WASHINGTON, DC – Pope Francis has appointed Father Joseph A. Williams as Vicar for Latinos in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Minnesota.
Williams, 47, is originally from Minneapolis and is pastor of the city’s St. Stephen’s Church. Ordained a priest of the Archdiocese on May 28, 2002, he is also administrator of the Holy Rosary Church.
His appointment was announced on December 10 in Washington by Bishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
When ordained bishop, Williams will be one of the youngest Catholic bishops in the United States.
Williams is due to be ordained a bishop on January 25 at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
“It was with great joy that I learned of the appointment by Pope Francis of Father Joseph Williams as Auxiliary Bishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis,” Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis said in a press release from December 10.
“The priests and faithful of the Archdiocese should be honored that the Holy Father has chosen an indigenous son, raised, nurtured and trained in this local church, to serve as the successor to the apostles,” he said. “His deep faith, his pastoral heart, his love for Christ and his flock, and his awesome natural gifts all suggest that the Lord has long been preparing him to serve as bishop. “
Hebda said he was inspired by the leadership of the appointed bishop in St. Stephen and Holy Rosary parishes and “his heart for the poor and those on the periphery, his evangelical zeal and his leadership as vicar for the Latin ministry “.
He said he was convinced that the Archdiocese “will benefit greatly from his example, his discernment and his leadership”.
Hebda asked Catholics in the Archdiocese to pray for Bishop-designate Williams as he prepares for ordination and begins his episcopal service.
“May Our Lady of Loreto, on the feast of which he was appointed, guide him always to the compassionate heart of her Son,” he added.
As Auxiliary Bishop, Williams assumes a role recently vacated by Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens, installed on December 6 as head of the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota. He was Auxiliary Bishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis for eight years.
“I am touched and honored by the appointment of Pope Francis,” the bishop-designate said in a statement from the archdiocese. “I love Jesus and his church, and I look forward to joining the faithful in St. Paul and Minneapolis in sharing this love with our neighbors, especially the poor and immigrants.”
For over 15 years he has had “the privilege of serving our Spanish speaking sisters and brothers,” he said. “Their tender love of God and their devotion to the priesthood have inspired me to live out my vows daily. I am confident that the Holy Spirit will show Archbishop Hebda how I can best support him to take care of all the wonderful people in this Archdiocese. Please pray for us.
Born May 2, 1974 to Dr Gary and Mary Williams, Williams is the third of nine children. He grew up in Stillwater, Minnesota, where he attended St. Croix Catholic School and Stillwater High School. Her brother, Father Peter Williams, ordained in 2004, is an Archdiocesan Priest and Pastor of St. Ambrose Parish in Woodbury, Minnesota.
Williams holds a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from the University of Minnesota Morris, graduating summa cum laude in 1996. He studied philosophy and pre-theology at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio from 1996 to 1998 and attended St. Paul’s Seminary. School of Divinity at St. Paul from 1998 to 2002, where he obtained a master’s degree in divinity.
He was 28 when he was ordained a priest by Archbishop Harry J. Flynn.
After ordination, Father Williams ministered as a parish vicar at Saint Paul’s Cathedral of Saint Paul, 2002-2004, and at Divine Mercy Parish in Faribault, Minnesota, 2004-2005. After that he was pastor for the next three years of two other parishes in the Archdiocese, St. Mathias in Hampton and St. Mary in New Trier.
From 2003 to 2005, he was the coordinator of the evangelization of the archdiocese to people with disabilities.
He was appointed vicar of the archdiocese for Latin ministry in 2018. He is a member of the board of directors of the Seminaries of St. Paul, which includes St. Paul Seminary and the Seminary of St. John Vianney College. He served as chaplain of the Minnesota House of Representatives.
Williams began his long-standing ministry with Latino and Spanish-speaking Catholics in Faribault, where he and other parish leaders worked to bring healing to a Latin American community that had been affected by the drug raids.
Members of his current two parishes are predominantly Latino, and he has worked to change negative cultural perceptions of undocumented immigrants. He has been an advocate for federal immigration reform and the federal Deferred Action Program for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA.
In St. Stephen, he led evangelistic efforts in the neighborhood, including knocking on doors and inviting people to mass and faith training.
He has a particular interest in young adult ministry and, as parish vicar at the cathedral, he initiated “Theology on Tap” in the parish, a program that continues today. He has organized trips for World Youth Day celebrations, including the most recent World Youth Day in Panama in 2019.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis encompasses the 12 counties of the Twin Cities metropolitan area, which includes approximately 725,000 Catholics served by 187 parishes. It has been run by Hebda since 2015.
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Maria Wiering, editor-in-chief of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, contributed to this story.