Category Archives: Bishops

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!

Bishop Romero, Auxiliary of Rockville Centre, NY

On June 29, the Solemnity of Ss. Peter & Paul, the Most Rev. Luis Miguel Romero Fernández, M.Id. (66) a native of Palencia, Spain and a member of the Idente Missionaries currently serving as a pastor in the Diocese of Rockville Centre which covers two thirds of New York’s Long Island, will be ordained the Titular Bishop of Egara and Auxiliary Bishop of Rockville Centre. The coat of arms I assisted him in designing which he will assume as a bishop are as follows:

The coat of arms assumed by Bishop Romero reflects his Religious Community, the diocese in which he serves, his previous ministry and his heritage. The colors used in this coat of arms are primarily red, white and blue, the national colors of the United States because the bishop wishes to honor the country in which he now lives and serves as both a priest and bishop. The main charge, or feature, across the middle of the shield is a bar specifically shaped to suggest an open book with the blue lower portion representing the binding and spine of the book and the white upper portion suggesting the pages. This is used to symbolize the many years the bishop spent working in a university setting as a teacher and administrator.

The lower portion of the shield depicts three red roses on their green stems. This is an allusion to the miracle of the roses in December that accompanied the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego. As such they serve as a symbol of Our Lady, especially Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas and a particular devotion to the Hispanic peoples. This is for all the many years the bishop has spent in priestly ministry outside his native Spain serving Spanish-speaking people in other countries, especially in the Americas.

The upper part of the shield contains the symbol of the Community to which the bishop belongs, the Idente Missionaries. He is the first member of this community to be appointed a bishop so it was of great importance for him to include the community emblem in his own coat of arms. This is flanked by two escallop shells taken from the coat of arms of the Diocese of Rockville Centre in which he has served as a priest and pastor and which he is now called to serve in a greater capacity as a bishop.

The motto below the shield is, “Meek And Humble Of Heart” (Matthew 11:29)

The bishop specifically asked that the episcopal cross behind the shield and the galero be depicted in as simple a style as possible so they are depicted without any ornamentation. This, of course, is not reflected in the blazon because the blazon does not specify the manner of the depiction of the external ornaments. Rather, this was merely the simple manner in which the bishop requested this depiction be rendered.

New Auxiliary Bishop of Newark (part I)

On June 30, 2020 the Most Rev. Elias Lorenzo, OSB (59) up until now the Abbot-Praeses of the American-Cassinese Congregation of Benedictine Monks and a monk of St. Mary’s Abbey in Morristown, New Jersey will be ordained as the Titular Bishop of Tabuda and Auxiliary Bishop of the archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey. The coat of arms assumed by him is the following:

Upon his election as Abbot-Praeses (i.e. President) of the American-Cassinese Congregation in 2016 I had the privilege of designing the coat of arms he would assume as an Abbot. Upon his appointment to the episcopacy Bishop Lorenzo decided, correctly in my opinion, not to change his arms in any way except to update the external ornaments from those of an Abbot to those of a Bishop. His armorial bearings reflect his family name, the community of his profession, his past ministry and his monastic patron.

The shield is divided by a line shaped like a chevron. This creates the general shape alluding to a mountain, in this case Mount Carmel, the mountain associated with the prophet Elijah from whose name the name Elias is derived. The large tongue of fire in the center of the lower portion of the shield (referred to as “in base”) combined with the mountain allude to St. Elias.

In addition, the blue and silver (white) checked pattern also has a multi-layered meaning. The American-Cassinese Congregation was founded by Benedictines from St. Michael’s Abbey in Bavaria. The motherhouse of the Congregation, St. Vincent Archabbey in Pennsylvania, makes use of the blue and silver fusils (a kind of elongated diamond pattern) from the coat of arms of Bavaria in its own coat of arms. Several other monasteries in the Congregation which are daughter houses or grand daughter houses of St. Vincent also make use of this pattern. One such abbey is St. Mary’s in Morristown, New Jersey. At this monastery Bishop Elias entered monastic life, made his profession of vows and was ordained. In his coat of arms the blue and silver (white) fusils have been turned sideways forming a grid of blue and white squares or checks. The grid pattern suggests the gridiron on which St. Lawrence was roasted alive as the means of his martyrdom. This is an allusion to the Abbot’s surname, “Lorenzo” which in Italian means “Lawrence”. The grid of blue and white squares combined with the fire represents St. Lawrence while at the same time the blue and white squares are a slightly differenced reference to the coat of arms of St. Mary’s Abbey as well as Bavaria in general as the homeland of the Congregation’s founders.

At the center of the flame there is a red rounded cross. This cross is taken from the coat of arms of Sant’Anselmo in Rome where, for seven years before his election as Abbot-President , the armiger was served as Prior of the monastic community.

Above the chevron in the upper portion of the shield (referred to as “in chief”) there are two blue crescents. The crescent has long been associated with Our Lady in particular under her title of the Immaculate Conception. That title is also the one by which Mary is the Patroness of the United States of America. In addition, crescents appear in the coat of arms of St. Mary’s Abbey and the coat of arms of the Delbarton School, the Abbey’s principal apostolate, both of with which Bishop Elias is closely associated.

The motto below the shield is taken from Luke 1:37 and is translated as, “Nothing is impossible with God”.

New Auxiliary Bishop of Newark (part II)

On June 30, 2020 the Most Rev. Michael Saporito (58) will be ordained as the Titular Bishop of Luperciana and Auxiliary Bishop of the archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey. The coat of arms assumed by him is the following:

Bishop Saporito worked with me to choose and assume a coat of arms reflecting his priestly life and ministry. The red background is borrowed from the coat of arms of the Archdiocese of Newark where the upper third of that shield (called a chief) is colored red. The bishop’s whole life, priesthood and, now, episcopate has been spent in the service of the Archdiocese.

The central symbol, or charge, is the flaming sword that is used as a symbol of his baptismal patron, St. Michael the Archangel. Michael, reckoned as the commander of the heavenly hosts wields the sword that symbolizes righteousness and God’s justice.

The sword, with a silver blade surrounded by golden flames and gold handle has two open books on either side. The pages of the books are blank and silver (white) while the books are bound in gold (yellow). These symbolize the Sacred Scriptures in both Testaments and are a reminder of the need for and the work of evangelization in the Church. The Bishop has devoted a part of his priestly ministry to the New Evangelization. 

The motto below the shield is “Feed My Sheep” (John 21:17)

New Auxiliary Bishop of Newark (part III)

On June 30, 2020 the Most Rev. Gregory Studerus (72) will be ordained as the Titular Bishop of Tarasa in Byzacena and Auxiliary Bishop of the archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey. The coat of arms assumed by him is the following:

Shortly after his appointment Bishop Studerus contacted me and asked me to help design his coat of arms. He had some ideas based on a coat of arms in his possession reportedly belonging to his family as well as an abstract idea for representing urban ministry. The landscape was acceptable but I advised making the urban ministry symbol a bit less abstract and slightly more conventional. The chief takes off on the arms of the archdiocese with one of the trefoils being changed to a Green cross.

The main portion of the shield is divided by a diagonal line running from the viewer’s upper right to the lower left. This is called dividing the field with a bend sinister. The upper portion depicts a tree growing from a green hillside. The tree is depicted as we would find it in nature and shows three branches as an allusion to the Holy Trinity. All of this is set against a light blue sky. In heraldry blue is one of the five tinctures used. However, there is also the possibility of using what are known as “stains” in heraldry and among these are Bleu Celeste which is a decidedly lighter shade of blue than that usually used in heraldry and is frequently used to depict the sky. This symbol is borrowed from a coat of arms that was adopted by the bishop’s family. This section of the shield symbolizes Bishop Studerus’ love and concern for the environment.

The lower portion shows a black cross on a gold (yellow) background with the four quadrants of the cross being intersected with thin black lines spaced unevenly suggesting a map of city streets. This section of the shield symbolizes Bishop Studerus’ forty years of priestly ministry served in the city.

The upper third of the shield, called a “chief” takes it red color by borrowing from the coat of arms of the See of Newark which has a similar red chief with a crescent flanked by two trefoils. Here we see three symbols alluding to the cultural influences in the bishop’s life. The trefoil resembles the shamrock which is a symbol of St. Patrick and of Ireland. It is used here to allude to the Irish heritage of the bishop’s mother. The crescent in the center is symbolic of the Immaculate Conception of Mary which is the titular patron of the United States of America. The cross with four equally long bars, known as a “Greek cross”, does not in this instance symbolize anything Greek. Rather, it is the same cross found in the coat of arms and on the flag of Switzerland and it alludes to the Swiss heritage of the bishop’s father. All three are colored silver (white).

The motto below the shield is, “Forget Not His Love” (Psalm 103)

Three New Ones That Don’t Quite Hit the Mark

Recently, there have been several new bishops ordained and/or installed in the U.S. and in each case their new coats of arms are very disappointing. One of the most valuable sections of the famous book on ecclesiastical heraldry by the late (great) Bruno B. Heim entitled, Heraldry in the Catholic Church concerns the design and adoption of new coats of arms by clergy. In that section, among other pieces of advice, Heim cautions that the new armiger should seek out the advice of someone competent in heraldry and, in particular, ecclesiastical heraldry if they can. That person to be consulted may not be the one who actually does the artwork but they can advise on what is and, more importantly, isn’t appropriate in a coat of arms.

