Category Archives: Bishops

Bishop Kulick of Greensburg, PA

On February 11, 2021 the Most Rev. Larry James Kulick (55) a priest of the Greensburg, Pennsylvania diocese will be ordained a bishop and installed as the 6th Bishop of Greensburg.

The arms he is assuming are:

The Bishop’s family is of Slovak origin hence the clear resemblance of his personal arms to those of Slovakia with the addition of two garbs of wheat, traditionally used in Catholic heraldry as an allusion to the Eucharist. Really, he has simply taken the arms of Slovakia in their entirety to use as his own coat of arms. It can be argued that the inclusion of the two garbs differences his personal arms from those of Slovakia. That would not be entirely untrue. However, it isn’t, in my opinion, a sufficient enough difference. Some thought could have been given to a change of tincture as well.

It is noteworthy that the double-barred cross which is the principal charge in the Slovak arms is also repeated in the arms of the See. In the arms of the Diocese of Greensburg the double-barred, or patriarchal, cross is taken from the arms traditionally associated with the Order of St. Benedict and are included as an allusion to the Benedictine monks of St. Vincent Archabbey who have been present in that part of Pennsylvania since 1846 and have ministered to Catholics there since before the foundation of the diocese in 1951. In fact, the Benedictines founded the cathedral parish before it even was a cathedral and graciously gave it back once it had been designated as the cathedral church. In addition, the monks run a major seminary which is the seminary the new bishop attended. So that particular charge can have multiple significance for the armiger.

The explanation included in the worship program for the event says among other things that the colors have significance for the armiger. One sentence says, “The darker red at the top of the shield represents the blood of martyrs, and the lighter red below it represents fire; together they symbolize the martyrdom of St. Lawrence, Bishop Kulick’s patron saint.” To that I can only add that there are no shades of difference in heraldic colors and no set meanings to the what a particular color means. Another section of the explanation says this (somewhat unbelievably), “The blue shadow on top of the hills symbolizes how Christ illuminates the world, and blue is the color of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the diocesan patroness as Our Lady of the Assumption. The shadows and highlights at the top of the mountains where the red and blue come together also represent St. Joseph.”

Really? Shadows and highlights represent St. Joseph? How? And how, specifically, is a highlight blazoned? So, while I don’t doubt that all these meanings are significant to the armiger, or that at least he thinks they are, but this isn’t heraldry. Such subtleties may be present in the mind of a graphic artist but not in the science of heraldry. This is all a bit too “over the top” and focuses on the wrong things.

The coat of arms was done by Sig. Poletti of Italy who also did the coat of arms of Bishop Kulick’s predecessor, Bishop Malesic, now of Cleveland.

Bishop Bonnar of Youngstown

On January 12th, the Most Rev. David Bonnar (58) a priest of Pittsburgh will be ordained a bishop and installed as the 6th Bishop of Youngstown, Ohio. The coat of arms he is assuming is:

As per the diocesan website the explanation of his personal arms, impaled with those of the See are: “The chequy blue and silver fess appears in the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s coat of arms representing his diocese of origin.  The seven point blue star recalls the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom Bishop Bonnar entrusts his new pastoral ministry.  The pomegranate represents the motto of the Bishop that all the grains of this fruit are united in an only body, the mystical body of the Church.  The field of gold, the first among the noble metals, symbolizes the first of the virtues – the faith – which makes all believe in the salvation given by the Lord.”

The combinations of tinctures are pleasing. The overall design is simple: a complex ordinary with something above and something below, rather like the arms of the See as well. The charges are relatively clear even when reduced.

Bishop Byrne of Springfield, MA

On December 14 the Most Rev. William Draper Byrne (56) a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC will be ordained a bishop and installed as the Tenth Bishop of Springfield, Massachusetts. His personal coat of arms impaled with those of the See of Springfield (below) depicts a paschal candle, a symbol of the Light of Christ to the world and also of sacrifice (the candle is consumed as it burns, which also makes a slight pun on the Bishop’s name). The crescent is taken from the arms of the See of Washington, DC and also from those of his seminary, the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

The bishop designed his own arms in consultation with another priest of Washington, DC and had them depicted by an artist who copied the style of the late Anthony W.C. Phelps of Cleveland, Ohio. That style became popular in Washington when it was used by Cardinal Hickey (who had previously been Bishop of Cleveland) and has been copied since by a number of bishops who have come from the Archdiocese of Washington. Mr. Phelps died in 2005.

