Category Archives: Bishops

Two Recent Installations

The Most Rev. Robert Barron (62), a priest of Chicago and, since 2015, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles was installed as the 9th Bishop of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota on July 29. His arms impaled with those of the diocese:

On July 22, the Most Rev. Erik Pohlmeier (51), a priest of Little Rock, Arkansas was ordained a bishop and installed as the 12th Bishop of Florida’s venerable Diocese of St. Augustine. The arms he has assumed impaled with the diocesan arms:

Both bishops are fortunate to have diocesan coats of arms that are clear and simple and don’t clutter up the shield by impalement. (That’s a rarity in the US!) and they both have clear and uncomplicated personal coats of arms.

Full Disclosure: while I did not do the design or the artwork for Bishop Pohlmeier, because of this blog, he did consult with me in order to ask numerous questions and seek my advice on what he was hoping to use in his personal coat of arms.

The coat of arms of Bishop Barron was designed by James Noonan and emblazoned by his long-time collaborator, Linda Nicholson. The arms of Bishop Pohlmeier were designed by Renato Poletti.

Bishop Woost of Cleveland

On August 4 the Most Rev. Michael G. Woost (63) was ordained as the Titular Bishop of Sertei and Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland, OH where the had previously served as a priest.

His arms are blazoned: “Argent, a cross emerging from a pile embowed reversed Or, charged in base with a closed book Gules, in dexter chief a gutté d’eau surmounted in bend sinister by a gutté de sang, and in sinister chief a tongue of flame Proper.”

I don’t concern myself with the artwork here. In addition, the charges chosen are all clear and the overall design is simple. I do know that many, myself included, might take issue with the two droplets, one of water and the other of blood, slightly overlapping each other. As a general rule charges should not do that but it is done in a very minor way that I don’t think really detracts from the overall design or the ability to discern what they are. That, after all, is what is most important for a coat of arms.

No, my only issue –and it is admittedly a very minor one– is with the blazon. Now, it must be said at the outset that the art of blazon is not as precise as some might assert. That is to say there is often more than one way to blazon the same coat of arms. There can be slight differences in the way a phrase is turned, etc. While the essence of a coat of arms “lives” in the blazon rather than in the emblazonment that does not mean there can only be one single way to blazon a particular coat of arms.

My issue is with the use of the word “gutté” to refer to a single drop or droplet. Generally speaking a single drop is a “goutte” and the word “gutté” indicates a field or a charge that is covered with numerous drops of whatever liquid is being depicted. So, my minor criticism is that the blazon should read, “…in dexter chief a goutte d’eau surmounted in bend sinister by a goutte de sang…”

Nit picky? Perhaps. But, the blazon should try to be as precise as it can be assuming that someone who is familiar with the language of blazon could depict the coat of arms without ever having seen it just by following the blazon. Since gutté means covered with several drops and these arms contain a single drop each of water and of blood the blazon is confusing.

Cardinal McElroy

On August 27, in Rome, Pope Francis will create twenty-one new Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Among these, the Most Rev. Robert W. McElroy (68) a priest and Auxiliary Bishop in San Francisco who has, since 2015, served as the 6th Bishop of San Diego, California will receive the red hat. He assumed arms when he was made Auxiliary of San Francisco in 2010 and he later modified his coat of arms after he was translated to San Diego. He has decided to make two minor adjustments to his existing coat of arms by changing the episcopal cross which had previously been of a specific shape to a more general form and to change the oak leaf in the base of his shield from green on green to a contrasting color to make it easier to see.

His coat of arms as a Cardinal Priest are:

By heraldic custom observed in North America, the arms of a diocesan bishop are “impaled” side by side on the same shield to the arms of his jurisdiction, in this case, the Diocese of San Diego. This signifies that the diocesan bishop, in this case, the cardinal, is “married” to the See. The same method of impalement is employed in the coat of arms of two married people who are armigerous.