Sadly, none of these new bishops seems to have done that.

I would also add a piece of advice which I have found myself repeating so often over the years to clergy who wish to adopt a coat of arms that it has become, perhaps, the most important piece of advice I can offer. Your coat of arms is not your CV in pictures! A coat of arms is a unique mark of identification. It isn’t a pictorial mission statement, a review of every aspect of your life, a personal history in symbols, a catalogue of all your likes and dislikes or a statement on your ideas of ecclesiology and ministry.

Too many clergy, especially new bishops, don’t seem to understand this. As a result they do too much or they include things that are inappropriate. Let’s take a look.

First, is the armorial bearings of Bishop Francis I. Malone (69) who was ordained and installed as the Third Bishop of Shreveport, Louisiana on January 28. The arms of the See of Shreveport are in the dexter impalement and they are not of any interest. However, the personal arms…oh boy! The chalice overall at the center is inappropriately placed and is also an almost photographic depiction of the bishop’s own personal chalice. Heraldry makes use of symbols, not portraits or photographs. An appropriate charge would be “a chalice” not a particular chalice.

The bishop has also quartered the field in such a way that he has marshaled arms that do not belong to him and appropriated them as his own. In the upper left and right of his arms he has, whole and entire, depicted the arms of the See of Philadelphia and the arms of the See of Little Rock; one because he was born there and the other because he served there as a priest. However, by including them entirely in his own arms it appears he is claiming jurisdiction over both! The better way to handle this would have been to borrow a single charge from each and incorporate them into the design of his own coat of arms rather than illicitly stealing the arms of two dioceses.

The charge on the lower left, the fleur-de-lis is fine and on the lower right the cross and crown is a logo used by his former parish which in and of itself is fine and even makes a nice heraldic charge but the overall arrangement is sloppy, and an attempt at a heraldic CV against which I warn people all the time.

Finally, the smaller Celtic cross superimposed over the episcopal cross which is an external ornament behind the shield is heraldically unsupportable. Whoever designed this coat of arms had the clear (and quite good intention) of including as many things from the bishop’s life and ministry as possible but arranged them in a way that suggests he really wasn’t that well versed in heraldic design to pull it off. Everything included in the coat of arms could have been correctly included in a more aesthetically pleasing manner if only someone who knew about heraldic design had been involved.

Second, is Bishop John McClory (56) a Detroit priest who was ordained and installed as the Fifth Bishop of Gary, Indiana on February 11. Again, the arms of the See are of no concern and, actually, are one of the better diocesan coat of arms in use in the USA with a nice reference to the Guardian Angels (titular patrons of the cathedral church).

This coat of arms is really rather nice. There is a good choice of the symbols to be used as charges. There are no tincture violations or indiscretions and, I would say the overall appearance of the coat of arms is aesthetically pleasing and harmonizes well with the arms of the See.

My criticism concerns the arrangement of the charges on the field which is rather like what has come to be known as the “lucky charms” style of heraldry. Namely, a bunch of charges scattered on the field and slapped onto a shield and called heraldry. In addition, trying to “personalize” the episcopal cross which is an external ornament which indicates the rank of the bearer and not a charge on the field which communicate the identity of the bearer is a mistake. It is in the form of a Jerusalem cross to indicate membership in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. This is not the way to depict such membership. Either a charge on the field would have been appropriate, or placing the Jerusalem cross near but outside the shield is also acceptable. In addition, the actual insignia of the Order can be depicted suspended below the shield by a black ribbon or, as a bishop, he could have placed the shield on the Jerusalem cross. But, shaping the episcopal cross to a personal preference is not an option.

Nevertheless, this is the best of the three.

Finally, we have the armorial bearings of Bishop Donald DeGrood (54) a priest of St. Paul-Minneapolis who is being ordained a bishop and installed as the Ninth Bishop of Sioux Falls, South Dakota today, in fact, even as I write this post.

Ugh!

For the third time I take no issue with the arms of the See and also think it is one of the better designed diocesan coats of arms in the USA.

As for the personal arms he has, once again, tried to do too much. The tincture combinations are unfortunate and, actually, rather sad looking. The purple priest’s stole on a green field violates the so-called tincture “rule” which dictates that a metal on a metal and a color on another color should be avoided. The sheaf of wheat looks rather anemic (but, in fairness, that may simply be an issue involving this particular depiction of the arms). The charge of the gold letter “M” in the upper right is borrowed from the arms of St. John Paul II. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se. Many warn against using letters as charges but it is well known that John Paul II argued with Bruno Heim for maintaining the “M” in his arms which he has used as a bishop and cardinal. Certainly, that charge became widely known as John Paul’s coat of arms was used extensively during his historic 27-year-long pontificate.

