TRAVERSE CITY — Pope Francis appointed a new Bishop to the Diocese of Gaylord and answered Angela Word's prayers.
Diocese officials announced the Pope's appointment of Bishop-elect Monsignor Steven Raica today. Ward read the news online while working at Traverse City's St. Vincent De Paul Thrift Shop and Catholic Bookstore.
"I think it's great we finally have a bishop," said Ward, the store manager. "We've just been here waiting and praying."
The Gaylord Diocese serves nearly 66,000 Catholics in the lower peninsula's 21 northern-most counties. Raica said he remained "overwhelmed" by his appointment this afternoon.
"This came rather suddenly and quickly, so I’m not sure what it all means yet, but that happened to a number of people in the Scriptures," he said. "When the Lord called them, they didn't know what it meant either, but they said 'yes.'"
Raica grew up in Munising, on the shores of Lake Superior and most recently served as Chancellor-Vicar General of the Diocese of Lansing.
Raica will become the Gaylord Diocese's first bishop since Pope Francis anointed former Diocese leader Rev. Bernard A. Hebda as Coadjutor Archbishop of Newark, N.J. in 2013.
Ward, a member of Traverse City's Immaculate Conception Church and graduate of St. Francis Catholic School, spoke fondly of Raica's predecessor.
"Replacing Bishop Hebda had to be beyond a chore, because in my eyes he was the best," she said.
The Rev. Anthony Citro, pastor at Traverse City's Immaculate Conception Church, said Raica's selection as bishop-elect is "extremely important" for local Catholics. Bishops serve as leaders of their Diocese, and as a direct link between the Diocese and Rome.
Citro said Raica appeared extremely qualified for his new post, and said he was encouraged to see Hebda call Raica "a man of prayer" in a written statement.