Bishop Grob

On November 13 the Most Rev. Jeffrey S. Grob (59) a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago will be ordained as the Titular Bishop of Abora and Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago. The armorial bearings he is assuming are:

The armorial bearings of Bishop Grob symbolize his origins, his personal devotion and the place in which he has spent his ministry as a priest. The field is Azure and the main charge is a large gold (yellow) plow blade facing the viewer. This not only alludes to the ministry of spreading the Gospel as symbolized by plowing a field to prepare for seed to be sown but is an allusion to the bishop’s early life growing up on a Wisconsin dairy farm.

Above the plow blade are a silver (white) crescent, a symbol of Our Lady under her title of the Immaculate Conception which is the patronal feast of the USA. The two silver (white) fleur-de-lis represent several things. First, they are a symbol of St. Joseph to whom the bishop has a special devotion as a kind of patron saint because he was born on the Solemnity of St. Joseph (March 19). The fleur-de-lis is a stylized version of the lily and St. Joseph is often depicted holding a staff from which lilies are blossoming. Second, they allude to St. John XXIII who used them in his own coat of arms. The bishop has a devotion to this great 20th Century saint. Finally, there are two fleur-de-lis in the coat of arms of the Archdiocese of Chicago where the bishop has served as a priest and will now serve as a bishop.

The motto below the shield is “Jesus The Vine”

It was a great privilege for me to design Bishop Grob’s coat of arms in consultation with him and to emblazon it.

Bishop Birmingham

On November 13 the Most Reverend Kevin M. Birmingham (49) a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago will be ordained as the Titular Bishop of Dolia and Auxiliary bishop of Chicago.

Bishop Birmingham’s armorial bearings represent his family name and symbols of his own devotional life. The division of the shield uses a jagged line called “indented” in heraldry and is borrowed from the arms associated with the family Bermingham and which is also used in several places that bear the name Birmingham. 

The upper half is green with a gold (yellow) chalice and white priest’s stole. These symbols represent priestly life and ministry and specifically act as an allusion to St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests to whom the bishop has had a lifelong devotion. On the ends of the stole are a red fleur-de-lis. This symbol is associated with France where St. John Vianney lived and died and are also borrowed from the coat of arms of the Archdiocese of Chicago where the bishop has spent his life and priestly ministry and now will continue with his episcopal ministry.

The lower half shows three red roses on a silver (white) background. They represent Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas. In connection with the appearance of Our Lady to Juan Diego the miraculous blooming of roses in December occurred. Two days after his ordination the bishop traveled to Mexico City and celebrated his second Mass as a priest at the Basilica of OL of Guadalupe. Throughout his priesthood he has had a strong devotion to Mary under this title.

The motto below the shield is “Tend My People” (adapted from John 21:16)

I was privileged to design and emblazon the armorial bearings of Bishop Birmingham.

Bishop Lombardo, CFR

On November 13 the Most Rev. Robert Lombardo, CFR (63) a Franciscan friar and priest currently serving in the Archdiocese of Chicago will be ordained as the Titular Bishop of Munatiana and Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago.

The armorial bearings of Bishop Lombardo reflect his Religious Community, his Marian devotion and the centrality of the Eucharist. The shield is divided into three sections by a dividing line that suggests an open cape. In the upper left on a silver (white) background is the customary symbol of Franciscans the world over composed of the right bare arms of Jesus and the left clothed arms of St. Francis of Assisi. Both show the hands bearing the nail mark of the Crucifixion because St. Francis received the stigmata prior to his death. The color of the sleeve on the arm of Francis reflects the grey/blue habit worn by the CFR Franciscans. This color more closely approximates the color of the robe actually worn by St. Francis himself. Bishop Lombardo is the first member of his community to be named a bishop.

The upper right depicts a traditional monogram of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is composed of the letter “M” interlaced with a cross. The whole is depicted blue, a color frequently associated with the Blessed Mother on a silver (white) field. This emblem is also found on the reverse of the Miraculous Medal of Our Lady which the bishop received years ago in Lourdes and has worn every day since.

The lower, main, portion of the shield is blue with a gold (yellow) cross-shaped monstrance holding the Sacred Host above blue and silver (white) waves. The waves allude to the Atlantic Ocean of the east coast of the US where the bishop was born, and also to Lake Michigan where Chicago is located and where he has done priestly and, now, episcopal ministry as well as to the Mediterranean Sea near Salerno and Calabria in Italy from which his ancestors came. The central figure is a simple monstrance in the shape of the cross containing the Eucharist. This symbolizes the central place in the bishop’s life of the Eucharist and also the Eucharistic retreats undertaken by the friars of his community all over the world.

The motto below the shield is “My God And My All”

It was my privilege to design and emblazon the armorial bearings of Bishop Lombardo. 