However, in the official version of John Paul’s arms, painted by Bruno Heim himself, the letter “M” was depicted, correctly, as filling the whole space of the field on which it was depicted. So, the charge followed the contours of the shield shape upon which it appeared. This explains why one side of the “M” is longer than the other. However, depicting it this way, floating in the middle of the field, it is completely unnecessary, and also quite ridiculous to depict the “M” with one side shorter than the other. The “M” was not blazoned to be depicted that way, Rather, that was merely an artistic convention. There seems to be the erroneous and utterly stupid notion floating around out there that the “M” must be unevenly drawn to make it the “John Paul II M“. WRONG!

The black cross on a field that is blue and green is a bad choice of tinctures. Once again, it appears as though the new bishop consulted someone who was not very well acquainted with proper heraldic design.

These three represent a situation that is all too common in the Church in general and in the United States in particular. With all the competent assistance available, especially since the advent of the internet, it’s really rather sad that such amateurish and, in some cases, frankly ugly coats of arms continue to be created.

Nelson J. Perez from Cleveland to Philadelphia

This morning the Holy See announced that the Pope has appointed 58-year-old Bishop Nelson J. Perez as the 10th Archbishop of Philadelphia succeeding Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM, Cap. who has served as the 9th Archbishop since 2011 and who turned 75 last September. The Archbishop-elect was born in Cuba, emigrated with his family to Miami when he was a child and was raised in Northern New Jersey.

He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1989. In 2012 Pope Benedict appointed him as Titular Bishop of Catrum and Auxiliary Bishop of Rockville Centre, New York. Pope Francis translated him to the Diocese of Cleveland in July, 2017.

His personal arms were assumed at the time he was ordained a bishop on Long Island. The reflect his Cuban heritage (the sun), his home diocese of Philadelphia (the star) and his vision of priestly and episcopal ministry (the lamb).

Philadelphia hasn’t had a priest of their own diocese serve as archbishop there since Archbishop Prendergast (1911-1918) so this is a momentous appointment for the archdiocese to have, if not a native son, a priest from their own presbyterate as their new shepherd. That’s relatively rare in the U.S. these days. I grew up in the Diocese of Rockville Centre and I still have many friends and some family there. I know the people there appreciated Archbishop-elect Nelson’s personality, style and his ministry with them.

Ad Multos Annos!

Archbishop of Tours

On January 5 Msgr. Vincent Jordy (58) from Perpignan, France, a priest and Auxiliary Bishop of Strasbourg and from 2011-2019 Bishop of Saint Claude will be installed as the 66th Archbishop of Tours.

Unlike so many of his confreres in the French episcopate he actually bears a coat of arms:

Of course as an archbishop, the cross will now be a patriarchal cross with two horizontal bars. The fact that he doesn’t use a galero is his personal choice. As has been mentioned on this blog before, the galero is not an essential part of a bishop’s coat of arms and may be omitted if desired. The one and only distinguishing external ornament essential for a bishop’s coat of arms is the episcopal or archiepiscopal cross placed behind the shield.

Bishop Austin Vetter of Helena

On Wednesday, November 20, the Most Rev. Austin Vetter (52), a priest of the Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota, was ordained a bishop and installed as the 12th Bishop of Helena, Montana. He was formerly a Spiritual Director at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, the seminary which he himself attended. Like so many other American bishops coming from that source he decided to have his coat of arms designed and emblazoned by an amateur heraldist, a man with another profession, who has begun to work extensively in the field of ecclesiastical heraldry due to his many contacts in Rome. The results are usually somewhat disappointing – not bad; not incorrect; not poorly rendered – but just drab, unimaginative and a ceaseless repetition of the same things over and over again plugged into a basic template making all of them appear, essentially, the same.

From the program prepared for the Ordination we read the following description prepared by the person who designed the coat of arms: “Bishop Vetter’s personal coat of arms blends images representing his origins: the crescent moon is for the Blessed Mother, the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the United States, the Diocese of Bismarck, and the Pontifical North American College (Bishop Vetter’s alma mater where he also later served on faculty); the sheaves of wheat which combine the concept of the Eucharistic symbol and the principle product of the farm where Bishop Vetter grew up; a “wavy barrulet,” the water representing “the spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14) and the Missouri River which begins in Montana and flows through Bismarck, North Dakota; and a “gemel in chevronwise,” one of them recalling the rafter holding the roof of the church which is set upon the foundation of the apostles with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone (meaning protection) and the second representing the Rocky Mountains of Montana.

