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New bishop named for Lincoln Diocese

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The Diocese of Lincoln has a new bishop.

Pope Benedict XVI Sept. 14 named Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley of Denver the new bishop of the Lincoln Diocese. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, papal nuncio to the United States, announced the change.

The pope also accepted the resignation of 77-year-old Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz, who has led the Lincoln Diocese since 1992. Bishops are required by canon law to submit their resignation to the pope when they turn 75.

Bishop Conley, auxiliary bishop for Denver since 2008, will be installed as the ninth bishop of Lincoln during a Mass Nov. 20 at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln.

Bishop Conley said he was "honored and humbled" by the appointment.

"There is nothing more important for a bishop than the care of souls," he told the Denver Catholic Register, the archdiocesan newspaper. "God has called me to be the shepherd of souls in the Diocese of Lincoln. I know I need to rely on his grace for this great responsibility. ... I am looking forward to getting to know Lincoln.

"My mission as bishop there will remain the same as it has in Denver: to help all people to encounter Jesus Christ, and to become holy, as God in heaven is holy," he said.

Archbishop George J. Lucas said the people of the Lincoln Diocese will find their new bishop "to be a wise teacher, a faithful shepherd and a loving father." He also praised Bishop Bruskewitz for "his many years of faithful service."

Father Joseph Taphorn, moderator of the curia and vicar for the clergy for the Archdiocese of Omaha, said Bishop Conley, 57, has a gift when it comes to connecting with young people.

Father Taphorn said he first noticed the bishop's gift when he was a college student at Benedictine College in Atkinson, Kan., and then-Father Conley was pastor of St. Paul Parish (Newman Center) on the campus of Wichita State University and diocesan pro-life director. Father Taphorn was involved in a pro-life group that often participated in pro-life activities at the Newman Center.

"Even then he was just a real leader and very dynamic, very warm, very friendly, someone you wanted to follow and learn from," Father Taphorn said.

Father Taphorn said he has kept in touch with Bishop Conley, including a few years when they both were in Rome - Father Taphorn as a student and Bishop Conley as an official in the Vatican Congregation for Bishops.

"I know he's a great man and I think he'll continue articulating the faith clearly," he said. "He's also a very strong, loving person, a great teacher and a good role model."

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver said Bishop Conley has become well-known for his commitment to the unborn, his enthusiasm for young people, and especially for the devotion with which he celebrates the most holy Eucharist.

Bishop Conley was born March 19, 1955, in Kansas City, Mo. He is of Wea Indian descent. Raised a Presbyterian, Bishop Conley became a Catholic at age 20, during his junior year in college. He graduated in 1977 from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in English literature.

He entered the seminary for the Diocese of Wichita, Kan., in 1980 and was ordained in 1985. For the next 11 years - other than studies in Rome from 1989 to 1991 - he served in the Wichita Diocese. In 1996, he was named an official in the Vatican Congregation for Bishops. He held other positions, including adjunct instructor of theology for Christendom College's Rome campus from 2004 to 2006. He was named a monsignor in 2001.

In 2006, he returned to Wichita to be a pastor and two years later was named an auxiliary bishop for Denver, at that time headed by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.

Catholic News Service contributed to this story.

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