Bishop Wack exemplifies heart of the Holy Cross order
By Jean Gonzalez
Catholic News Service
As the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee’s sixth bishop lay prostrate on the floor of the Pensacola Bay Center, one thing in particular distinguished the episcopal candidate.
His pink socks.
The choice seemed fitting for newly ordained Bishop William A. Wack because the socks would match the amaranth (a reddish pink tone) zucchetto he would wear as bishop. But it was also a fitting choice for the Holy Cross father known for his smiling face and jovial, fun-loving nature. As Father Robert L. Epping, superior general of the Holy Cross congregation, put it, the smiling priest is known to be “a bit of jokester.”
“These are not the usual descriptives for a bishop, but these are the words you see on his face, and, for those of us who know him, they are the words that make him an effective priest and attractive shepherd,” Father Epping said.
“We also know a more serious side. He loves people, he loves Jesus, he forgets about himself, he reaches out to bring joy, he serves with gladness not just with duty. ... When Pope Francis compared his lexicon for bishops with Father Bill’s credentials, he found a perfect fit.”
Thousands gathered to witness the Aug. 22 episcopal ordination of the Pensacola-Tallahassee prelate who wishes to be referred to as “Bishop Bill.” Along with local priests and deacons and 95 members of Bishop Wack’s family, 18 bishops attended the celebration, including Florida’s five other bishops and Bishops Joe Vásquez and Daniel Garcia from the Austin Diocese.
Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami served as co-consecrator with Bishop Vásquez and Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, of Peoria, Illinois, who also is a member of the Holy Cross congregation.
“In your ministry as bishop, you are called to be a father and a brother to all, especially to your co-workers, the priests and the deacons,” Archbishop Wenski said in his homily. “But also be especially attentive to the poor, the weak, the immigrants and the stranger; those who are victims of today’s disposable culture and of the globalization of indifference.”
Bishop Wack comes to the Pensacola-Tallahassee Diocese after serving 23 years in the priesthood. His last eight years were spent at St. Ignatius Martyr Parish in Austin. There he was known for his work with the poor, the large Mexican community of the parish and his presence on the radio and on YouTube, in which he guided discussions on Scripture and church teachings.
One of those videos includes the Faith of the Fathers video series, in which he shared the social media stage with his associate pastor and fellow Holy Cross priest Father Dennis Strach. In one particular video about the Holy Cross congregation, the two shared a comfortable camaraderie as they take turns talking about the philosophy, history and personal significance of their beloved religious community whose motto is: “Hail the cross; our only hope.”
“We try through preaching, through our schools, through our missionary activity, with lay people with ordained with sisters and brothers, all of us are trying to go around the world to tell people and remind even ourselves that in the cross actually is our hope,” the future bishop said of the international congregation founded in France and headquartered in Indiana.
Father Strach attended the ordination of his friend and mentor. In an interview prior to the event, he was asked how Bishop Wack reflects the charism of the order.
“(Bishop) Bill exemplifies the heart of the order: family, hope and joy,” said Father Strach, who celebrated his first anniversary as a priest in April. “I’m sure he is going to foster community. That is part of who he is. Community and the family of the Holy Cross are important to him. I think Holy Cross is in his blood.