The color blue (Azure) symbolizes the separation from the worldly values and the ascent of the soul toward God, therefore the run of the Celestial Virtues which raise themselves from the things of the earth toward the sk y. It als o represents the Blessed Mother and the “Big Sky” of Montana. The silver (Argent) of the crescent symbolizes the transparency and the purity of the Virgin Mary. The garb, sheaves of wheat, is in gold (Or), the first among the noble metals, then the symbol of the first of the Virtues , the Faith which enables us to believe in the Eucharistic Host, fruit of wheat, real body of Christ.”

Yeah…blah.

The second paragraph which goes on and on about the symbolism of the colors betrays an error that many amateur heraldist make. Namely, assuming that there are definite meanings assigned to different colors in heraldry. There aren’t. Perhaps, the armiger has chosen to assign meanings to certain colors for himself personally but if that is the case the explanation should stipulate that, as in, “The bishop feels that the color blue means XYZ to him because…” Otherwise, it’s simply made up out of whole cloth.

Another interesting thing in the explanation which goes to my point about the repetition in this person’s designs is the explanation of the use of the “gemel”. In heraldry the word gemel means “twin”. It is a term taken from Scottish heraldry primarily and does not describe a particular charge or object. Rather, it is an adjective that describes certain ordinaries or subordinaries as being depicted twinned, or in a pair. So, it’s not an object, a gemel “chevron wise” (i.e. arranged in the shape of a chevron). Instead, it should be blazoned “Two chevronels gemel”, that is, two thinner chevrons paired.

What is also interesting is this explanation of the coat of arms of a bishop this same artist did several years ago, “The chevron is an heraldic device, best described as an inverted “V”; it signifies the rafter, which holds the roof of the church, and symbolizes the concept of protection.” Does that sound familiar? Perhaps it is supposed that every bishop must have a chevron of some kind in his coat of arms as a symbol of a church? Are there no other symbols of a church, or of the Church, or of protection?

This bishop’s last name – Vetter – comes from the German for “cousin” and yet there was no attempt to try and symbolize that. His first name, Austin, is derived from the name Augustine and yet none of the symbols associated with that saint were used. Why do I point this out? Because a coat of arms is first and foremost a mark of personal identification. As I have written here numerous times, it is not a CV in pictures! It’s not supposed to be about where you are from, where you lived, where you went to school, etc. It is, instead, supposed to identify you, personally. So, using charges that in some way alluded to his name or family name, while far from a necessity in any coat of arms, might have proven a better starting point and certainly would have made for a mark of identity that was more personal.

Instead, there is another cookie-cutter coat of arms. And yet the question persists of “Why are so many bishops’ coats of arms so poorly done?” It is, I believe, because too many bishops are content to copy what they have seen before for the sake of “getting it done” instead of consulting with someone who is well versed in heraldic science as well as someone who can provide real heraldic art instead of something using a computer generated template. This coat of arms, like others is not, as I wrote above, bad, incorrect or poorly rendered. But, it is rather disappointing.

Bishop Mackinlay of Sandhurst

On October 16 the Most Rev. Shane Mackinlay (54), a priest of the diocese of Ballarat, was ordained a bishop and installed as the Eighth Bishop of Sandhurst, Australia.

His coat of arms is blazoned: Gules, two pickaxes in saltire, blades upwards Or; in chief an open book Argent bound Or with the Greek letter Α on the dexter page and the Greek letter Ω on the sinister page both Sable; impaling Per saltire or and azure on the former in fess two roses gules, in chief an estoile (eight-pointed star) and in base a representation of the Paderborn Cross argent.

The crossed pickaxes are the tools of goldmining, which was integral to the founding of both Ballarat and Bendigo. The bible comes from the arms of Catholic Theological College and reflects its motto, Tolle lege, the admonition that prompted St Augustine to take up and read the bible, which led to his baptism. In the arms of the see the gold of the field represents the goldfields, which are located within the diocese. The blue and the roses represent the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, who, under the title Our Lady of Good Counsel, is Patroness of the Diocese. The Paderborn Cross at the base is an ancient Christian symbol discovered in an eighth-century grave beneath the Cathedral at Paderborn, Germany, which was the home city of Dr Henry Backhaus, the pioneer priest of the Bendigo Goldfields.

The diocesan arms were designed by myself and Bishop Shane’s personal arms were designed by Richard d’Apice AM KCSG and myself and both are illustrated by Sandy Turnbull.