When he was elected to run the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh whileit was between bishops, Auxiliary Bishop Paul Bradley didn't move intothe suite that Archbishop Donald Wuerl had vacated.
After 15 months of service, he is prepared to hand the reins toBishop David Zubik, who is returning to his home diocese from GreenBay, Wis. Across from Bishop Bradley's office recently, diocesanofficials and employees were stuffing thousands of envelopes withcolor-coded invitations to Bishop Zubik's installation Mass.
"There would be many words that I could use to describe this past 15 months," said Bishop Bradley, 61.
"It's been interesting, it's been humbling, it's been energizing,it's been encouraging. And, in the midst of it, it's been a joy to beable to serve the church in this way that I certainly neveranticipated."
His favorite task was visiting parishes, whether they were struggling with problems or, more often, celebrating.
"My overarching sense is that the faith of the people is strong," he said.
Strong faith characterized his childhood in Glassport. Among theearliest memories with his seven siblings was seeing their parentskneeling in prayer each morning and night. His two older sistersentered religious orders.
"Those were the days when the sisters who taught in the schoolsfrequently would raise the question, 'Has anyone thought about being apriest?' " he said.
Such questions prompted him to enter a high school seminary, St. Meinrad's in St. Meinrad, Ind.
Ordained in 1971, he served at St. Sebastian in Ross, St. Paul inButler and the former St. Kieran in Lawrenceville. He became goodfriends with the Rev. Robert Ahlin, who was ordained the same year.
"He always had a great knack for organization and executing what hehad planned," Father Ahlin said. "When he was an assistant at St.Sebastian, he got their youth group to do an annual Lenten show toraise money for world hunger, and it continues today."
In 1983 he was appointed director of the diocesan Office for FamilyLife and was later was promoted to secretary for human services. He wascommitted to helping the homeless, said the Rev. James Garvey, thendirector of St. Joseph's House of Hospitality in the Hill District.When Father Garvey spent a lot of time and energy helping a Protestantchurch start a ministry to convalescent homeless people, then-FatherBradley encouraged him, he said.
In 1995 he left the chancery to become pastor of St. Sebastian inRoss, and then rector of St. Paul Cathedral in 2001. Two years later hewas called back to the chancery as general secretary and vicar general,to handle day-to-day administration. He became an auxiliary bishop in2005, and was elected by the priests in the college of consultors to beadministrator of the diocese in 2006, after Bishop Donald Wuerl becamearchbishop of Washington, D.C.
"He didn't miss a beat," Father Garvey said, because he knew the inner workings of the diocese.
Sister Margaret Hannan, a former chancellor of the diocese, and nowpresident of the Pittsburgh Sisters of Mercy, gives him high marks foradministration. He's very detail oriented and gives everyone a fairhearing, she said.
"He's done a superb job of keeping everything moving. You could havehad somebody in there who just slowed everything down, but he kept upthe pace," she said.
Most people are oblivious to the structure of church bureaucracy,but it often reveals priorities. Bishop Bradley made significantchanges in Pittsburgh.
The secretariat for ministerial leadership became the secretariatfor parish life and ministerial leadership, empowering laity toenvision and enact new ways of doing ministry.
"We have people who are trained and much better prepared to go forthand not only encourage but challenge parishes where they need to bechallenged in terms of envisioning ministry for the future," BishopBradley said.
The diocese has had someone on staff to assist victims of clergysexual abuse since 1993, but Bishop Bradley created a new Office forthe Protection of Children and Young People to deal with broaderissues. Most recently, although no court case compelled him to, he madea $1.25 million settlement with 32 people who had accused priests ofmolesting them.
As part of a program to do more ministry with fewer priests, heappointed a nun as the first "parish life collaborator" to oversee aparish without a resident priest. He changed the training for permanentdeacons from a special program that was opened up only in years whenthe bishop wanted it, into a regular track, like the priesthood, thatnew men can enter each year.
But he takes no credit for any of it.
"What I was able to do was simply to build on what Bishop Wuerl haddone and move forward in the things that I feel confident in sayingthat he would have moved forward himself," Bishop Bradley said.
The Rev. Louis Vallone, pastor of St. John of God, McKees Rocks, andadministrator of St. Catherine in Crescent, doesn't believe BishopBradley gives himself enough credit. He changed the style of deanerymeetings, when he gathered with priests from each region. Instead ofspending time giving his own report, he mailed it to priests ahead oftime and arrived saying, "Now, what do you want to talk about?" FatherVallone said.
When Bishop Bradley steps aside on Friday, he will be glad that theman moving into the bishop's suite is Bishop Zubik, with whom he workedfor many years.
"We certainly would have warmly welcomed anyone who the Holy Fatherappointed to be the bishop," he said. "The chances of that beingsomebody we didn't know were very great. When it turned out to beBishop Zubik, someone that we know and love and care about in such awarm way, that is just very exciting."
Bishop Zubik has returned the compliment, saying that he hadexpected Bishop Bradley to receive the Pittsburgh appointment. In aneditorial in a recent Pittsburgh Catholic, Bishop Zubik wrote thatBishop Bradley has done "a splendid job."
Bishop Bradley said he looks forward to returning to his former jobof overseeing day-to-day administration. He also expressed gratitudethat no headline-hogging disasters struck the diocese during his tenure.
After Bishop Zubik is installed, he said, "I'll be breathing a big sigh of relief and singing the 'Hallelujah Chorus.' "
First published on September 24, 2007 at 12:28 am
Ann Rodgers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org