Diocese names new bishop to lead 600,000 WNY Catholics

Staff Reports Posted 1 December 2020 at 8:58 am

Provided photo: Bishop Michael William Fisher has been named the new leader of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

BUFFALO – Washington, D.C. Auxiliary Bishop Michael William Fisher has been appointed by His Holiness Pope Francis as the 15th bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo in an announcement from the Vatican today at noon Rome time.

“I am deeply humbled and grateful to the Holy Father for this gift to serve the people of Buffalo as their bishop,” said Bishop Fisher. “I am eager to become part of this vibrant faith community, with a proud and distinguished legacy of Catholic education, ministry and civic service.”

Fisher thanked Bishop Edward Scharfenberger “for the generosity of his spirit and his selfless devotion” in leading the Diocese for the past year as Apostolic Administrator following the resignation of Bishop Richard Malone. Scharfenberger also is the bishop of the Diocese of Albany.

The 8-county Diocese includes Orleans County and about 600,000 Catholics. It is a challenging time for the Diocese. Last February it filed for bankruptcy. Last week it was sued by the State Attorney General’s Office for failing to follow mandated policies and procedures that would help to prevent sexual abuse of minors by priests within the Catholic Church. The Diocese’s former senior leaders, Bishop Emeritus Richard J. Malone and former Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz, were named in the lawsuit.

Bishop Scharfenberger said the Diocese’s new leader has shown a passion “to serve, to listen, to heal and comfort have distinguished his 30-year ministry.”

Bishop Fisher, 62, is a native of Baltimore and the oldest of five children born to Margo and William Fisher. The new bishop was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal James A. Hickey on June 23, 1990. He was assigned to Sacred Heart parish in La Plata, Maryland, and in 1995 as a pastor of Holy Family parish in Hillcrest Heights, MD. Four years later, he became pastor of St. John Neumann parish in Gaithersburg, MD.

“At my core I am a parish priest and pastor,” said Bishop Fisher. “All I ever wanted to be when finally discerning and accepting the call to ministry was to serve a parish family, to walk with its members and accompany them on their own journey toward holiness; to share in their joys, their heartaches and to have some part to play in revealing the incomparable love and grace of God as they experience life’s defining moments.”

In 2005, then-Father Fisher was named a Chaplain to His Holiness John Paul II and was appointed that same year as Vicar General for the Apostolates which entailed overseeing archdiocesan ministries for education, ethnic ministries, social justice and service, parish life and youth ministry.

The following year, then-Monsignor Fisher was appointed Vicar for Clergy and Secretary for Ministerial Leadership, with responsibility for vocations, formation and care of the clergy for the archdiocese. Upon the appointment of Archbishop Wilton Gregory (now Cardinal Wilton Gregory) in 2019, Bishop Fisher maintained his responsibilities as Secretary for Ministerial Leadership.

He was named an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington by Pope Francis on June 8, 2018. Bishop Fisher was ordained to the episcopate on June 29, 2018 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Much of Bishop Fisher’s ministry has involved the continuing education of priests, particularly in aiding new pastors in their roles and the planning and implementation of ongoing clergy training via convocations and retreats.

Bishop Fisher’s installation will take place on Friday, January 15, 2021 at 2 p.m. in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Buffalo. His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Metropolitan Archbishop of New York, will preside and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, will be in attendance.

“Bishop Fisher is an exceptionally compassionate and skilled servant of the Church,” said Wilton Cardinal Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, D.C. “His distinguished history as pastor, Vicar for Priests, and member of our Pastoral Administration have prepared him well for his new responsibilities in that diocese. While we will miss his deft pastoral talents, they will be warmly welcomed by the faithful, religious, and clergy of the Diocese of Buffalo. May the Lord bring joy to his heart and to the hearts of the people who will welcome him.”