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New bishop in New Hampshire

Posted By September 20, 2011 | 11:22 am | National
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Bishop John B. McCormack of Manchester, N.H., and has named Auxiliary Bishop Peter A. Libasci of Rockville Centre, N.Y., as his successor. The changes were announced in Washington Sept. 19 by Msgr. Jean-Francois Lantheaume, charge d'affaires at the apostolic nunciature.

Pope Benedict accepts Manchester bishop’s resignation, names successor

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Bishop John B. McCormack of Manchester, N.H., and has named Auxiliary Bishop Peter A. Libasci of Rockville Centre, N.Y., as his successor.

The changes were announced in Washington Sept. 19 by Msgr. Jean-Francois Lantheaume, charge d’affaires at the apostolic nunciature.

Bishop McCormack, who has headed the Diocese of Manchester since 1998, is 76 years old. Bishops are required by canon law to turn in their resignation when they turn 75.

Bishop Libasci, 59, was ordained a priest of the Rockville Centre Diocese in 1978 and was appointed an auxiliary bishop for the diocese in 2007.

He will be installed as Manchester’s new bishop Dec. 8 at St. Joseph Cathedral.

“When in 2007, I was told that I was chosen to be an auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, I was overwhelmed at the thought that anyone knew that I even existed,” Bishop Libasci said in a statement.

“And now, four years later, I have been called, yet again, but now to be the bishop and shepherd of the church, the household of faith in, what will be for me a new home, a new family, a new beginning in grace.”

The bishop added that he was eager to be in the Diocese of Manchester and New Hampshire. “I desire so much to meet all of you and to see Christ so alive and so present in you. I desire so much to share in this work that is ours: to be true to and thus carry on the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

He thanked Bishop McCormack for his “years of ministry and faithful witness” and also thanked Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, the priests and deacons, and the lay Catholics of that diocese, saying it was a privilege to serve as priest and bishop there.

He also expressed gratitude “to my parents, who gave me life, and to my family, friends and my holy Catholic Church — all who have sustained me to this very hour.”

In a statement, Bishop Murphy said he would miss Bishop Libasci’s “wise counsel and tireless apostolic spirit” as vicar of Rockville Centre’s eastern region but added that he rejoiced in the fact the pope chose one of the diocese’s priests to be Manchester’s bishop.

“As priest, as pastor and as bishop, Bishop Libasci brought a deep sense of the holy to all the many pastoral efforts that have marked his tenure in this diocese, which will always be his home,” Bishop Murphy said.

He added that everyone in Rockville Centre joined him “in thanksgiving for all he has given this diocese” and in prayers for him “as he goes to shepherd the church of Manchester with the same love and sense of priestly dedication that are the hallmarks of his life.”

Peter Anthony Libasci was born Nov. 9, 1951, in the New York borough of Queens. He has a bachelor ‘s degree from St. John’s University in Jamaica, N.Y., a master of divinity degree from St. Meinrad’s Seminary in Indiana, and a master’s in theology and catechetics from St. John’s University.

He is biritual, meaning he is permitted to celebrate the Latin-rite Mass and the Divine Liturgy of the Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic Church.

A native of Winthrop, Mass., Bishop McCormack was ordained a priest of the Boston Archdiocese in 1960. He has a master’s degree in social work from Boston College.

Besides parish assignments, he also served as executive director of the archdiocesan Catholic Charities center in Peabody, Mass., 1967-1981. In 1984, he became archdiocesan secretary for ministerial personnel, then was appointed a Boston auxiliary bishop in 1995.

Three years later, he was appointed to the Manchester Diocese. During his tenure, he has promoted the role of the laity, instituting formation and education programs to prepare lay leaders for parish service and ministry.

He established a long-range planning commission that started with parishioners and their pastors in planning for the future of parishes in light of demographic shifts and changes in the number of priests. In the last few years, the number of parishes declined from 130 to 90, but 12 new churches were built in the diocese.

Bishop McCormack also revitalized the priest, pastoral and finance councils, and established a comprehensive child protection program and a diocesan review board. He emphasized vocations, expanding the office of ongoing formation for priests and deacons. He frequently preached in person and has often written about the church’s social teachings and the laypeople’s responsibility to become involved in the public square.

“To find Christ in each person and daily event is my goal as a Christian,” he once said. “To work with others in bringing Christ’s wisdom, mercy and love into the lives of Catholics is my ministry as bishop. I find it a pleasure to live and serve the people of New Hampshire and also the wider church.”

The Manchester Diocese covers the state of New Hampshire. Of the general population of about 1.3 million people, about 290,000, or 22 percent, are Catholic.