Bishop-elect Douglas J. Lucia speaks to employees of the Diocese of Syracuse June 4. (Sun photo | Chuck Wainwright)
By Tom Maguire | Associate editor
The visiting neighbor, to his surprise, will be moving in.
Diocese of Syracuse employees on June 4 welcomed Bishop-elect Douglas John Lucia of the nearby Diocese of Ogdensburg. The employees who already know the Bishop-elect said that he has regularly visited Syracuse and that he enjoys a great relationship with Syracuse Bishop Robert J. Cunningham.
“We’ve had a long history of working together,” said Bishop Cunningham, formerly the Bishop of Ogdensburg.
Bishop-elect Lucia said his selection “was like a lightning bolt out of the blue.”
Monsignor Richard M. Kopp, Vicar for Priests in the Diocese of Syracuse, welcomed the lightning.
“I am delighted with the appointment of Bishop-elect Lucia as the next Bishop of Syracuse,” Msgr. Kopp said in an email. “Bishop-elect comes to us with a vast array of experiences within the Church. He has served in many positions within the Diocese of Ogdensburg and has extensive experience in pastoral life. He will be well equipped to lead the Church of Syracuse due to his educational background and his experiences.
“It is a special additional blessing that the Bishop-elect comes to us from a neighboring diocese so that he is well acquainted with the people and culture of this region. His long-term association with Bishop Cunningham will provide for excellent support in the transition. We have been truly blessed!”
Msgr. Timothy S. Elmer, Vicar General of the Diocese of Syracuse, emailed this comment:
“I have known Father Lucia for many years in a professional capacity as judicial vicars in our respective dioceses. He has visited our chancery twice per year for several years for the spring and fall meetings of the Upstate Judicial Vicars. I have always found him a hospitable gentleman, easy to work with, helpful and knowledgeable of the workings of the Church. He is an excellent choice for Bishop of Syracuse.”
Msgr. James P. Lang, Vicar for Parishes for the Diocese of Syracuse, said Bishop-elect Lucia has “quite a mix of talents and skills.”
“I’ve known the new bishop for a good number of years; he’s a very fine man,” Msgr. Lang said. “The diocese is very fortunate to welcome him.”
He added: “He’s a good solid disciple of Jesus, and he reflects many of the core values of the land in which he was raised, the Diocese of Ogdensburg. He’s not afraid of hard work, he’s deeply committed, and he takes his time and makes wise … decisions. He believes in collaboration. He’s been a front man for the Diocese of Ogdensburg as chancellor, as head of the tribunal. He’s been an effective pastor.”
Msgr. Lang noted that the Bishop-elect has a sense of humor, and he said with a laugh that it might do to raise the question of why he is a Red Sox fan.
Bishop-elect Lucia “seems to me to be very down to earth, very relatable,” said Deacon Dr. Robert Fangio. “I think that his genuine excitement came through, his passion for it. … He had mentioned that connection that he already has to Syracuse, that he has worked with a lot of priests who know a lot about Syracuse. …
“He’s young. I know that if the law of averages is with us and the grace of God is with us, he’ll be our bishop for hopefully a long time.”
He said the new bishop “will be able to bend our previous bishop’s ear about things; I think it’s a great advantage for our diocese, a great sense of continuation.”
William Crist, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Syracuse, agreed with Deacon Dr. Fangio.
Superintendent Crist said it is “vitally important to know really that Father Lucia and Bishop have what I would characterize as a very strong relationship. … I think it was also poignant that Father Lucia mentioned that Bishop will be in the neighborhood. And I think that’s a great comfort.”
He added that a former colleague in the North Country praised Bishop-elect Lucia: “‘You have received a jewel.’” The ex-colleague also told him that the Bishop-elect is a “‘beautiful person’” and a “‘fantastic homilist.’”
“It’s a good day for us,” Superintendent Crist said.
Sister Laura Bufano, CSJ, Director of the Syracuse Diocese’s Office of Pastoral Leadership and Associate Director of Pastoral Planning, said of the Bishop-elect’s selection:
“I think it’s great. I’m really looking forward to having the privilege of working with Bishop-elect Lucia. And when I read the press release, I was kind of excited because I studied at Potsdam, so I knew a lot of those places in the Ogdensburg Diocese … where he’s been.”