The coat of arms of the See of San Diego is composed of a gold (yellow) field and symbols of San Diego (St. Didacus in Latin), the diocesan patron saint. Diego was born to poor Spanish parents shortly before the year 1400. His love of poverty never left him. As a Franciscan brother he was a selfless servant of the poor and was known to heal the sick with the Sign of the Cross, the central charge of the diocesan coat of arms. The Spanish stew pot in the upper left quadrant indicates Diego’s boundless charity and tireless efforts to feed the hungry. San Diego had a special devotion to the Lord in his Passion, symbolized by the three nails in the other three quadrants. Diego died on Nov. 12, 1463, at the Franciscan monastery in Alcalá, Spain, pressing a crucifix to his heart and repeating the words of the Good Friday chant: “Dulce lignum, dulce ferrum, dulce pondus sustinet” (Precious the wood, precious the nails, precious the weight they bear.)

For his personal arms Cardinal McElroy uses the design he assumed in 2015 upon becoming Bishop of San Diego reflecting his priestly ministry and interests. The arms are composed of two sections of the field. In the upper portion, on a blue background, are stylized depictions of two California Missions. The upper is Mission San Francisco and the lower is Mission San Diego. Prior to becoming Bishop of San Diego the cardinal served as Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco. The lower part of the field shows a green background. On this field we see a silver (white) dove in flight which symbolizes peace; a silver (white) oak leaf used as a symbol of life and the gold (yellow) scales symbolizing justice. These three virtues are important to the life, work and ministry of the cardinal.

For his motto, Cardinal McElroy has selected the phrase “DIGNITATIS HUMANAE”  (Of the Dignity of the Human Person) which is also the title of the Second Vatican Council’s “Declaration on Religious Freedom”. 

The shield is ensigned with a gold (yellow) episcopal cross. Such crosses resemble  contemporary processional crosses but they are, in fact, different. In the Middle Ages such a cross, without a corpus, was carried directly in front of all metropolitan archbishops and Papal Legates as a symbol of their authority. Eventually all bishops began using this emblem and adopted it in their coats of arms as well. The episcopal cross ceased to be used in the late XIX Century but the cross behind the shield continues to be used by bishops in ecclesiastical heraldry. The cardinal retains the use of an episcopal cross, with a single horizontal bar, because while the Holy Father has promoted him to the dignity of the Sacred College of Cardinals he retains his office as Bishop of San Diego. In the armorial bearings of a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church the external ornaments around the shield reflect the office exercised by the individual cardinal. Those cardinals who are also archbishops use a cross with two horizontal bars; those who are bishops use one with a single horizontal bar. In the rare case of a cardinal who does not possess the episcopal office no cross at all appears in his coat of arms.

In addition, above the shield is the red ecclesiastical hat called a “galero” with fifteen tassels pendant on either side. This is the singular heraldic emblem that distinguishes the coat of arms of a cardinal. This broad brimmed hat, once worn in cavalcades, is no longer used but remains as a heraldic emblem. The galero was first bestowed on the Cardinals of the Roman Church by Pope Innocent IV at the First Council of Lyon in 1245. It was the first hat to be distinguished by the use of a specific color (scarlet) and it was also to be adorned with tassels. However, originally the number of tassels was not fixed. There are various examples of cardinals’ coats of arms that show as few as two tassels suspended from the galero and as many as seventy-two! What marked these coats of arms as those belonging to cardinals was that the galero, cords and tassels were red and nothing else. No one else could use such a red hat except a cardinal regardless of how many tassels were suspended from it. The number eventually was fixed at thirty (usually depicted as fifteen suspended on either side of the shield in a pyramidal pattern) only in 1832. A system for distinguishing the ranks of other clergy based on the color of the hat, of the cords and the number of the tassels did not come into existence until the Instruction of Pope St. Pius X “Inter Multiplices” in 1905. 

These external ornaments are those used for a prelate with the rank of cardinal who is a diocesan bishop while not being a metropolitan archbishop according to the Instruction of the Holy See, “Ut Sive“, of March, 1969.

It was my great pleasure to advise the Cardinal on his armorial achievement and to assist him in preparing this version upon his elevation to the Sacred Purple.

Bishop Dolan Translated To Phoenix

On August 2 the Most Reverend John Patrick Dolan (60), originally a priest of San Diego and, since 2017 Auxiliary Bishop of that same diocese, will be installed as the fifth Bishop of Phoenix, Arizona. His armorial bearings are:

The bishop’s coat of arms, is composed of a shield upon which there are symbolic charges, a motto and the external ornaments of rank. By heraldic custom observed in North America, the arms of the diocesan bishop are “impaled” side by side on the same shield to the arms of his jurisdiction, in this case, the Diocese of Phoenix. This signifies that the bishop is “married” to the See. The same method of impalement is employed in the coat of arms of two married people who are armigerous.

