Jim Graves is a Catholic writer and editor living in Newport Beach, California. He previously served as Managing Editor for the Diocese of Orange Bulletin, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Orange, California. His work has appeared in the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Cal Catholic Daily and Catholic World Report.
I asked six diocesan bishops in the United States to name a person they’ve known or a saint they particularly admire. Here are the answers they gave.
Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana: Bishop Kevin Rhoades
Pope St. John Paul II was my hero. When I was a seminarian, I’d go over and listen to him often. I remember listening to a series of talks that would become the Theology of the Body.
I also had the chance to work with the Missionaries of Charity and met Mother Teresa many times. She was also my hero. As I young priest, I’d celebrate Mass for her sisters, and twice a year she’d be there. Now, how do you preach a homily for Mother Teresa?
I loved her simplicity. I loved the joy she and her sisters had.
On one occasion, Mother Teresa gave me a holy card, with an image of Jesus scourged and bloody with hands tied. At the bottom were the words “I looked for someone to comfort me and there was no one.” Mother Teresa had added the words “Be the one!” I still keep that holy card in my breviary.
Some of my other favorite saints include St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Francis of Assisi.
I also admire Pope Benedict XVI; his writings are a principle source of spiritual inspiration for me. I use material from his second volume of Jesus of Nazareth for homilies. I didn’t know his writings as a seminarian or young priest; as a bishop, I’ve read a lot more, and I’m very grateful for his writings.
Lincoln, Nebraska: Bishop James Conley
I certainly admire my two predecessors, Bishops Flavin and Bruskewitz. Archbishop Charles Chaput has always been a hero of mine. When I first heard about him, I began reading his writings. He encapsulates a true missionary disciple of Jesus. He has the heart of the Good Shepherd, and is fearless, compassionate and absolutely faithful to Christ and His Church. He’s also a great guy.
I’ve always been impressed with Blessed John Henry Newman. In fact, I took his motto as my own: Cor Ad Cor Loquitur /Heart speaks to heart. I admire Pope John Paul II, and can trace my vocation to the priesthood to him.
Marquette, Michigan: Bishop John Doerfler
My favorite saints include St. John of the Cross, who is my patron, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thérèse and St. Thomas More.
. . . I met Pope Benedict when he was Cardinal Ratzinger. I was attending the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. He came to address the college. Later, while vicar general at Green Bay, I accompanied Bishop David Ricken on his ad limina visit and met him as Pope Benedict. I admire him as a simple, gentle, deeply faith-filled man who has an amazing gift of writing so deeply and clearly at the same time.
Tyler, Texas: Bishop Joseph Strickland
I particularly like St. Maria Goretti, who gives us such a beautiful model of chastity, which is certainly a great challenge for many in our modern world.
I also admire Padre Pio. We recently had his relics visit our cathedral, and we had the biggest crowd there that I’ve ever seen. People were there from 9:30 a.m. to midnight, venerating his relics, coming to Confession, and seeking to live the life of Jesus Christ in a deeper way.
I also particularly like the example of St. Maximilian Kolbe.
As far as living Catholics, I have great respect for Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. I see him as a model for what I’d like to do as a bishop. He is very clear about what the Gospel teaches.
Steubenville, Ohio: Bishop Jeffrey Monforton
One Catholic hero of mine is St. John Paul. I met him about once a year when I was working with Cardinal Maida. I had the pleasure of introducing my mother and father to him. My mother still has a photo of the meeting in her home, and I have one as well.
St. John Paul encountered adversity from the Nazis and the Communists but still was able to let Christ’s light shine. He demonstrated the virtue of fortitude, which I myself need as a priest and bishop.
I also admire St. Thérèse of Lisieux and recommend that everyone read her Story of a Soul. In 1994, after I was ordained a priest, my first assignment was as associate pastor at the National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak in the Archdiocese of Detroit. In 2005, I was named pastor of St. Thérèse of Lisieux Church in Shelby Township. I’ve always maintained that I’m a closet Carmelite!
We have many wonderful examples of living the Catholic life in the saints. We must not let things discourage us, but instead must forge ahead following their example.
Baker, Oregon: Bishop Liam Cary
In addition to two pastors I knew, I admired my aunt. She never married, and died at age 55, but was a very holy person. I can also think of other holy people who were part of my life that I’d like to be like.
As far as saints, I mentioned my fondness for St. Francis de Sales. I love his writing style. He was very good at connecting spirituality to the daily life of lay people.