By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published May 18, 2017 | En Español
ATLANTA—The newly named auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Bishop-designate Bernard E. “Ned” Shlesinger III, is a former Air Force pilot who enjoys fishing.
Bishop-designate Shlesinger, the youngest of six children and a priest of the Raleigh, North Carolina, Diocese, speaks Spanish.
“My teachers were the people of Raleigh. You really don’t learn Spanish until you have to use it,” he said at the May 15 news conference on his appointment where he gave remarks in both English and Spanish.
An eight-week immersion program in Mexico through the Raleigh Diocese helped him improve in the language, which he had studied in high school, he said. This was put to use in missions and parishes in North Carolina.
“My Spanish is not perfect. It is good enough to communicate, I think, and to do pastoral work,” he said.
While looking forward to visiting the Atlanta Braves’ new ballpark, Bishop-designate Shlesinger admitted he follows another team and would have to pray about making the switch.
“I have to confess since I grew up in Washington, I’m a Nationals fan,” he said.
During the coming weeks, the bishop-designate will be traveling to meet commitments as a faculty member of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. He will attend ordination Masses in Philadelphia, Lincoln, Nebraska, and Raleigh. Setting aside time to fish in Colorado, the bishop-designate will return to Atlanta prior to the Eucharistic Congress June 16-17.
“After that, my schedule is wide open and I’m just waiting for the archbishop to fill it,” said Bishop-designate Shlesinger.
His ordination as a bishop will take place at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta. The date has not yet been determined.
Katherine Angulo, associate director of youth ministry for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, worked at the Catholic Center in Raleigh when Bishop-designate Shlesinger was vocations director there.
She learned of the appointment when she checked email on the morning of May 15. Her cell phone was bombarded with calls from Raleigh.
Former parishioners in the Diocese of Raleigh were taking to social media to express pride and happiness at the appointment, as well as sadness in losing his priestly presence there.
“He’s very approachable,” said Angulo. “He’s the kind of guy who would sit and eat lunch with all the employees.”
Angulo said that “humble” is the first word she would use to describe the bishop-designate.
“The second word would be ‘prayerful.’ He’s definitely led by prayer,” she said.
Angulo noted that as vocations director he shepherded some of the largest classes of seminarians in Raleigh.
“He loved them. He was a great companion for them in their journey,” she said.
The priest served as Angulo’s spiritual director, helping guide her in the best ways to serve youth.
“Going to confession with him is amazing. It’s a transformative experience,” she said.
Angulo said the future auxiliary bishop has compassion for the poor and his ministry is not at arm’s length.
“He really works with them. … He lives with them,” she said. “Wherever he goes, he really develops his roots with the people.”
Msgr. John Williams, vicar for priests in the Diocese of Raleigh, has known Bishop-designate Shlesinger for a decade.
The bishop-designate’s down-to-earth nature is genuine, Msgr. Williams said. “He’s just as good as he appears,” he said.
When Msgr. Williams was pastor of St. Joseph Church in Raleigh, the bishop-designate lived there while working as vocations director.
When the priest left to serve at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia in 2013, Msgr. Williams would visit him often, hoping he would return to North Carolina.
“I don’t know what motto Father Ned will choose for his episcopal coat-of-arms, but in all of his assignments in the Diocese of Raleigh and lately in the seminary in Philadelphia, he has lived out one of the master’s: ‘Not to be served, but to serve’,” said Msgr. Williams. “He will truly inspire.”
“Rome got this one right”
Sara Paris-Edwards, administrative coordinator for the office of the bishop and vocations in Raleigh, has known Father Shlesinger since 2008. He hired her to work in the office of vocations.
“Upon learning the news of his elevation, my immediate thought was ‘Rome got this one right. He is going to be a fantastic bishop’,” said Paris-Edwards in an email. “In the time I have known him, Bishop-elect Shlesinger has always exhibited a deep love for the Lord and His Church, a profound reverence for the priesthood and a sense of humility for which we should all strive.”
She said that Father Shlesinger’s view of a priest was as a “father” and he looked for that trait in seminarian candidates.
“Though I knew him mainly as a vocation director, I always felt that Father Shlesinger’s heart was with the people. He loved being a pastor, working with families and reaching out to those in most need,” she said. “He has a true passion for teaching the Gospel to others and assisting others in deepening their relationship with the Lord.”
She said the Atlanta Archdiocese will have an auxiliary bishop who carries a strong military ethic of duty and responsibility and one who is gentle and caring.
“He will also have the people laughing and looking forward to his every visit,” added Paris-Edwards.
Serving the Hispanic community
Father James Garneau, pastor of St. Mary of the Angels in Mount Olive, North Carolina, talked by phone with Bishop-designate Shlesinger the morning of the announcement.
Father Garneau knew him when he came to serve as a deacon at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Newton Grove, North Carolina, even before priestly ordination.
“There is no duplicity in this man. He is a man of the Lord,” said Father Garneau. “He’s got the heart of the shepherd.”
The bishop-designate’s service reflects Pope Francis’ call for priests to smell like the sheep.
“His happiest work is among the poor,” said Father Garneau.
This includes both immigrants and black and white Catholics living in the rural South.
Father Garneau was vicar for Hispanic ministries in Raleigh and noted the bishop-designate’s willingness to serve the Latino community.
“Ned has never held back from recognizing that need,” said Father Garneau.
While vocations director for the Diocese of Raleigh, Bishop-designate Shlesinger also served for two and a half years as administrator of Maria, Reina de las Americas Church in Mount Olive and traveled between the parish and its two rural missions without complaint.
“He was really stretched,” said Father Garneau.
The pastor hopes to be able to make it to his friend’s ordination.
“I think that it’s a great blessing for the Church that we’re choosing such men for the episcopacy,” he said.
Msgr. Michael Shugrue, diocesan administrator for Raleigh, has known the bishop-designate since his 1996 ordination. As vicar for priests, Msgr. Shugrue became well acquainted with Father Shlesinger.
“Part of my ministry was to visit individual priests,” he said.
Msgr. Shugrue described the bishop-designate as prayerful and humble.
“It’s not surprising that he was later on brought to St. Charles Borromeo as its spiritual director,” he said.
Msgr. Shugrue said the auxiliary-to-be is a hardworking, thoughtful priest.
“He’s a very good pastor, somebody who can work in a variety of situations,” Msgr. Shugrue said. “I think he’s able to talk to and listen to people of various persuasions.”
When it was time to return to Raleigh, Father Shlesinger asked to be put wherever he was needed most.
“You have one of our finest,” said Msgr. Shugrue.