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Eleventh Bishop of La Crosse installed

Bishop Gerard Battersby succeeds Bishop Emeritus William Callahan

By Jeff Kurowski | On Mission

LA CROSSE — West Central Wisconsin’s more than 135,000 Catholics have a new spiritual leader. Bishop Gerard W. Battersby was installed as the 11th bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse on May 20 at St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral.

Bishop Gerard W. Battersby

Bishop Battersby, 64, previously served as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit. 

He succeeded Bishop William P. Callahan in La Crosse. Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Callahan, 73, for health reasons. He had served as bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse since 2010.

Bishop Battersby was born a twin and the youngest of nine children in his family in northwest Detroit. He attended St. Benedict Parish and School in Highland Park, Mich.

In 1993, at age 33, he entered Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and received a Master of Divinity degree in 1998. He was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Adam J. Maida on May 30, 1998, at Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit.

Fr. Battersby then served in parish ministry for nine years before being appointed to Sacred Heart Major Seminary where he served as director of graduate seminarians and graduate pastoral formation. 

In 2009, he was assigned to graduate studies at the Angelicum in Rome. In 2011, he returned to Sacred Heart as vice rector and dean of seminarian formation. 

He was named auxiliary bishop of Detroit on Nov. 23, 2016, and was ordained a bishop on Jan. 25, 2017. Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron served as the principal consecrator and main celebrant.

Bishop Battersby offered gratitude during his homily at the installation Mass in La Crosse.

“As St. Peter said to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, ‘Lord, it is good that we are here.’ I am grateful to God for bringing us together this day in this magnificent cathedral under the patronage of St. Joseph,” he said. “I’m grateful to you for joining with me in order that we might manifest the church and, in doing so, we worship and are changed. We are formed and we are sent by Christ.”

He offered his sentiments to his predecessor before the full cathedral.

“Thank you, Bishop Callahan, for your kind welcome and prayerful support,” said Bishop Battersby. “Your people will miss your steady hand and gentle shepherding.”

Bishop Battersby recalled the guidance he received years ago during a meeting with Auxiliary Bishop John M. Quinn of Detroit.

“Priestly ministry was not about him. It would never be about him,” said Bishop Battersby. “It was always about Jesus.”

The new bishop of La Crosse encouraged the people of the diocese to become more deeply engaged in their faith.

“‘Repent and believe.’ These are among Jesus’ first words and they must be our North Star if we are to be disciples, if we are to pick up our cross and follow after him. If we are to love him and keep his commandments,” he said in his homily.

“Let us ask the Holy Spirit to set his local church ablaze,” he added. “Let us ask the Holy Spirit to bring resurrected life to you and me as he does our own eucharistic Communion.”

Bishop David Ricken and Fr. John Girotti, vicar general and moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Green Bay, attended the installation Mass for Bishop Battersby.

“It was a beautiful ceremony of installation …,” said Fr. Girotti. “Bishop Battersby humbly accepted his new assignment with great love for Jesus and the church. He emphasized discipleship and our call to be followers of the Lord Jesus. It was a powerful and moving occasion.”

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