Bishop-elect Michael Fisher (CS photo by Jaclyn Lippelmann)
Bishop-elect Michael Fisher (CS photo by Jaclyn Lippelmann)

As he prepares to assume his new role as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington, Bishop-elect Michael Fisher says he looks forward to connecting with the faithful here, deepening his working relationship with clergy and assisting Cardinal Donald Wuerl in his ministry.

“Whether working with our clergy or with our parishes, it’s about people – meeting people where they’re at, meeting our pastors and hearing about the joys and the frustrations sometimes of their daily lives,” Bishop-elect Fisher said. “I look forward to getting to know the people of the parishes (who are) seeking God in their lives.”

He added that his new episcopal ministry will be marked by “a zeal for souls.”

Bishop-elect Fisher’s episcopal ordination will take place on Friday, June 29, at 2 p.m. at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The role of an auxiliary bishop is to help the diocesan bishop in meeting the pastoral needs of a diocese, and Bishop-elect Fisher will help Cardinal Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington who serves as spiritual leader to more than 655,000 Catholics living in the Archdiocese of Washington, which includes the nation’s capital and the five surrounding Maryland counties. 

Bishop-elect Fisher said he looks forward to “assisting Cardinal Wuerl in his responsibility and care of the archdiocese,” and being “an extension of the cardinal’s ministry of shepherding” the archdiocese’s people. The future bishop said he is also looking forward to celebrating the sacraments at parishes.

 “My life will be very different I think in the sense that I will be getting out of the office more and into the parishes, and that is something I look forward to,” Bishop-elect Fisher said. “I try to keep myself very busy, but the mission is the same – to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to bring the light of Christ to others and to see the light of Christ in others.”

When he first learned from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, that Pope Francis named him an auxiliary bishop here, Bishop-elect Fisher said that “first of all I was shocked and  … I think my mind went a little blank” at that point.

“He (Archbishop Pierre) said the Holy Father said we need a ‘fisher of men’ to be a bishop. I hope to live up to my name,” Bishop-elect Fisher said.

For the past 12 years, Bishop-elect Fisher has served as Episcopal Vicar for Clergy and Secretary for Ministerial Leadership for the archdiocese, overseeing the recruitment, formation and care of clergy and religious. In addition, he has traveled throughout the archdiocese, filling in for priests who are either on vacation or sick.

“I have been working very directly with all the clergy and religious and deacons of the archdiocese,” he said, adding that it has been a joy to be with the archdiocese’s priests and to support them in their everyday ministries.

Bishop-elect Fisher noted that he is anxious to get out into the parishes and be with the faithful. He said he wants “to be involved in our parishes through the sacraments –First Communions and Confirmations – and through graduations and all of those sort of things.”

“I wasn’t doing all of those sort of things that a pastor normally does,” he said. “I look forward to getting into the parishes a little more than I have been in the past few years.”

Before working as an archdiocesan administrator, Bishop-elect Fisher served as a parochial vicar at Sacred Heart Parish in La Plata for five years after his 1990 ordination to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington. Then-Father Fisher served as pastor of Holy Family Parish in Hillcrest Heights from 1995-99, and as pastor of St. John Neumann Parish in Gaithersburg from 1999 to 2005.

The new bishop said that one of the challenges he seeks to tackle is “helping our youth understand that Christ loves them and they are an important part of the Church.”

 “They are seeking God just like all of us, and I want to help them understand that they are missing when they are not there on Sunday for Mass, we need their energy and their spirit,” he said.

He also called “a blessing and a challenge” the diversity of the Church, particularly in this country and this archdiocese.

“I live in a parish, St. Mark, that has something like 47 different cultures and ethnic groups,” he said, adding that he tries “to appreciate and understand their cultures and help them know they are an important part of what Cardinal (James) Hickey used to say is the mosaic of our archdiocese.”

“Diversity is a blessing because it enriches the faith, what they bring from their countries and cultures,” Bishop-elect Fisher said, “but it is also a challenge for pastors meeting their needs, whether it is learning the language or understanding the challenges in their lives.”

Bishop-elect Fisher said that while his duties have changed – pastor, Episcopal Vicar for Clergy and Secretary for Ministerial Leadership, and now bishop – “my mission is the same – spreading the Gospel and being with people.”

 “I like to think I am a people person, and I just love being with people and celebrating the sacraments,” he said. “The joy that a priest receives in his ministry is from celebrating the sacraments, because that is where we become members of people’s families… Being a part of all of life’s joys and sorrows gives us great joy as priests.”