of the happiest and “incredible” moments of his priesthood was when he discovered that a baby boy he baptized many years ago is now a seminarian for the Archdicoese of Washington. “It has been said that a priest should always find a replacement for himself,” he quipped.

For the past 12 years, Bishop-elect Fisher has served as Episcopal Vicar for Clergy and Secretary for Ministerial Leadership for the archdiocese, overseeing the recruitment, formation and care of clergy and religious. In addition, he has traveled throughout the archdiocese, filling in for priests who are either on vacation or sick.

He has worked with all the priests, deacons, men and women religious,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “He knows the issues and he knows where his efforts need to be directed with the greatest intensity. On top of that, he has a knowledge of this Church and a love of this Church.”

Bishop-elect Fisher, the cardinal added, “brings with him a recognized priestly ability… demonstrated care and concern for the priests, deacons, and men and women relgious … (and) a very refined pastoral skill honed in parishes all over this archdicoese.”

At the press conference – which was also attended by Auxiliary Bishops Roy Campbell Jr. and Mario Dorsonville – the bishop-elect said that “with great affection, I give my thanks and my gratitude to my brother priests. We are so blessed in this archdiocese to have such wonderful witnesses of Christ.” He noted that he will continue to work with the archdiocese’s priests, caring for them and for religious women and men.

“His heart is that of a pastor. It will be good for him as a pastor because of the love he has for God, the love he has for people, and the love he has for the Church,” Bishop Campbell said. “I [have] never met someone so kind, gentle, and caring for others in all aspects of his ministry and personal life.”

Bishop-elect Fisher said that after more than a decade as an archdiocesan administrator, “the pastoral side of my priesthood I look forward to embrace more fully” as a bishop.

For the past 14 years, Bishop-elect Fisher has been in residence at St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Hyattsville, which he noted has 47 different nationalities in the parish. “I see that diversity every Sunday and celebrate that.”

He noted that in an effort to serve and accompany the diverse family of faith in the archdiocese, some of its priests are sent to Latin America to learn the Spanish language and experience the Hispanic culture and faith.

Bishop Dorsonville said he had been working with Msgr. Fisher to build “an intercultural pastoral approach in our priests, diaconate and seminarians.”

“It has been a blessing and delightful experience working with a man who recognizes what the universal Church is about,” Bishop Dorsonville said. “He is a man who will become a bishop for the universal Church.”

The announcement of Bishop-elect Fisher’s appointment was made one day after the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup. A spokesperson for the archdiocese called Bishop-elect Fisher’s appointment “the other big news of the day.”

The press conference was held at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. The bishop-elect said it was a fitting location because it was at the cathedral where his grandparents were married, his mother was baptized, his uncle who was his godfather was baptized and where he himself was ordained a transitional deacon and a priest.

“It (the cathedral) has great significance and (has been a source of) blessings in my life.”

Bishop-elect Fisher’s episcopal ordination will take place on Friday, June 29, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.