Pope names Fernandes bishop of Columbus Diocese



COLUMBUS — Early Saturday morning, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had named the Rev. Earl Fernandes the 13th bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus. Fernandes, 49, will be ordained a bishop and installed as the bishop of Columbus on May 31.

During his press conference Saturday morning, Fernandes expressed appreciation to Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Papal Nuncio (ambassador) to the United States, with whom Fernandes served while in Washington, D.C. and who recommended his appointment to Pope Francis.

Fernandes also spoke about his first appointment in Sidney. “I always said that I was so bad when I was ordained that they sent me 100 miles north of Cincinnati. That assignment made me aware of people and their needs in rural areas and to see how devout and faithful they were.”

Fernandes went on to say that he looked forward to not only working with people in the capital city but in the rural areas as well. “I look forward to walking with all the people of God in the Diocese of Columbus.”

As the first Indian-American bishop, Fernandes spoke about the prejudice he has experienced in his life. He explained that for him, such experiences always engender a “warm feeling between embarrassment and rage”.

He credited his parents for his faith.

“I think maybe I learned more about life and faith from my parents when I was five years old watching them pray and praying the rosary with them every day and with my brothers than I ever did in all my seminary studies and doing my doctoral work – I learned a lot of things from my parents about the simplicity of life and being humble,” Fernandes said.

A native of Ohio, Bishop-Elect Fernandes was born in Toledo, his parents having immigrated to the United States from India. The fourth of five sons born to the couple, Fernandes has said that he learned the value of hard work among the poor families on the east side of Toledo where he grew up not far from the oil refinery.

Fernandes earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Toledo. His father and two of his brothers being physicians, he moved to Cincinnati where he studied at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine before discerning a vocation to the priesthood.

He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk on May 18, 2002, and was assigned to teach at Lehman Catholic High School and serve as the parochial vicar at Holy Angels Church.

In 2004, Fernandes was sent to Rome for additional studies. There he obtained a doctorate in moral theology from the Alphonsian Academy in Rome.

When he returned to the United States from Rome in 2008, he was appointed the Dean of the Athenaeum of Ohio/Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West in Cincinnati. He also served as an associate professor of moral theology.

In 2014, he was assigned to the staff of the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C. In 2018 he returned to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and was assigned to serve as the pastor of Saint Ignatius of Loyola Church in Cincinnati, He has served in that assignment since.

“Father Earl was a true blessing to both Lehman Catholic and Holy Angels parish,” former Lehman Principal Mike Barhorst said. “He was an outstanding teacher.”

“The first thing I did when I heard the news of his appointment early Saturday morning was to telephone him and extend my congratulations. Our conversation was brief, as he was just getting ready to leave his brother’s home in Columbus and travel downtown for the press conference. I did tell him that I would be praying for him, and that hopefully Jenny and I would be able to attend his installation.”

“Jenny and I were fortunate to visit him in Rome when he studied there. He served as our tour guide during most of the ten days we were in Rome,” Barhorst said. “One memorable day we walked more than 17 miles.”

“Following dinner at the end of a typical day, Father Earl would suggest that we walk to a nearby church to see an artistic work by one of the great masters that most tourists would not take the opportunity to see,” Barhorst said. “Following dinner on that particular day, he apologized and said that he hoped he was not letting us down, but that he was beat and needed to return home and retire for the evening. I told him that Jenny and I fully understood, and even if he wanted us to see the greatest Michelangelo ever created, we were going back to the hotel, and unlike any other day, we were taking a cab!”

“We also traveled to Washington, D.C. for the Cherry Blossom Festival while he was stationed at the residence of the Papal Nuncio,” Barhorst continued. “We had the opportunity to visit Father Earl and tour the residence while we were there. The residence is nestled among the other embassies along Massachusetts Avenue, part of the Embassy Row neighborhood, and is filled with treasures worthy of a museum.”

“There is no question that because of his background, he well prepared for his new appointment,” Barhorst concluded. “Sadly because of his new assignment, we will see him even less frequently, but the Catholics of the Columbus Diocese will certainly be well served.”

Once a part of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, the Diocese of Columbus was created in 1868, and includes 23 counties in central Ohio. The episcopal see is situated in Columbus. The diocese includes more than 275,000 Catholics who worship in 105 parishes.