Category Archives: Bishops

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.

Bishop Robert Brennan to Brooklyn

Today, September 29, Pope Francis appointed the Most Rev. Robert Brennan, 59, Bishop of Columbus, OH since 2019 to become the 8th Bishop of Brooklyn in its 168 year history. He succeeds Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, 77, who served there since 2003.

Bishop Brennan is a NY native and was a priest, official and Auxiliary Bishop in the neighboring diocese to Brooklyn, Rockville Centre until he went to Ohio three years ago. He also studied in the Brooklyn Diocese when he attended St. John’s University in Jamaica, Queens.

The arms he assumed in 2012 when he became a bishop impale nicely with those of the See of Brooklyn:

Ad Multos Annos!

Bishop Iffert of Covington

On September 30th the Rev. John C. Iffert (53) a priest of the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois will be ordained a bishop and installed as the 11th Bishop of Covington, Kentucky.

The armorial bearings that he will be assuming upon entering his episcopal ministry are:

It is customary in North America for a bishop to marshal his personal coat of arms to those of his jurisdiction, in this case the See of Covington. The method most often used is impalement whereby the two separate coats of arms are depicted side by side on the same shield. This method is most often used heraldically to depict the arms of two married people who are armigerous. In employing this method in the coat of arms of a diocesan bishop it illustrated that the bishop is “married” to his diocese. The arms of the See of Covington were commissioned by William T. Mulloy, 6th bishop of Covington, following the 1953 elevation of the cathedral to a minor basilica. The gold (yellow) sword over the red cross on a silver (white) field is the symbol of Saint Paul, the Patron of the Diocese of Covington. On a chief (upper third of the shield) the gold fleur-de-lis and silver crescent are symbols of the Blessed Virgin Mary who is the titular patroness of the Cathedral of the Assumption.

The right-hand side of the shield depicts the personal coat of arms now assumed by bishop Iffert. The field (background) is green a color used to symbolize hope in the liturgy and which also hearkens to the bishop’s farming ancestors, the color green being associated with the fertile land. Across the center of this field a wavy barrulet ( a line thinner than a bar or fess) represents the the rivers that flow near Belleville, IL (the Mississippi) and Covington, KY (the Ohio). These river cities are the places where Bishop Iffert has exercised his priestly and now episcopal ministry. In the upper portion there is a gold carpenter’s square and an eight-pointed star. These are symbols of St. Joseph and Our Lady. The star also appears in the coat of arms of Pope Francis so combined here they allude to the idea that Bishop Iffert was appointed by Pope Francis during the Year of St. Joseph. 

The gold garb of wheat in the lower part of the shield has multiple meaning. At harvest time wheat is brought in and gathered in sheaves or garbs. Harvest time is the time of year when we celebrate Thanksgiving and in the year Bishop Iffert was born his birthday happened to be Thanksgiving Day. In addition, the wheat alludes to what is used to confect the Eucharist, a word that means “thanksgiving”. The area of Illinois from which the bishop comes is often called “Little Egypt”. In addition, the garb of wheat is often used in heraldry to represent agriculture in general so it alludes to the bishop’s already mentioned farming ancestors. So, in the single charge of a sheaf of wheat we can allude to the Thanksgiving holiday, the act of giving thanks which is the central action of the Eucharist as the center of our Catholic lives and the matter of the Eucharist itself, the “gift of finest wheat”.

The motto below the shield is, “In All Things Give Thanks”, taken from 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

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 erroneously thought to be a processional cross like those used in liturgical processions. However, in former times archbishops 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 archbishop. Later, archbishops – and eventually all bishops – began to incorporate this symbol of rank into their coats of arms. A processional cross in Catholic usage is a crucifix and has a corpus on it while the episcopal cross very specifically does not. 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.

It was both my privilege and my pleasure to assist in the design and execution of the bishop’s coat of arms.

Grosseto

On August 9 the Most Rev. Giovanni Roncari, OFM. Cap. (71) Bishop of Pitigliano-Sovano-Obrbetello Italy was additionally installed as the Bishop of Grosetto, Italy. Henceforth, Grosseto is united to Pitigliano-Sovana-Orbetello in persona episcopi. His coat of arms, designed by Giuseppe Quattrociocchi is below:

The chief (upper third of the shield) contains the traditional symbol of all the various types of Franciscans, namely the crossed arms of Christ and Francis with a cross. The bridge recalls the place where the bishop hails from (San Piero a Ponti) and the star is for Our Lady. The inclusion of the Florentine fleur-de-lis is to recall the city of Florence where the bishop exercised a great deal of his priestly ministry.

The coat of arms is well done, despite the asymmetry of the star and fleur-de-lis. That bothers some people but can also work very well depending on the overall design and I think it does so here.

My only criticism is the inclusion of the small Tau Cross at the center of the episcopal cross standing behind the shield. As I have frequently written about on this blog I am of the opinion that the external ornaments in a heraldic achievement, which indicate rank, not identity, should not be seen as open to personalization. But, in the grand scheme of things that is a minor criticism at best. I particularly like the shape of the shield chosen as I think it works very well with what is depicted upon it.

Asidonia-Jerez

On July 31 Bishop José Rico Pavés, a bishop since 2012, was installed as the Bishop of Asidonia-Jerez (Jerez de la Frontera) Spain. His coat of arms is:

Generally speaking I think this is a nice coat of arms. The charges are clear and easy to discern and would be even if viewing the coat of arms greatly reduced, as on printed matter. The green portions of the lilies and the pomegranate don’t really break the tincture rule of no color on a color despite their being on a blue field because they are secondary additions to the primary charges (the blossoms of the lily and the fruit of the pomegranate themselves). Such little things can easily be tolerated.

The only real criticism I have is the notion of the anchor extending up onto the chief from the field. Charges, especially the principal charges like this one, aren’t supposed to overlap portions of the shield, especially in this instance where the shield is divided by having a chief. The chief itself is an ordinary and, as such, is considered to be placed over the upper portion of the blue field. Even if the anchor is blazoned as “overall” that doesn’t justify having it extend up to overlap the chief. In addition, it does actually violate the tincture rule of no metal on a metal since the whole body of the anchor is silver and it extends to a gold chief. Again, another good reason to have the anchor remain below the chief. Without counterchanging, it doesn’t really work so it comes off as a poor design decision.

I wonder why there is even a chief at all? Having the Sacred Heart on the anchor could have been enough justification to leave it red (on a silver anchor), or it could have been depicted all in gold and then the entire arms could have simply had a blue field.

Nevertheless, despite this one item, the rest of the coat of arms is, in my opinion, very nice.