In a press conference introducing him as the Twelfth Bishop of Harrisburg, Bishop Timothy Senior expressed a deep love for the Church, an eagerness to work with and for the people of the Diocese and a sincere desire to serve.
Currently an Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia – a role he has fulfilled since July 2009 – he was introduced at the Diocesan Center in Harrisburg on April 25, four hours after the announcement that Pope Francis had named him to succeed Bishop Ronald Gainer.
In keeping with canon law, Bishop Gainer offered his resignation to Pope Francis when he turned 75 years of age last August. He will serve as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese until Bishop-designate Senior’s Mass of Installation, June 21 at the Cathedral of St. Patrick in Harrisburg.
“My heart is filled with gratitude this morning,” Bishop Senior said at the start of his remarks, given in front of members of the media and Diocesan Center staff, and shared via livestream on the Diocese’s YouTube Channel.
“I’ve been blessed beyond measure with opportunities in ministry throughout my life, to serve as a priest, as a bishop and now this latest wonderful blessing, to be named the Twelfth Bishop of Harrisburg,” he said. “Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!”
Bishop Gainer introduced Bishop Senior during the press conference, and said the occasion marked the first time since 1971 that a bishop is retiring from the Diocese of Harrisburg. Installed for our local Church in 2014, Bishop Gainer plans to remain in the Diocese as our Bishop Emeritus.
“Today is certainly a joyous day for the clergy, religious and laity of our Diocese and for the members of our Diocesan staff, and for me personally,” Bishop Gainer said of the appointment.
“I’ve known Bishop Senior for more than 25 years, and have full confidence that he will be a caring, faithful shepherd who will speak the truth with love and conviction, leading the Diocese of Harrisburg as a true successor of the apostles,” he said.
“I am very grateful to our Holy Father Pope Francis for sending to the Diocese of Harrisburg a man devoted to living the demands of the Gospel,” Bishop Gainer said. “As we enter this new chapter in the history of our Diocese, I do so with the confidence that the offices of teaching, sanctifying and shepherding within our local Church are in the very best hands.”
About the Bishop-Designate
Bishop Senior was ordained an Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia in July, 2009. He is currently Regional Bishop of Montgomery County and Philadelphia-South, as well as Chancellor of Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary. Prior to assuming these responsibilities, Bishop Senior served as Rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary from 2012 to 2022, after having been the Moderator of the Curia of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 2009 to 2012. He served as Vicar for Clergy from 2004 to 2009. From 1992 to 2004, Bishop Senior served in the Archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Human Services, both as Deputy Secretary and then Secretary.
A 1977 graduate of Lansdale Catholic High School in Lansdale, Pa., Bishop Senior is a classically trained pianist and the youngest of the three children of the late James H. and Elise Rothwell Senior. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1985. He earned a Masters of Divinity and Master of Arts in Theology from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, served as an assistant pastor at a parish in Bucks County and taught religion in an Archdiocesan high school. He was then assigned to graduate studies at Boston College, earning his Masters in Social Work and Masters in Business Administration in 1992.
In 1998, he was named Honorary Chaplain to His Holiness, and in 2005, he was named a Prelate of Honor. In 2009, Bishop Senior was appointed Titular Bishop of Floriana and Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia, and was ordained a Bishop on July 31, 2009 by Cardinal Justin Rigali.
Eagerness to Collaborate
During the press conference, the bishops revealed that the phone call accepting Bishop Gainer’s resignation and announcing Bishop Senior’s appointment came from the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 16.
“The feast of Divine Mercy will forever have a new significance for me,” Bishop Gainer remarked.
Bishop Senior said he spent time before the Blessed Sacrament after accepting the appointment.
“It’s one of those moments where you go before the Lord. It’s difficult sometimes to find the words. You need to just sit and rest for a moment before the amazing truth of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist,” he said.
“A tremendous sense of peace descended upon me. I’m so grateful for that,” he continued. “The truth and the peace came upon me as I called to mind the words of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy: ‘O Blood and Water, which gushed from the Heart of Jesus as Fount of mercy for us, I trust in you.’ This is the Jesus whom we proclaim, the Jesus who we trust, and who gives meaning and purpose to our lives.”
The bishop-designate offered words of gratitude to the clergy, seminarians, religious and laity of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, including Archbishop Nelson Pérez.
His voice cracked with emotion as he spoke of the faith his parents instilled in him, and of his love for his family members – including his niece and godchild, who celebrated her birthday that day, and his great-niece and great-nephew, who are making their First Holy Communion this weekend.
“Uncle Tim is still going to be able to join you for the celebration this weekend,” he told them. “I love you all very much.”
Bishop Senior expressed his gratitude to Bishop Gainer, for his “faithful and dedicated ministry as Bishop of Harrisburg.”
“Bishop Gainer has been a truly good and gentle shepherd to the Church in Harrisburg, caring for those entrusted to his pastoral care and exemplary way. He’s been a strong and effective leader through challenging times,” he said.
“I will work every day to ensure continuity in leadership, the administration of the Diocese, the care of souls, and with particular concern for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy. As Bishop of Harrisburg, all of the policies and procedures that are in place to protect children, to respond to allegations of sexual abuse and to care for survivors in the Diocese will remain in place and will continue to be reviewed and evaluated for potential improvement,” Bishop Senior remarked.
He expressed his eagerness to collaborate with the priests of the Diocese of Harrisburg; to serve with its permanent deacons and men and women religious; to join with seminarians in promoting vocations; to work with members of the Diocesan staff; and to join with elected officials and civic leaders in “seeking to promote the common good, to be an instrument to build community, and to foster the development of what Pope Francis calls a culture of encounter.”
“I assume this responsibility primarily with my focus being to be a good pastor – I desire that more than anything else – to be a leader who is servant first, and to announce the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the transforming love and mercy that flows to us through his death and resurrection,” Bishop Senior said. “I ask you: please pray for me, that I may be the bishop that the Church in Harrisburg needs me to be.”
“I have a lot to learn about the 15 counties that comprise the Diocese of Harrisburg,” he said. “I look forward to learning the history, to hearing the stories, to experiencing the variety of traditions and cultures that shape our local Church.”
“It is a great blessing for me to receive this appointment from Pope Francis as the Twelfth Bishop of Harrisburg,” he said. “I just can’t wait to get started. Let’s pray for each other, and God bless you all.”
Following the press conference, Bishop Gainer accompanied Bishop Senior on a tour of the Diocesan Center offices and on a visit to St. Catherine Labouré School in Harrisburg and Catholic Charities’ four Homes for Healing at the St. Samuel Center in Harrisburg.
Learn more about Bishop Timothy Senior at www.hbgdiocese.org.
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness