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Omaha priest named Bishop of Grand Island

Msgr. William Dendinger

Pope John Paul II has named Msgr. William Dendinger, 65-year-old pastor of St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Omaha, to head the Diocese of Grand Island.

Bishop-elect Dendinger, who replaces the retiring Bishop Lawrence J. McNamara, said he is excited to begin his new assignment.

"First and foremost, let me express my appreciation to Pope John Paul II for placing such trust and responsibility in me," Bishop-elect Dendinger said.

"I'm anxious to know the 70 priests, the 36 parishes, the 34 missions, the Catholic institutions and organizations and all the people of God in the Diocese of Grand Island," he added.

"In a spirit of service and obedience, I will strive to be a faithful shepherd of the Diocese of Grand Island. This diocese has a great history and tradition starting in 1912 and continuing through today. I'm delighted to become part of that tradition."

Bishop-elect Dendinger then praised Bishop McNamara.

"I would be remiss if I did not express my appreciation to you for your leadership and dedicated service to the people of the diocese. Your outstanding 25 plus years of service will make my transition easier and more enjoyable. I know your ministry, especially your retreat work, will continue to deepen the spirituality of many more people," he said.

"As to the Diocese of Grand Island and the pastoral challenges there, the train is on the right track. There is no need to stop and turn it around."

Personally, he said, serving as the bishop of Grand Island will be a "dramatic change" for him.

"To use the language of this 'Go Big Red' state, I will need to change my game plan. I was planning for a little more golf and more downhill snow skiing in five more years! However, like all the great opportunities I have had in my priesthood, I will gladly change the game plan and attempt to cooperate with God's ways and not my personal preferences," Bishop-elect Dendinger said.

He thanked Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss for the opportunity to serve as a pastor in the Archdiocese of Omaha the past two-and-a-half years.

"Being pastor of St. Stephen the Martyr has been any pastor's dream come true," Bishop-elect Dendinger said. "That pastoral experience will remain etched in my memory the rest of my life. I could not have asked for a better assignment when I returned to the archdiocese after 31 years in the Air Force Chaplain Service."

Archbishop Curtiss said the Archdiocese of Omaha has been "honored, once again, by the appointment of one of our priests, Monsignor William Dendinger, as bishop of Grand Island. Father Blasé Cupich was appointed as bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota in 1998."

The archbishop praised Bishop-elect Dendinger for his service at St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in West Omaha – "the largest parish in the archdiocese with over 12,000 registered parishioners."

Before that, Archbishop Curtiss said, the bishop-elect "served as Chaplain General of the United States Air Force. He spent a total of 31 years as a military chaplain before returning to the Archdiocese of Omaha in June 2002."

"I've known Monsignor Dendinger for a dozen years. He served with distinction in the U.S. Air Force as chaplain and ended his military career as a two-star general. He has proved himself an able pastor of St. Stephen the Martyr Parish. We are giving one of our most able priests as bishop to the Grand Island Diocese. I'm grateful to have him as a brother bishop in Nebraska, and I look forward to working with him in the years ahead."

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