COLUMBUS — The Reverend Earl K. Fernandes, a priest whose first assignment after ordination was as chaplain of Lehman Catholic High School and parochial vicar of Holy Angels Church in Sidney, has been installed as as 13th Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus on Tuesday, May 31. Guests at the ceremony included a number of area residents, including former Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst and his wife.
Fernandes nearly finished medical school before discerning his call to the priesthood. He was named bishop by Pope Francis on April 2. The youngest bishop in Ohio and one of the youngest bishops in the United States, Fernandes was the fourth of five sons born to Indian immigrants. He is the first Indo-American Catholic bishop.
After his assignment in Sidney, Fernandes traveled to Rome to study at the Alphonsian Academy, where he earned a doctorate in moral theology summa cum laude in 2007. He returned to the United States to teach at the Ahenaeum of Ohio/Mount St. Mary Seminary. from West. He was appointed Dean and later made a staff member of the Apostolic Nunciature (Vatican Embassy) in Washington, D.C.
He returned to Ohio in 2019 and was appointed pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola Church in Cincinnati. He held this position until his last posting.
Fernandes’ appointment followed that of Bishop Robert Brennan, the 12th Bishop of Columbus, who was appointed Bishop of Brooklyn. Brennan returned to Columbus for the dedication ceremony and was one of three former bishops of Columbus to attend the ceremony.
“Being a high school chaplain allows you to stay in touch with young people. They are not only the future of the church, but they are the church now,” Fernandes said recently, referring to his time at Lehman Catholic. “Just like you keep them connected in church, they help you stay connected not just in class, but by attending their football and basketball games. This means to them that you care about their lives.
A number of his former high school students attended Solemn Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours Monday evening at St. Andrew’s Church in Columbus. At the reception that followed, they could be seen congratulating their former teacher, posing for photos and wishing him good luck.
Other alumni joined the more than 1,500 people who attended the ordination and installation Mass on May 31, and also posed for photos and offered their congratulations to Fernandes after the ceremony of more than three hours. The Ordination and Installation Mass was held at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Westerville.
Hymns accompanied by applause and laughter filled the church throughout the mass. The Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre read Pope Francis’ letter of appointment. The original parchment was written in Latin, and Pierre read an English translation, but not before giving Fernandes a good-natured tone.
“You will have no shortage of advisers in your new role,” Peter said with a steady laugh after introducing Columbus’ three previous bishops. He also caused a chuckle just before he started reading the document when he said, “It’s the papal bull!”
Before the end of the mass, the new bishop addressed the large crowd. “I promise you that I will be close to you,” he told his brother priests. “I am so happy to be your shepherd and your brother. I look forward to hearing from you and working with you in the vineyard of the Lord. I want to work for you so that you exercise your ministry with joy.
He encouraged those present to pray for vocations. “It is the sad truth that in the Diocese of Columbus you will have more ordained bishops this year than priests,” he began.
He spoke lovingly of his parents, who immigrated to Toledo from India in 1970 and faced discrimination. “I would be nothing without them,” he said.
Fernandes’ brothers, Ashley, Eustace, Karl and Trevor and their families attended. He expressed gratitude to his nieces and nephews “for the hope they bring for the future of the Church.”
With a steady laugh, he also expressed his belief that his brother’s wives were “surely going straight to heaven.”
In another lighter moment, he acknowledged the presence of Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing, Michigan. “For years he called me ‘the other count,'” Fernandes said. “It turns out that we are the only two bishops in the world whose name is Earl. He comes from the diocese that includes Ann Arbor and the northern team and the state of a name that will not be spoken of in a holy place.
“He told me I was already talking about trash and I’m pleading guilty,” Fermandes said with a steady laugh. “Last November, there was no Catholic Bishop of Columbus at the time of the ‘game,'” he continued. “This year I think he and I will have a friendly bet, that by talking more trash, he will lose!”.
Before concluding his talk, he acknowledged the many priests and religious who had traveled great distances to attend his ordination. He specifically mentioned two nuns, who had received permission to leave their cloistered convent to attend the ordination and installation mass.
He also mentioned the Heads of Government who were present. “I want to thank the government officials here, including Governor DeWine and his wife, Rep. Wenstrup and his wife Monica, Mayor of Toledo Wade Kapszukiewicz, who was my classmate in high school, former Mayor of Sidney Mike Barhorst and his wife Jenny who have been close friends for many years, and Danny O’Connor, a former student who represents the mayor of Columbus here.
“Jenny and I were surprised to be mentioned by name,” Barhorst said. “We were both deeply touched by his recognition. I was principal when he was first assigned to teach at Lehman, and from those early days we developed a close bond.
“Jenny and I traveled to Rome when he was studying there and spent ten wonderful days with him as a tour guide,” Barhorst continued. “We visited him when he was teaching in the seminary and when he was assigned to the apostolic nunciature. It’s a friendship that includes wonderful stories and painful shared moments.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he will pull it off,” Barhorst said. “He is faithful and full of faith. He is very smart and hardworking. He has a perpetual smile that literally lights up any room. He will continue to make a profound difference in the lives of those he touches and selfishly for me he will be near. He could have been assigned a bishop anywhere. Those who know and love him can rejoice in his nearness.
Bishop-elect Earl Fernandes enters St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Westerville for his installation as the 13th bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus. The diocese comprises 23 counties in central Ohio.
Bishop-elect Earl Fernandes joins the audience in singing the responsorial psalm during his ordination and installation mass.
Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre reads a translation of Pope Francis’ letter of appointment of Bishop-elect Count Fernandes.
The Right Reverend Frederick Campbell, the 11th Bishop of Columbus, prays over Bishop-elect Earl Frenandes during the ordination and installation ceremony May 31.
Bishop Earl Frenandes addresses the audience of more than 1,500 people who attended his ordination and installation ceremony. His address was both lighthearted and serious, addressing issues as diverse as the shortage of priests at the Ohio State v. Michigan.