Category Archives: Bishops

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.

Bishop Marshall of Alexandria, Louisiana

On August 20, 2020, the Most Rev. Robert Marshall (61) up until now a priest of the Diocese of Memphis, Tennessee will be ordained a bishop and installed as the thirteenth bishop of Alexandria, Louisiana. The diocese was founded originally as the diocese of Natchitoches and was later called Alexandria and then Alexandria-Shreveport until Shreveport was separated to be its own diocese in 1986.

Bishop Marshall’s coat of arms impaled with those of Alexandria are:

To the left we see the arms of the Diocese of Alexandria. The red background represents the Red River which runs through the city. The silver (white) cross stands for the Christian faith and is surrounded by four bells borrowed from the ancient See of Alexandria, Egypt for which the city that is the seat of the diocese is named. Over all of this is a crescent divided into gold (yellow) and black checks. This is borrowed from the Spanish arms for the family “Xavier” and serves as an allusion to St. Francis Xavier, the titular patron of the cathedral church.

Bishop Marshall’s arms depict a blue background with a silver (white) Cross of Calvary. This type of cross is depicted as a Latin cross (the lower arm being longer than the other three) atop three gradings or steps. Both the background color and the cross are derived from the coat of arms associated with the name “Martin”. This was the bishop’s mother’s maiden name and is used to honor his family heritage. The lower portion of the field is divided from the upper third called a “chief” by a narrow silver (white) wavy line. This wavy line represents the Mississippi River near to which the bishop has lived for most of his life. In addition, a symbol of the Mississippi River is included in the coat of arms of the Diocese of Memphis in which the bishop served as a priest prior to becoming a bishop.

 On the red background of the chief are a single silver (white) five-pointed star between two gold (yellow) pine cones. The star comes from the emblem of the LaSalle Christian Brothers who educated the bishop both in his high school and college years as well as educating his father and uncles. That Religious Community of men had a profound and lasting impact on not only the bishop’s education but also on his spiritual life and journey and on the lives of his family. The red background and pine cones are borrowed from the coat of arms of the bishop’s patron saint, St. Robert Bellarmine.

The motto below the shield is, “Live, Jesus In Our Hearts” from a prayer attributed to St. John Baptist de La Salle (1651-1719), founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools and patron saint of teachers of youth.  The prayer is used multiple times each day in LaSallian schools throughout the world.  It is used most frequently in dialog.  The leader says, “Live Jesus in our hearts,” and the students respond, “Forever!”

It was my privilege to design the bishop’s personal arms, marshal them to the arms of the See and emblazon them.

Bishop Tylka of Peoria

On July 23, the Most Rev. Louis Tylka (50), a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, will be ordained a bishop in the Church and also become the Coadjutor Bishop of Peoria, Illinois. A Coadjutor Bishop functions within the diocese very much like an Auxiliary Bishop and has duties that are at the discretion of the Diocesan Bishop. However, what distinguishes a Coadjutor Bishop is that he has a right to automatically succeed to the See on the death or resignation of the current Diocesan Bishop. So, when the day comes that Bishop Jenky, CSC of Peoria leaves office Bishop-Elect Tylka will immediately succeed him as Diocesan Bishop.

The coat of arms he assumes now is his personal arms alone which will, in due time, be impaled with those of the Diocese of Peoria after he succeeds to the See.

The field is red which is a color associated with the Holy Spirit. The life of any priest and bishop is placed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The two silver (white) “waves,” at the bottom of the shield symbolize Lake Michigan (the shores of the archdiocese of Chicago where Bishop Tylka served prior to becoming a bishop) and Lake St. Mary (at the seminary which the bishop attended). Together the waves hearken to our Baptism which initiates into the life of Christ and also alludes to John the Baptist.

The main charge – a mystical rose – is composed of several elements that are layered as each aspect of our faith builds upon the various encounters we have with the Lord, the Church and others. Together, they create a symbol of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is a slight reference to the parish of Mater Christi where the bishop served for ten years as pastor. In addition, the rose also alludes to the need to grow in our faith which blossoms as it grows. The larger petals of the rose consist of heart-shapes surmounted by small tongues of fire resembling the traditional image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This represents His sacrificial love for us. The flames above each heart also remind us of the Holy Spirit. Coincidentally, the Sacred Heart was a particular devotion of St. Julie Billiart, the patroness of the parish in which the bishop has served as pastor for the last six years.)

At the center of the rose are five gold (yellow) petals surrounding a silver (white) roundel on which there is a cross. This represents the Sacred Host in the monstrance and it is placed at the center of the whole image as a way of expressing the Eucharist being at the center of the life of faith. Traditionally a heraldic rose is depicted with thorns which, in this instance, have been shaped like the fleur-de-lis. This has multiple meanings as it alludes to St. Joseph and to the bishop’s home parish of St. Joseph, St. Louis the King (the bishop’s baptismal patron) and the Archdiocese of Chicago (from whose coat of arms they were borrowed).