The coat of arms of the See of Phoenix is composed of a blue field on which is placed a silver (white) mountain to represent Camelback Mountain, a significant aspect of the backdrop of the See City. Arising from the mountain is a gold (yellow) bird that is coming forth from red flames to represent the mythological phoenix, that arose from the ashes, and for which the See city is named. Above the phoenix is a gold cross formy fitchée (three arms of a cross and one resembling a spike), which is taken from the arms of the Diocese of Tucson to signify that it was from the territory of Tucson that the Diocese of Phoenix was created in 1969.

For his personal arms Bishop Dolan has adopted a design to reflect his religious devotion, priestly ministry and family. The arms are composed of a gold (yellow) field on which there is a single charge of the Sacred Heart of Jesus depicted wounded, surrounded by a crown of thorns and enflamed all colored red. This reflects the bishop’s devotion to the Sacred Heart which is also symbolic of the mercy of God which he tries to reflect in his priestly ministry. All priests are exhorted to conform themselves more closely to Christ and strive to be shepherds after His own heart. The gold field is borrowed from the coat of arms of the diocese of San Diego to recall the local church he had served as a priest and auxiliary bishop. The chief (upper third of the shield) replicates the blue field and crescents traditionally associated with the arms of Dolan in Irish heraldry. Here the usually silver crescents have been colored gold (yellow) and reduced in number from three to two for differencing. These charges are merely borrowed to act as an allusion to the bishop’s family name.

For his motto, Bishop Dolan has selected the phrase “ABIDE IN MY LOVE”.

The shield is ensigned with a gold (yellow) episcopal cross. Such crosses resemble  contemporary processional crosses but they are, in fact, different. In the Middle Ages such a cross, without a corpus, was carried directly in front of all metropolitan archbishops and Papal Legates as a symbol of their authority. Eventually all bishops began using this emblem and adopted it in their coats of arms as well. The episcopal cross ceased to be used in the late XIX Century but the cross behind the shield is the true emblem of episcopal heraldry. In addition, above the shield is the green ecclesiastical hat called a “galero” with six tassels pendant on either side. This broad brimmed hat, once worn in cavalcades, is no longer used but remains as a heraldic emblem. The original color worn by bishops and archbishops was green, not purple. This “episcopal color” is retained in heraldry. These external ornaments are those used for a prelate with the rank of bishop according to the Instruction of the Holy See, “Ut Sive”, of March, 1969.

I was pleased to design the bishop’s personal arms in 2017 when he became a bishop and was also happy to marshal them to those of his new diocese shortly after his appointment to Phoenix.

Bishop Emil Wcela RIP

The Most Rev. Emil Wcela (pronounced “Sella”), Titular Bishop of Filaca and Auxiliary Bishop of Rockville Centre, NY since 1988 passed away on May 21 at age 91. Bishop Wcela was born on Long Island and was, in fact, the first native of what is now the Diocese of Rockville Centre to be named a bishop. Born May 1, 1931 in Bohemia, NY (somewhat fittingly as he was of Czech origin) he was ordained in 1956 for the Diocese of Brooklyn for the simple reason that the Diocese of Rockville Centre didn’t yet exist! In that year all of Long Island was still the Diocese of Brooklyn. In 1957 Pope Pius XII separated the two easternmost counties of Long Island from Brooklyn and erected the Diocese of Rockville Centre and Wcela was immediately incarnated into the new diocese.

I had the privilege of knowing Bishop Wcela. We met in 1993 when we were students together at the Language Institute that was then run by the Diocese of Brooklyn for those in ministry. We were both in Spanish class together.

Reluctant to become a bishop (he refused the first time it was offered to him) the arms that he assumed were reflective of things meaningful to him. I know from talking with him that he pretty much was told simply to sketch out on paper what he wanted and then the late Deacon Paul Sullivan “cleaned it up” a bit, painted it and wrote up a blazon. Considering the bishop was no expert in heraldry he didn’t do half badly! It is a bit crowded and it is definitely a “CV coat of arms”. Nevertheless, there is some logic to it and even a clever image thrown in as well.

The field is composed of the tripartite Czech flag which is red, white and blue. The book and crescent in chief evoke his many years serving as a Scripture professor and also Rector at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, NY. The carpenter’s square and lily to dexter evoke St. Joseph whom the bishop looked to as a special patron and intercessor. To the sinister the blue wavy lines on the silver (white) field evoke the sea and the torteau in the center of it resembles an island. This is to signify his being the first native Long Islander raised to the episcopate. The bee on the torteau is for his surname, Wcela which is a variation of the Czech word “vcela” which means honeybee.

The motto, Grace and Peace, is a typical greeting used by St. Paul. Grace is the sum total of the gifts bestowed on humanity by God culminating in the gift of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Peace designates wholeness and the rightness of all relationships. God’s grace results in peace so the Church is the instrument of God’s Grace & Peace.

Bishop Wcela was a kind man; a good priest; a gentle shepherd. May he Rest in Peace.

Bishop Fabre-Jeune of Charleston

On May 13, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, the Most Rev. Jacques Fabre-Jeune, CS (66), a priest of the Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo will be ordained a bishop and installed as the 15th Bishop of Charleston, South Carolina.

FABRE 11A  sq shield parted per fess

“The upper portion contains a Royal Palm Tree in gold with a Phrygian cap in gold and silver. The palm tree was the first and most important emblem requested by Bishop Fabre-Jeune. It is a symbol of his place of birth and heritage, plus a symbol of the faith so deeply rooted within the Fabre family. This particular palm tree has eight branches, one for each member of the Fabre family: Bishop Jacques, his parents Providence and Anita, and his five siblings. The strong roots of the Royal Palm Tree are clearly visible, reaching out to the tip of the Cross Fleury.

The lower half of the shield is subdivided quarterly, silver and red. The first quarter (upper left, silver) contains a green Butterfly, a symbol for migration. The island of Hispaniola is home to one of the species of this migratory monarch butterfly. The use of green is associated with new life.

The second quarter (upper right, red) features a Gold Crown borrowed from the coat of arms of the Scalabrinians — the Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo — an international community of religious serving migrants and refugees of different cultures, religions and ethnicities. Bishop Fabre-Jeune is a professed member of this community.

The third quarter (lower left, red) contains a Phoenix rising from the flames: a mythical bird that rejuvenates itself by dying in fire and being reborn from the ashes, a symbol of eternal life. The phoenix is from the coat of arms of the city of Chicago, where Jacques Fabre-Jeune professed first vows as a Scalabrinian in 1982.

The fourth quarter (lower right, silver) contains a Fig Bough with Fruit, representing the Old Testament prophet Amos. Before responding to the call of the Lord, Amos was “a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore-fig trees” (7:14).

The lower portion of the shield contains a Cross Fleury over all with a fleur-de-lis at the end of each arm. The fleur-de-lis represents a lily, which is commonly associated with the Virgin Mary. In the story of our salvation, Mary is the first of those called to serve the Lord. The use of the cross is also a nod to the first Bishop of Charleston, John England (1820-1842), whose coat of arms featured a Cross Bottony over all.”

The explanation on the diocesan website states, “Bishop Fabre-Jeune desired a coat of arms that would define clearly, simply, and humbly his heritage, his faith, his life and his ministry as a priest and as the shepherd for the Church in Charleston, South Carolina.”

I think it succeeds on the latter desires of showing heritage, faith and life & ministry but can’t agree that it succeeds to do so either clearly or simply. Can you even make out the Phrygian Cap above the palm tree? Imagine what it will look like when it’s an inch high at the top of letterhead!

Bishop Fernandes of Columbus

The Most Rev. Earl Fernandes (49) a priest of Cincinnati, Ohio will be ordained and installed as the 13th Bishop of Columbus , Ohio on May 31. The arms he is assuming makes a clear reference to the archdiocesan arms of Cincinnati by the inclusion of the plow. The escallop shells refer to Baptism and to the Holy Trinity.

A perfectly acceptable coat of arms, designed by Renato Poletti.