Erik Varden, OCSO

On October 3, the Most Rev. Erik Varden, OCSO, (46) formerly the Abbot of the Cistercian Abbey of Mt. St. Bernard in the UK and a convert to Catholicism was ordained a bishop in the Church and also installed as the 6th Territorial Prelate of the Prelature of Trondheim, Norway, his native country. It is interesting to note that his episcopal ordination took place in the Lutheran Nidaros cathedral, the traditional site of the consecration of the Kings of Norway which was built in the 12th Century and was originally a Catholic Cathedral.

A helpful reader directed me to the following information: The lions are taken from the arms of Mt. St. Bernard Abbey, Bishop Erik’s monastery. The pillar comes from the motto that he had used as abbot (“Columna in templo Dei”) – “A pillar in the temple of God”, a quote from the Book of Revelation. The rose symbolizes the flower that sprang from Root of Jesse, a reference to the mystery of the incarnation. The coat of arms was designed by Archbishop Charles Scicluna.

They are clear, simple and nicely designed. The artwork is also rather nice too.

Bishop Hicks of Joliet

On September 29, the Most Reverend Ronald A. Hicks (53), a priest and Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, will be installed as the Sixth Bishop of Joliet, Illinois.

His personal coat of arms was assumed in 2018 when he became a bishop and was prepared at that time by the late Deacon Paul Sullivan. After being named to Joliet he asked me to help him by marshaling his existing arms with those of the See of Joliet.

Bishop Persaud of Mandeville

On September 19 the Most Rev. John Derek Persaud (64) a priest of the Diocese of Georgetown, Guyana will be ordained a bishop and installed as the fourth bishop of Mandeville, Jamaica. I was pleased to be able to design his personal coat of arms and marshal it to the existing armorial bearings of the See.

The coat of arms of the Diocese of Mandeville depicts a red field on which there is a black cross filling the space. The cross is outlined in silver (white) to offset it from the red background. In the middle of the cross is the heart with the cross on top of it that is the emblem of the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus, more commonly known as “The Passionists” who were instrumental in the foundation of the diocese. On the upper third of the shield, called a “chief” are blue and silver (white) wavy bars suggesting the waves of the ocean with a gold (yellow) anchor, a symbol of Hope, placed overall.

Bishop Persaud’s arms depict a blue background on which there is a gold (yellow) eagle bearing a red scallop shell on its breast. The halo on the eagle’s head indicates it is the symbol of St. John, the Apostle and Evangelist. The given name John means “a gift from God”. In addition, the bishop’s family name, Persaud, means “gracious gift” derived from the Hindi word, “Prasad”. As both the bishop’s given name and family name have similar meanings the eagle as a symbol of St. John represents both. The red scallop shell on its breast is a heraldic symbol for St. Augustine, to whom the bishop has a special devotion.

In the lower part of the shield the silver (white) wavy lines suggest waves of the sea. This is borrowed from the coat of arms of the bishop’s native country, Guyana, the name of which means, “Land of many waters”. In addition, they also appear in the arms of the See of Mandeville so they possess a double meaning. Above the eagle there are two gold (yellow) pineapples borrowed from the coat of arms of Jamaica, the bishop’s newly adopted country. These are on either side of a silver (white) fleur-de-lis, a heraldic symbol for Our Lady.

The motto below the shield is, “Iustitia in Caritate” (Justice in Love)

The shield is also ensigned with those external ornaments that indicate the bearer is a bishop. The gold (yellow) cross is placed vertically behind and extending above and below the shield. This is often mistakenly thought to be a processional cross like those used in liturgical processions. However, in former times archbishops, and later all bishops, had a cross mounted on a staff carried immediately in front of them while in procession or on solemn occasions. This cross was a symbol of their rank as bishop. While such an episcopal cross is no longer used practically it has been retained heraldically. In fact, there are other clerics who make use of the ecclesiastical hat with its many tassels but the one true heraldic emblem of a bishop, and the only essential one, is the episcopal cross placed behind the shield.

Above the shield is the ecclesiastical hat, called a galero which, in heraldry, replaces the martial helmet, mantling and crest. “The hat with six pendant tassels (green, purple or black) on each side is universally considered in heraldry as the sign of prelacy. It, therefore, pertains to all who are actually prelates.” (Heim, Bruno B., Heraldry in the Catholic Church 1978, page 114) The galero is green with green cords pendant from it and twelve green tassels arranged in a pyramid shape on either side of the shield. At one time in history bishops and archbishops wore green before adopting the more Roman purple we see today. In heraldry the green hat and tassels was retained for prelates with the rank of bishop according to the Instruction of the Secretariat of State, “Ut Sive” of March, 1969.