Blazoning this complex charge was a bit challenging but it turned out to be, “…a Mystical Rose composed of five heart-shaped petals Argent each surmounted by a tongue of fire Or surrounding an inner circle of petals Or; seeded with a plate charged with a Greek cross Sable and barbed with fleurs-de-lis Or.” In general, it’s considered a good practice to keep a blazon as succinct as possible but sometimes, especially as in this case when coming up with something new and unique, it’s best simply to describe it as thoroughly as possible in case someone in the future will be working from the blazon.

The motto below the shield is, “Go Make Disciples” from Matthew 28:19.

The Bishop-Elect requested an emblazonment that was as simple as possible and also reflected his preference for a more modern style.

I was very pleased and happy to design and emblazon Bishop Tylka’s achievement.

Bishop Lewandowski, C.Ss.R.

The coat of arms assumed by the Most Rev. Bruce Lewandowski, CSsR who will be ordained the Titular Bishop of Croae and Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore on August 18th:

While many reactions leap to mind such as: incorrect, poorly-designed, clashing styles (the dove’s wing going right up off the shield is particularly ridiculous) among others there is really only one word to describe this:

HIDEOUS!

Found in Translation

The Most Rev. Edward Malesic (59) who, since 2015 has served as the fifth Bishop of Greensburg, Pennsylvania is now to be translated to the See of Cleveland, Ohio becoming its twelfth Bishop. The announcement was made in Rome this morning. Very well liked and respected in Greensburg, Bishop Malesic, originally a priest of Harrisburg, PA, will be greatly missed. He brings to Cleveland his gifts and talents and hopefully he will have a fruitful ministry there. His coat of arms, assumed in 2015, will impale well with those of the Diocese of Cleveland.

Bishop McGovern of Belleville

On July 22 the Most Rev. Michael McGovern (56) a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, will be ordained a bishop in the Church and installed as the IX Bishop of the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois.

The new bishop is assuming a personal coat of arms which will be impaled with the arms of the See:

In the dexter (left side as we view it) impalement, Belleville is symbolized by a blue field with a green mount or hill rising from the base of the design. This hill has a dual significance. It refers to Compton Hill, the name of Belleville until 1814, and to Cahokia Mounds near which Bishop Laval of Quebec established the first mission serving the Cahokia Native Americans in 1699. On the top of the hill is a castle which is the traditional symbol for a city (“ville”). It is rendered in gold for beauty (“belle”) which identifies the See city, Belleville. Rising above the castle is a gold cross with arms that end in fleur-de-lis to honor the French missionaries who served the Native Americans of Southern Illinois. Above the castle is an arched bar which is taken from the Coat of Arms of His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII who erected Belleville as a Diocese in 1887. Just above this bar are the symbolic “keys to the Kingdom of Heaven” given by Christ to Simon Peter, the rock on which He built the Church. This is in recognition of the diocese’s Cathedral Church of Saint Peter.

The personal coat of arms assumed by Bishop McGovern combines symbols that are meaningful to him reflecting his spiritual life and priestly ministry. The field is red, a color associated with the Holy Spirit as well as with the Passion of the Lord. The life and ministry of a priest and bishop are rooted in the Paschal sacrifice of Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit. The main charge, a silver (white) pelican in its piety, symbolizes the discipleship to Christ to which all Christians are called. It depicts a pelican vulning its breast, or picking at its own flesh to feed its young with its blood. This is clearly an image of Christ and the Eucharist who calls us all together as His brothers and feeds us with His Body & Blood.

Below the pelican is a gold (yellow) crescent which is a symbol of Our Lady under her title of the Immaculate Conception, the patroness of the United States of America. Above the pelican are two gold fleurs-de-lis which, while also being a symbol associated with Our Lady, are included here because they are taken from the coat of arms of the Archdiocese of Chicago where Bishop McGovern served as a priest prior to becoming a bishop.  

The motto below the shield is, “Vos Autem Dixi Amicos”, taken from John 15:15. Jesus says to His disciples, “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” This, too, is an allusion to the fellowship of discipleship which Jesus gives to all people.

It was both my privilege and my pleasure to design and emblazon the bishop’s coat of arms as well as to marshal them to the existing coat of arms of the See of Belleville..

Bishop Ramon Bejarano

On July 14, the feast of St. Katherine Tekakwitha, the Most Rev. Ramon Bejarano (50), a priest of the Diocese of Stockton, California will be ordained the Titular Bishop of Carpi and the Auxiliary Bishop of San Diego, California.

The coat of arms he is assuming is the following:

The personal coat of arms combines symbols that are meaningful to him reflecting his spiritual life and priestly ministry. The main part of the shield shows a gold background on which are four wavy vertical lines. These represent flowing waters. This alludes to his chosen motto and also symbolizes the graces that come from the Divine life to quench our thirst for God.

The upper third of the shield, called a “chief” is red because it is borrowed for the coat of arms of the Order of Mercy, the Mercedarians, of which the bishop’s patron saint, Raymond Nonnatus, was a member. The central symbol resembles a monstrance because St. Raymond is often depicted artistically holding a monstrance. Furthermore, the Eucharist is, for Bishop Bejarano, the inspiration for his priestly vocation. It was through the Eucharist that he received his call to the priesthood at age seven and which keeps his faith and his ministry going. It represents the call to offer oneself as a living sacrifice.

The monstrance is flanked on either side by an image of the Sacred Heart alluding to the mercy of God and echoing the idea of a sacrificial offering of oneself united to the sacrifice of Christ and of a rose for Our Lady. In particular, it is an allusion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas. This is for the bishop’s Hispanic heritage.In connection with the appearance of Our Lady to Juan Diego the miraculous blooming of roses in December occurred.

The motto below the shield is, “My Soul Is Thirsting For You” from Psalm 63. He chose this because he sees it as also connected with St. Augustine’s phrase about our restless heart. (“Our hearts are restless, O God, until they rest in Thee”) The human heart seeks God, and Bishop Bejarano sees the need for evangelization for so many thirsting souls.

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. 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. 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.

It was my privilege and pleasure to design and execute Bishop Bejarano’s coat of arms.

Bishop Kevin Sweeney of Paterson, NJ

On July 1, 2020 the Most Rev. Kevin Sweeney (50) a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn since 1997 will be ordained a bishop and installed as the 8th Bishop of Paterson, New Jersey. The coat of arms he is assuming is the following:

On the left from the viewer’s perspective, is the coat of arms of the Diocese of Paterson. The main charge, the Paschal Lamb holding the banner of victory, is the symbol for St. John the Baptist, the titular of the Cathedral. It was John who said: “Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:12).

The trefoil, more commonly called a shamrock is a symbol of St. Patrick. The silver (white) division line with a crenelated upper edge represents the Lord’s protection of the city (and diocese).

On the right from the viewer’s perspective is the coat of arms assumed by Bishop Sweeney upon being named a bishop. It is joined (impaled) on the same shield with those of the diocese to indicate that Bishop Sweeney possesses jurisdiction over the diocese and that he is symbolically “married” to it. This manner of combining two coats of arms on the same shield is the method of marshaling that has been used for centuries by two armigerous people who get married.

The two main colors of the coat of arms are blue and gold (yellow) borrowing from the coat of arms of St. John Paul II whose life and pontificate greatly influenced the vocation and ministry of Bishop Sweeney. The main charge on the lower gold (yellow) field is a red escallop shell. This is a symbol of St. James, the titular of the Cathedral-Basilica in Brooklyn, and is borrowed from the coat of arms of the Diocese of Brooklyn where Bishop Sweeney was born and raised, educated and ordained a priest prior to becoming a bishop. There are three blue drops of water falling below the shell which make the shell also a symbol of St. John the Baptist, the titular of the cathedral in Paterson. In addition, this charge emphasizes the importance of Baptism as our incorporation into the Body of Christ and the call to holiness that is received by all followers of Jesus.

The upper part of the shield, is colored blue and contains two silver (white) horizontal lines as well as a golden rose. The white lines against the blue background allude to the distinctive blue and white habit worn by St. Teresa of Calcutta, the foundress of the Missionaries of Charity. This saintly woman also had a profound influence on Bishop Sweeney and he wished to commemorate her as a saint to whom he looks for inspiration in his priestly, and episcopal ministry. The golden rose is a symbol of Our Lady. The gold (yellow) rose alludes to Our Lady of Knock in particular and by this the bishop honors his Irish heritage. However, the rose also has a double symbolism in that it is an allusion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas. In connection with the appearance of Our Lady to Juan Diego a miraculous blooming of roses in December occurred so this flower, regardless of its color, is associated with Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The motto below the shield, in English and in Spanish, is, “God Is Love – Dios Es Amor”. 

The shield is also ensigned with the gold (yellow) cross 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. In former times archbishops, and later all bishops, had a cross mounted on a staff carried immediately in front of them on all 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 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.

I was pleased and privileged to design the bishop’s personal coat of arms and to marshal them to the arms of his diocese and execute the artwork. Bishop Sweeney and I first became acquainted 28 years ago when we were in the seminary. Ad Multos Annos!