Local boy makes good: New Hampshire gets a new bishop from Queens

Well, he was born in Queens, anyway.

Details:

New Hampshire’s 300,000 Roman Catholics have a new leader.

The Vatican on Monday named the Rev. Peter Anthony Libasci to succeed Bishop John McCormack as bishop of the Diocese of Manchester.

The 59-year-old Libasci is New York City native ordained in 1978 who most recently served as auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Center in New York.

He is scheduled to be introduced at a news conference at St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester on Monday and will be officially installed on Dec. 8.

McCormack has served as bishop in New Hampshire since 1998. Before that he was a top aide to Cardinal Bernard Law in the Archdiocese of Boston. He announced in August that he would step down because he had reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.

His official bio notes, intriguingly, that he is bi-ritual, and celebrates the Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic Church.  Also, he grew up down the road from me, at St. Margaret’s in Middle Village.

Rocco has more, ‘natch:

Born in Queens and an alumnus of Indiana’s St Meinrad Seminary — whose Benedictine monks notably have another considerable base in New Hampshire — Libasci was ordained a priest for the 1.4 million-member Long Island church in 1978.

Prior to his appointment as an auxiliary to Bishop William Murphy in 2007, the Granite State nominee spent his entire priesthood in pastoral work, earning an added advanced degree in catechesis early on.

Described as “gentle” and “holy” by his collaborators, the high-stakes assignment will require all the soothing Libasci can muster as he takes the place of a prelate whose 13-year tenure has both required thankless calls and garnered searing criticism.

To an almost unparalleled degree for an American prelate, McCormack’s stewardship of the New Hamshire church was saddled with the fallout of the clergy sex-abuse scandals, a reality that owed itself above all to his history as an auxiliary bishop and clergy-personnel chief to Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston. Adding to the load, in the wake of the crisis’ national eruption in 2002, an investigation of Manchester’s handling of earlier cases by the New Hampshire attorney general forced the diocese into a legal agreement where, in exchange for periodic audits of its files by law enforcement, the state declined to press criminal charges against the Chancery or any “individual agents” suspected of engaging in a cover-up.

  • naturgesetz

    St. Anselm Abbey, on the outskirts of Manchester has an Eastern-Rite chapel in the abbey church. It was included because one of the monks at the time the church was built, Fr. Casimir, was bi-ritual. (Latin and Melkite, I think.) I suppose it is suitable for Ruthenian Divine Liturgies as well.

  • Rudy

    Don’t know if to congratulate him or give him sympathies, he is inheriting an unholy mess.

  • Eka

    Bishop Libasci will be missed on Long Island! He is a wonderful priest and bishop.

  • Elizabeth Scalia

    Libasci is a good guy. And yeah, one less priest able to provide service to the Easter Rite community. Long Island needed him, so this is a real loss!

  • rp

    We here in New Hampshire have been waiting for change for 13 years, but there is not much information on our new Bishop; can anyone talk about his ideology and where he moved the church on Long Island? Is he a proponent of Eucharistic Adoration? Most of the priests in NH have run there own parishes as isolated from the diocese, so our new Bishop has his hands full; one can attend six Masses and have six totally different ways of celebrating them, from the Latin Rite to a Mass that borders on a protestant celebration, complete with the priest sitting in the pews with the worshipers and letting the laity conduct most of the “celebration”; what we need is an orthodox Bishop who is going to reel in the out of touch clergy and make some serious change; now that we know his name, we will keep him in our prayers. God Bless.

  • Steve P

    “Adding to the load, in the wake of the crisis’ national eruption in 2002, an investigation of Manchester’s handling of earlier cases by the New Hampshire attorney general forced the diocese into a legal agreement where, in exchange for periodic audits of its files by law enforcement, the state declined to press criminal charges against the Chancery or any “individual agents” suspected of engaging in a cover-up.”

    Anyone care to diagram THAT sentence?!? Sheesh!

    [As I've noted to more than a few people: Rocco is brilliant, but he needs an editor. Badly. :-) Dcn. G.]

  • Don from NH

    This is an interesting change and probably for the better. The last several bishops have come from Massachusetts.

    I suspect they did not want any ties to Cardinal Law.

  • cathyf

    As I’ve noted to more than a few people: Rocco is brilliant, but he needs an editor.

    Whew, I thought it was just me being dense! Especially when Rocco gets cute and snarky — sometimes I can tell that he’s chuckling, but I have no idea what’s so funny!

  • naturgesetz

    Actually, Don, Bishop McCormack was your first diocesan bishop from Boston since Bishop Peterson, who died in 1944. Bishop Brady was from Connecticut, via Burlington; Bishop Primeau was from Chicago; Bishop Gendron was from Manchester; and Bishop O’Neil was from Springfield.

    As for auxiliary bishops, I only know about Bishop Joseph, O.S.B. who was from Maine, via St. A’s.

  • Eka

    rp…

    I don’t know everything about Bishop Libasci’s tendencies, but I imagine that he is quite orthodox.

    I do know that he is the kind of person with whom, one instantly likes and gains sympathy. He is extraordinarily pastoral, kind and humble.
    Although Rocco is correct in saying that Long Island is a densely populated suburb, he lived out on the eastern end which is decidedly more rural and “new England-like”.

    I am sure that New Hampshire will love him.

  • Dcn Mike

    I met Bishop Libasci on a couple of occasions when I served as deacon for him when he came to celebrate Mass at St Margaret’s, his alma mater. My impression was of a kind, humble and holy man and yes, rp, quite orthodox in his faith. I wish him well and my prayers go out for him in this very challenging assignment.

  • CM

    I am hopefull that he will be a good bishop for the people of NH. As a NH Catholic, I feel as if some of you are making us out to be really terrible people! You asume that bishop Libasci will be thrown to the lions. The people of NH are kind, gentle people of great faith, spirit filled and on their way to eternal life with the Lord. We are solid!! We need a kind, holy and progressive bishop who will lead all the Catholics that have left the church due to the sex scandle back home to the church. I hope he is the man to do it–time will tell.

    It’s been rough since 2002. I always try to remember that Cardinal Law left in disgrace and ran to Rome for protection. Bishop McCormic did not run, did not abandon his flock. He stayed, faced the music and paid the price. However, alot of damage has been done–I hope Bishop Libasci will be able to sort through the truth and undo some of the decisions made.

  • RomCath

    “We need a kind, holy and progressive bishop”

    What has “progressive” got to do with anything?

  • CM

    Progressive defined:

    1. making progress toward better conditions.
    2. Continuous improvement.

    Nothing wrong with that.


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