SLEEPY EYE — Bishop Chad William Zielinski officially became the fifth bishop of the Diocese of New Ulm during a special installation Mass Tuesday at St. Mary’s Church.
The Apostolic Nuncio to the United States Christophe Pierre presented and read the Apostolic Mandate. After receiving the mandate from the nuncio, Zielinski showed the mandate to everyone in the sanctuary, and then to the priests and faithful present. By these actions, Zielinski takes possession of the diocese.
In his homily after his installation, Zielinski read the prayers that members of the Diocese of New Ulm have been reciting for two years, asking for the appointment of a new bishop.
Zielinski said after receiving the call to serve in New Ulm, he was thrilled. As a native of rural Michigan, he thought returning to the Midwest was a homecoming.
He immediately began researching the Diocese of New Ulm and learned of their prayer for a new bishop.
“It humbled me” Zielinsky said. “It pierced me to the core of my being.”
The prayer reminded him that everyone through the Universal Catholic Church.
“They ask for holy deacons, holy priests and holy bishops”, he said.
The call to holiness was strong, and Zielinksi wanted to assure members of the diocese that he would work hard in his new role.
“I look forward to putting on my gloves and joining you in this hard work as we hear God, reach out our hearts to Him, and have renewed hope in God’s providence.”
Zielinski was announced as the new bishop of the diocese in July. He succeeds Bishop John M. Levoir, who led the diocese from July 14, 2008 until his retirement on August 6, 2020. Bishop Douglas L. Grams, administrator of the Diocese of New Ulm, has served as diocesan administrator since August 10. 2020.
Zielinksi was previously the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska.
Zielinski was born on September 8, 1964 in Detroit, Michigan. After graduating from high school in 1982, Zielinski enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and attended Boise State College and Park College when he felt called to serve as a priest. He entered Mount Angel Seminary in St. Benedict, Oregon, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree with honors in philosophy in 1989.
He was accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Gaylord and entered Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit to complete his spiritual formation and theological studies, earning his Master of Divinity degree in 1996.
After the 2001 terrorist attacks, Zielinski felt particularly driven to deal with the military. In 2002, he began his chaplaincy at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota.
During his military career, Zielinski served three tours of duty in war zones, including Iraq and Afghanistan. He has received numerous military awards and decorations for his service and was promoted to major in July 2013. In 2012 he was called to Alaska to serve as a chaplain with the 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks.
Zielinski was ordained and installed as the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska on December 15, 2014. Zielinski became the first active-duty chaplain in the United States Armed Forces to be appointed as a Catholic bishop.