On August 22, 2017, the Congregation of Holy Cross joined the People of God in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, in the United States to celebrate the episcopal Ordination and Installation of the Most Rev. William A. Wack, C.S.C.
Over 40 Holy Cross religious travelled to the Florida panhandle to take part in the celebration, including the Most Rev. Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C., Bishop of Peoria, Illinois, who was one of two principal co-consecrators, and the Most Rev. Arthur J. Colgan, C.S.C., Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Chosica in Peru.
Also present were Fr. Robert L. Epping, Superior General of the Congregation; Br. Paul Bednarcyzk, C.S.C., Vicar General and First Assistant of the Congregation; and Fr. Thomas J. O’Hara, C.S.C., Superior of the United States Province of Priests and Brothers.
“William Wack has been a great priest, and I believe he will make an even better bishop,” said Bishop Jenky. “He has personality. He has energy, and he certainly has a gift for humor. Bill loves his Holy Cross religious family, he loves the priesthood, and clearly he loves people. Best of all, he loves the Lord.”
“Bishop Bill has always been fun-loving, jovial, smiling—a bit of jokester,” echoed Fr. Epping. “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. 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 Fr. Bill’s credentials, he found a perfect fit,” Fr. Epping concluded.
The evening before Bishop Wack’s Ordination, the Diocese hosted Evening Prayer in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Pensacola to pray for its new shepherd. Lay people, religious men and women, deacons, priests, and bishops crowded into the cathedral, including many members of St. Ignatius Martyr Parish in Austin, Texas, where Bishop Wack most recently served.
Bishop Jenky presided and preached at the Evening Prayer. As part of the celebration, the new bishop's regalia was blessed in anticipation of his Ordination and Installation the following day.
The Ordination and Installation Mass was held at the Pensacola Bay Center to accommodate the larger crowd. The Most Rev. Thomas G. Wenski, Archbishop of Archdiocese of Miami, Florida, was the principal Consecretor. Joining Bishop Jenky as the other principal co-consecrator was the Most Rev. Joe Steve Vásquez, Bishop of the Diocese of Austin, Texas, where Bishop Wack had spent the last eight years serving as a pastor.
In his remarks at the end of the Mass, following his Ordination and Installation, Bishop Wack took the opportunity to thank many people who had accompanied him in his life and vocation. He spoke of the ways that St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict, and Pope Francis had all influenced and formed him in his priesthood. Then he closed by calling the people to go out and love the Lord and then share that love with others.
After the Mass, there was a reception at the Cathedral to receive the new bishop and celebrate his Ordination and Installation.
Bishop Wack was born in South Bend, Indiana, to Dr. James and Alice Wack. He is the ninth of ten children. He entered the Old College Undergraduate Seminary at the University of Notre Dame in August 1985. He professed Final Vows on August 28, 1993 and was ordained a priest at Sacred Heart Basilica at the University of Notre Dame on April 9, 1994.
Bishop Wack has served a diverse set of ministries as a priest, working among the families, youth, and people living in poverty on the streets.
His first assignment as a priest was as the Parochial Vicar at Sacred Heart Parish in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Afterwards, he served as the Associate Director of the Office of Vocations for the United States Province and then as the Director of André House of Hospitality in Phoenix, Arizona, before coming Pastor at St. Ignatius Martyr Parish in Austin, Texas, in 2009.
Bishop Wack’s younger brother is Fr. Neil Wack, C.S.C., Director of Vocations for the United States Province of Priests and Brothers. He was present for his brother's Ordination.
Bishop Wack’s coat of arms reflects his roots in his hometown and in the Congregation. The wavy blue line cutting the shield represents the St. Joseph River, which flows through his hometown of South Bend. The Cross and Anchors are the symbol of the Congregation of Holy Cross. The open door is a symbol both for André House of Hospitality and the Congregation’s first saint, St. André Bessette, whose holiness shown forth in his humble work as a doorkeeper. The rose represents St. Therese of Lisieux, to whom Bishop Wack has a personal devotion. The blue and gold are the colors of his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana.
“Come. Follow me.” That is the motto that Bishop Wack chose. While they are the words Jesus uses to invite and call the first disciples in the gospels, they are also the first and last words of the Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross.
Now, it is Bishop Wack who once again has heard those words of Jesus, calling him into his new ministry as the Bishop of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee. As it has been the case since he first joined the Congregation in 1985, his brothers in Holy Cross will continue to walk beside him and support him.
“We pray for our brother Bill, that God may fill him with His peace and light. He was a blessing to the people of St. Ignatius Martyr Parish in Austin, Texas, for the past eight years, and will no doubt be a blessing to all in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee,” said Fr. O’Hara. “As his brothers in Holy Cross, we are proud of him and are united with him in prayer as he assumes this important responsibility in our Church.”
“Holy Cross is pleased and honored to give one of our brothers to the service of the Church. We join with the people of the Church of Pensacola-Tallahassee in prayer that the graces of episcopal ordination will be superabundant and fruitful in the life of their new bishop and in their diocesan Church,” said Fr. Epping. “May Bishop William Wack, C.S.C. shepherd his people with a graced, pastoral heart, the heart of the Good Shepherd himself.”