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Pope Francis Names New Bishop for the Diocese of Gaylord


GAYLORD, Michigan – His Holiness Pope Francis, has named the Reverend Monsignor Steven J. Raica (RAY-cuh), Chancellor and Vicar General of the Diocese of Lansing, as the new Bishop for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gaylord. Bishop-elect Raica, 61, is the fifth Bishop of Gaylord, succeeding the Most Reverend Bernard A. Hebda who was named to the lead the diocese in October of 2009 and served until September, 2013, when he was named Coadjutor Archbishop of Newark. The announcement was made today by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano (Vig-uh-NO), Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, in Washington, D.C.

“As I prepare myself to serve the People of God in the northern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula as a new bishop, I offer my praise and gratitude to the Lord Jesus whose presence in my life has enabled me to experience an abundance of life,” said Bishop-elect Raica in a statement.  “My gratitude also goes to Pope Francis for entrusting me with this honor and great responsibility.”

Upon learning of the appointment of his successor, Archbishop Hebda wrote, “The news that Pope Francis has named Msgr. Steven Raica to be the fifth Bishop of Gaylord on this Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is truly a cause for rejoicing. Having known Bishop-Elect Raica for more than a quarter of a century and having had first-hand experience of his pastoral zeal,  collaborative spirit, and intellectual gifts, I believe that he will be an excellent shepherd--after the Heart of Jesus--for a flock that I will always remembers as being incredibly loving.

“Knowing Bishop-elect Raica to be a man of prayer, an engaging preacher, an excellent administrator, and a fine friend to many, I am confident that he will be an exceptionally fine bishop,” Archbishop Hebda said.  “It will be a pleasure to pray for him and for the wonderful Church of Gaylord as they together prepare to shine the light of Christ throughout the twenty-one counties of the Diocese.” 

The son of Mary and the late Steven Raica, with Polish/Italian roots, Bishop-elect Raica was born on November 8, 1952 in Munising, Michigan. His mother and brother, Joseph, currently reside in Marquette, Michigan.

Bishop-elect Raica attended Sacred Heart Elementary School and William G. Mather High School in Munising before being accepted to Michigan State University in East Lansing, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics-Secondary Education in 1973. He earned his Master of Divinity from St. John Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan.

Bishop-elect Raica was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Lansing by Bishop Kenneth Povish on October 14, 1978. That same year he completed a Master Degree in Religious Studies through the University of Detroit, in Detroit, Michigan.

His first assignment was Associate Pastor at Holy Redeemer Parish in Burton, followed by a five year appointment as Associate Pastor at St. Pius X in Flint. In 1984 Bishop-elect Raica was named Pastor of Holy Family in Ovid and a year later was appointed Co-Rector of St. Mary Cathedral in Lansing.

In 1988 he was sent to Rome to complete Licentiate Studies in Canon Law and Specialization in Jurisprudence at Pontifical Gregorian University.

Back in Michigan in 1991, Bishop-elect Raica served as Pastor of St. Mary Parish in Charlotte for two years before returning to Rome to pursue Doctoral Studies in Canon Law at the Pontifical Gregorian University. His doctoral dissertation, Canon 1529: A Historical and Canonical Study, was published in 1996.

From 1995-1997, Bishop-elect Raica ministered as Pastor of St. Ann in Bellevue, Michigan, and Chaplain of Olivet College in Olivet. He was then named Chancellor-Vicar General of the Diocese of Lansing and served two years before being named Superior of Casa Santa Maria in Rome, a post-graduate residence for priests at Pontifical North American College. 

He was named a Prelate of Honor by Pope John Paul II on March 14, 1998, an honor which carries with it the title of “Monsignor.”

Bishop-elect Raica returned to the United States in 2005 and has served as Chancellor-Vicar General of the Diocese of Lansing since that time. Since 2009, he has simultaneously as Temporary Administrator for periods of short duration in the parishes of St. Mary in Durand, St. Mary in Charlotte, St. Anthony in Hillsdale and Resurrection Parish in Lansing.

Since 2013, in addition to his responsibilities as Chancellor-Vicar General, Bishop-elect Raica has provided Sacramental assistance to St. Thomas Aquinas and St. John Church and Student Center in East Lansing.

Over the years, Bishop-elect Raica has served the Diocese of Lansing as a member of the College of Consultors, Priests’ Assignment Commission, Presbyteral Council, Liturgical Commission, Coordinating Commission for Pastoral Planning, and as Chair of the Jubilee 2000 Commission.

He has served as a member of the Boards of Directors for Faith Publishing Services in Lansing, the Youth-to-Youth Catholic Evangelization in Montrose, and the Servants of God’s Love, Inc. in Ann Arbor, as well as a member of the Ex Corde Committee at Siena Heights University in Adrian. From 1999-2005 Bishop-elect Raica served as Spiritual Director and Adjunct Faculty for Pontifical North American College and from 2005-2009 was the Victim Assistance Coordinator for the Diocese of Lansing.

In the Diocese of Lansing’s Tribunal,  Bishop-elect Raica has served as Promoter of Justice and a Judge, as well as a Post-Synodal Judge within the Province of Detroit.

From 2007-2009, he served as Vice-Postulator for the Cause of the Servant of God, Antonietta Meo.

A gifted linguist, Bishop-elect Raica speaks English, Italian and Polish, adding Latin, French, Spanish and German to the reading list. He is also fluent in Sign Language and has served as Moderator for the Flint Catholic Deaf Group, as well as Chaplain and Director for the Diocese of Lansing’s Deaf Ministry. 

Bishop-elect Raica holds memberships in the Canon Law Society of America, Alumni Associations of Michigan State University and Pontifical North American College, and the Italian-American Club.  With a special devotion to the Venerable Bishop Baraga, he is a member of the Bishop Baraga Association supporting his cause for sainthood.  

He is a member of the Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus.

With a special affinity for classical, jazz, classical organ and choral, Bishop-elect Raica loves music. He also enjoys reading and culinary arts, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Italian and Polish culture, and travel.

Msgr. Francis Murphy, who has served as Diocesan Administrator while the Diocese of Gaylord was a vacant see, shared his joy at the announcement.  “Our prayers have been answered!  We have been praying for a new Bishop and God has blessed us with one.  This is a happy day for our diocese,” he said.  “I’m sure that Bishop-elect Raica will bring a lot to our diocese. He has a sense of Christ and of Christ working among us.  He also brings his own personal gifts and charisms that will stand our diocese in good stead.  For me, personally, this is a really happy day. It’s been an honor to serve as Diocesan Administrator since September 27,  but I am really looking forward to August 28, when I can return to being a parish priest again and know that our diocese is in very,  very, very good hands.”

Bishop-elect Raica’s Episcopal Ordination has been set for August 28, 2014, at St. Mary, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Gaylord.

“In these weeks of preparation, and indeed afterward, I beg for your prayers that I may serve the Lord totally and faithfully in this new ministerial chapter of my life,” Bishop-elect Raica said. “During this time in which we have been called to take seriously the challenge of the New Evangelization, I pray that my new faith family - the priests, religious and faithful of the Diocese of Gaylord – will join me in giving vibrant witness to the love and mercy beautifully portrayed by the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

The Diocese of Gaylord was established by His Holiness Pope Paul VI on July 20, 1971. The territory encompasses 11,171 square miles and includes the 21 most northern counties of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The region is home to some 505,498 residents of which more than 65,890 are Catholic and is served by 80 parishes, 17 Catholic schools and many closely-related institutions. 

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