New Seattle Auxiliary

On May 3 the Most Rev. Franklin Schuster (50) was ordained Titular Bishop of Hirina and Auxiliary to the Archbishop of Seattle. The coat of arms he assumed, designed and executed by Renato Poletti, is:

As is my usual custom I will not undertake to critique the artwork.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with dividing a shield per pale with two different tinctures when it is done in this manner with a single charge on each side of the field it has the overall, albeit unintended, effect of making the shield look like impaled arms. Two coats of arms marshaled together on the same shield is the custom for married armigerous persons or, especially in the case of ecclesiastical heraldry, an indication of personal arms and arms of jurisdiction. These are frequently marshaled together to indicate the “marriage” of the armiger with the body over which he presides.

A field of two colors divided per pale would be seen as a single coat of arms if the charges on it were imposed overall and “crossed” the line of impalement illustrating that the two colors are making a single field.

In addition, a silver (white) candle on a gold (yellow) field violates the tincture rule unnecessarily. This rule has many exceptions to it but it may be ignored when there is a good reason. I don’t really see such a reason here. While individual armigers often assign a particular meaning to the use of a specific tincture there is no set and established symbolism behind any color in heraldry. Therefore, their use isn’t a necessity. In the case of this design a blue field could have been used alone with both the silver (white) candle upon it and silver or gold star simply placed in chief without losing the idea behind the design, namely, that it represents both Christmas (the star) and Easter (the candle).

That would have made for a simpler design that was quite effective while, at the same time, avoiding the tincture issues as well as the appearance of impaled arms.

An opportunity missed. The overall coat of arms is pleasant looking and it isn’t really “bad”. It’s just, like so very many other coats of arms we see among bishops today, not as good as it could have, or should have been.

Two For The Big Apple

On March 1 two new auxiliary bishops were ordained for the Archdiocese of New York. They are the Most Rev. John Samuel Bonnici (57), Titular Bishop of Arindela and the Most Rev. Joseph Armando Espaillat (45), Titular Bishop of Tagarbala. Their armorial bearings, rendered by Sig. Renato Poletti, are as follows:

Toledo Auxiliary

Francisco César García Magán (59) a priest of Toledo, Spain was ordained as the Titular Bishop of Scebatiana and Auxiliary of Toledo on January 15.

The design of his arms is a bit amateurish and cliched; four quarters each with a symbol. The problem with that is that while it might seem an attractive idea from the point of view of design, affording four chances to include different symbols, the idea of quartered arms implies four separate coats of arms that have been marshaled together on the same shield by the method of quartering.

It is, as I said, an amateur’s mistake to think that a newly assumed coat of arms may start out being a shield divided into four quarters each bearing something different. Having said that the new bishop’s arms are aesthetically pleasant and the symbols used are, at least, appropriate.

In the first quarter the Jerusalem cross is used not to symbolize the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher. That cross, used by that order, is not exclusive to it. Here it represents the Passion of the Lord. The second quarter alludes to the Spanish territory of Castile. The third quarter is symbolic of Our Lady (star of the sea) and the fourth quarter alludes to justice and to Canon Law, the academic color for which is green.

Bishop dos Santos

The Most Rev. Joel Maria dos Santos (55) a priest of the archdiocese of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, was ordained Titular Bishop of Thenae and Auxiliary Bishop of Belo Horizonte on December 18, 2021.

His coat of arms is rather nice. It’s clear with a simple, if not a bit haphazard arrangement of the charges. The principal symbol represents the Holy Trinity while the star is for Our Lady and the sword and book a reference to St. Paul. The color scheme is good and the tinctures and metals are a good combination while not going nuts with multiple tinctures.

A very nice coat of arms. Bravo!

Bishop Meagher

On December 8 the Most Rev. Daniel Joseph Meagher (60), a priest of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia was ordained a bishop with the Titular See of Pocofeltus and assigned to serve as Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney. The arms he assumed, of which I was pleased to act as a consultant on the design, are the following:

Bishop Guido Marini

On October 17 Pope Francis ordained his long-serving Master of Pontifical Ceremonies, Guido Marini (56) as Bishop of Tortona at a liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica. Bishop Marini, a priest of Genoa who served as Papal MC since 2007, will be installed in his cathedral church on November 7.

The armorial bearings he has assumed were prepared by Marco Foppoli.