A former director of Andre House in Phoenix has been named bishop of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee.
Bishop-elect William A. Wack was introduced to area priests and media Monday morning as the sixth bishop of the diocese, which serves more than 70,000 Catholics across 49 parishes.
At his introduction, Wack (pronounced “wok” from the German “Wach”) had the dozen-plus priests and Catholic officials laughing in their chairs as he impersonated the Apostolic Nuncio — Vatican representative — who called him to give the news of his selection as bishop by Pope Francis. He also impersonated a little girl who asked him to chase fireflies with him at a gathering. He felt a bit guilty for having to put her off to meet leaders of the diocese.
“It’s all happened so fast,” said the 49-year-old Wack, who replaces the Bishop Gregory Parkes, who was installed as bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg in January after leading the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee “But it was never something I aspired to. I’ve always wanted to be a priest. And I love being a priest.” Parkes had served as bishop of the Pensacola-Tallahassee diocese since 2012.
Wack, stunned on hearing the news of his appointment as bishop over the phone 10 days ago, said he told the Apostolic Nuncio, “I hope you’re not saying I can’t be a priest.”
“I had no idea what I was saying,” he confessed, knowing that bishops are still priests. (Another confession: He cuts his own hair.)
Wack served as director of André House in downtown Phoenix, which ministers to low-income and homeless individuals, from 2002 to 2008.
Wack, a South Bend, Ind. native, is an alumnus of the University of Notre Dame who even has a momentary spot as an extra in the film “Rudy.” He was ordained a priest on April 9, 1994. He served as pastor of St. Ignatius Martyr Parish, part of the Diocese of Austin (Texas) until his selection as bishop-elect by Pope Francis. Though he will assume leadership duties immediately, he will not officially become bishop until a ceremonial mass in August.
He said he comes to the diocese “with no agenda,” stating a willingness to learn the “customs of the diocese” before making any, if needed, changes in policies and operation of the diocese.
Deacon Luke Farabaugh, 29, a Pensacolian who will be ordained a Catholic priest on Saturday, said he believes that Wack will be a “great leader for the diocese.”
“He’s just super personable and down to earth,” Farabaugh said. “That comes across right away.”
Wack said he wants to “motivate and encourage and challenge” people across the diocese.
“I fully embrace that,” he said. “I’m excited about that. I have a lot of energy…I’ve had a lot of coffee.”
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