Bishop Fisher will lead Buffalo Diocese with ‘pastor’s heart’
Buffalo media had the opportunity to meet Buffalo’s new bishop on Tuesday, Dec. 1, through a Zoom press conference. Bishop Michael W. Fisher, currently the auxiliary bishop of Washington, D.C., was unable to travel to the Nickel City due to Covid restrictions.
Although he will lead a diocese of 571,000 Catholic, Bishop Fisher said that he will do so with a pastor’s heart.
“I am first and foremost your brother in faith, your co-worker in bringing about the Kingdom of God in our midst,” he said. “Now I am you pastor, your shepherd in the journey toward renewal, of purpose and mission.”
Born and raised in Baltimore, the son of Bill and Margo Fisher was an active child, playing baseball and wrestling. He also achieved the rank of Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America. He studied accounting at the University of Maryland and worked as a certified public accountant for a couple years before entering Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., in 1986.
He spent the first 15 years of his ministry serving in parishes. The next 15 were spent in diocesan offices as vicar general, vicar for clergy and secretary for Ministerial Leadership in the Archdiocese of Washington.
“One thing you should know about me is that I am a parish priest in my heart and at my very core,” he said. “That’s what I bring. Since my ordination, all I wanted to do was be a pastor. I love everything about being a pastor – celebrating the sacraments, baptizing babies and celebrating marriages, worshiping, serving and being a part of a parish family. That is what motivates me and excites me when I rise in the morning and go to bed at night. This is what you get in your new bishop.”
Bishop Fisher outlined his immediate goals after his Jan. 15 installation. His first priority is to get to know the people through visiting the parishes and schools. Second, is to get to know priests of the diocese to hear about the joys and challenges they face. Third is to meet the laity and religious who work for the good of the diocese.
“Another priority is to continue the healing and work of renewing the faith and ministries of the diocese that Bishop (Edward) Scharfenberger and so many parish leaders have begun,” he said.
When asked if he would make staff changes to replace the old guard, Bishop Fisher stated that he has to meet his flock before making any decisions on staff or the course of the diocese. He did promise full transparency several times during the conference.
“I come with an open heart,” he said. “I’m going to commit to full transparency and accountability.”
“The mission of the Church is clear – share the Good News,” he continued. “Jesus Christ has risen and lives among us, revealing His presence each and every day through the lived faith of others. Any vision on my part will be formed in collaboration, consultation and communication with my new family in the Diocese of Buffalo.”
When the bishop was told of his new assignment by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio for the United States, the details of his new diocese were sparse. He is aware of the impact clergy abuse has had on the Buffalo Diocese and hope to be part of the healing process of abuse survivors. He said there is an “ongoing need to acknowledge the pain and destruction of those whose lives have been so deeply hurt by abuse by members of the clergy. If they allow it, I hope to walk with them in seeking healing, to listen and in some ways heal the wounds that have been inflicted on them, and to lessen the burden they have been forced to carry. Collaboration and mutual dependency must guide all of our effort and ambitions. Walking together, supporting one another, listening intently before offering our own viewpoint. Whether clergy, laity or religious our future depends on combining our ideas, talents, expertise and resources, as well as the presumption of good will.”
In closing, Bishop Fisher asks for patience and prayers as he joins the diocesan Road to Renewal.
“I am sure I will make mistakes and I hope the be the first to recognize and acknowledge them,” he said. “It is my promise to persist in seeking the best solutions to the challenges that together we face and which are directed to reestablishing trust, credibility, healing and renewal. In all things, I pledge to be truthful and transparent in the decisions that we will need to make.”
Bishop Michael W. Fisher gets vested before his episcopal ordination June 29, 2018 in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.