Category Archives: Work of Other Artists

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.

Attributed Arms of Jesus Christ

Attributed arms are Western European coats of arms given retrospectively to persons real or fictitious who died before the start of the age of heraldry in the latter half of the 12th C. Arms were assigned to the knights of the round table, to Biblical figures, to Roman and Greek heroes, and to kings and popes who had not historically borne arms.

The same is true even for divine beings. Arms have been attributed to Jesus Christ by a number of different people. One such example is below:

This image, which I found on the internet, contains many of the traditional elements of arms attributed to Christ. These consist mainly of the instruments of His passion and death. It is, necessarily, rather over-crowded and busy but still rendered well and arranged in a manner that can be called traditionally heraldic. Many would, perhaps, prefer a version like the one depicted below:

May these holy days prove spiritually fruitful to all those who observe them. May you have a Happy Easter!

Archbishop Fabre of Louisville

On March 30 the Most Rev. Shelton Fabre (58), a priest of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and formerly Bishop of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana was installed as the 12th Archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky.

His armorial bearings (below) depict the arms of the See impaled with his personal coat of arms assumed at the time that he became Auxiliary Bishop of New Orleans in 2006. I don’t much care for the arms of the See of Louisville but that’s just tough luck for me. There is nothing wrong with them. Rather it’s a matter of personal taste. The same is true for the Archbishop’s personal arms: I don’t happen to care for them but that’s just my tough luck. Again, no egregious heraldic errors. I do think it is a shame that both fields are azure as there is little contrast between the two impalements but that’s life.

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:

Benvenuto, Archbishop Renna!

The Most Rev. Luigi Renna (56) originally a priest of Andria, Italy and from 2016 until now Bishop of Cerignola-Ascoli Satriano, Italy will be translated and promoted to Metropolitan Archbishop of Catania and installed in that see on February 19, 2022.

The archbishop’s coat of arms is:

The field of silver stands for transparency of action. The crown of thorns recalls the relic of the holy Thorn kept in the cathedral at Andria. Rising from the crown is a branch terminating in a pomegranate symbolizing charity and, because of the tightly packed seeds inside the fruit, symbolizes the ecclesial communion of the Church. The blue fess is charged with three silver seven-pointed stars alludes to Our Lady and her virginity, before, during and after the Birth of Christ.

The motto, “Building In Charity”, is from Ephesians 4:16. It was a passage of Scripture used in the Office of Readings on the day he received word he was to be named a bishop in 2015.

The arms were designed by Sig. Renato Poletti.

Farewell, Good and Faithful Servant

Today, February 15, 2022 the Archdiocese of Catania in Sicily bade farewell to the Archbishop since 2002, the Most Rev. Salvatore Gristina (75). He will be succeeded on February 19 by Archbishop-Designate Luigi Renna. Gristina was born June 23, 1946 in Sciara and ordained a priest by St. paul VI in 1970. Named an auxiliary bishop of Palermo in 1992 by St. John Paul II he was consecrated by Salvatore Cardinal Pappalardo. In 1999 he became Bishop of Acireale until 2002 when he was elevated to Metropolitan Archbishop of Catania.

His armorial bearings were designed by the late Andrea Cardinal Lanza di Montezemolo.

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.

Epiphany: The Attributed Arms of the Magi

We see here the attributed coats of arms of the Three Magi, or Wise Men who are traditionally named Kaspar, Melchior and Balthazar. Of course, we don’t really know their names and they also existed before heraldry did. In fact, some Biblical scholars question whether or not they even existed at all or are merely symbolic. We also don’t know from the Scriptures that there were three of them, only that they brought three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. It is assumed, safely I think, that they each bore one gift so that there must have been three of them.

This version of their arms is nicely rendered by Marco Foppoli.

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!

Archbishop Boland’s Excellent Example

One of the better coats of arms borne by an American prelate in the 20th Century belonged to the Most Rev. Thomas Aloysius Boland, the 6th Bishop and 2nd Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey from 1952-1974. Boland had been a priest of Newark and served as Auxiliary Bishop there from 1940-1947 and then was translated to the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey as its 2nd Bishop from 1947-1952. Archbishop Boland retired from office in 1974 and died in 1979.

His very nice, simple and stylish coat of arms impaled very well with the equally simple and well-designed armorial bearings of the See of Newark. The contrast in tinctures and the composition of the charges made for an excellent overall appearance. Of course, in the time when he became a bishop and assumed these arms it was still the custom to include the mitre and crozier in the achievement of a bishop.

Advent in Heraldry

It’s not all that easy to find heraldic references to Advent. Nevertheless, one which I came across many years ago and of which I always think at this time of the year is the very fine coat of arms of the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama. This is the cathedral church for the Episcopalian Diocese. They had a devisal of arms produced for them by HM College of Arms in London. It is, overall, a most pleasing design and I particularly like how an Advent wreath was incorporated.

The Church enters into the final week Advent this week and I wanted to be sure to point out this excellently done coat of arms before the season had left us again.

Happy Advent (and a Merry Christmas) to you all.