By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
When children of Holy Trinity Church spot their pastor, they call out “Father Mark! Father Mark!” In the coming months, they will have more of a mouthful as they shout “Bishop-elect Mark!”
Pope Francis named Father J. Mark Spalding as the 12th Bishop of Nashville Nov. 21.
From children to older adults, from standing-in for the archbishop to celebrating Mass for high-school students, Bishop-elect Spalding touches the lives of those he serves, according to people who know him.
His staff, parishioners and family expressed numerous emotions Nov. 21 upon hearing that their beloved pastor would be the new leader of the Diocese of Nashville.
Dr. Brian B. Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer of the archdiocese, said Bishop-elect Spalding is “enormously talented, skillful leader and a compassionate pastor.”
“It shows up in his vast number of involvements. I hear from parishioners who he has helped through their greatest joys and their deepest sorrows. He journeys with them in very important ways,” said Reynolds, who is also a parishioner of Holy Trinity.
Bishop-elect Spalding is also pastor of Holy Name Church and vicar general for the archdiocese. As vicar general, he fulfilled numerous duties for Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz during his three-year term as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bishop-elect Spalding has chaired archdiocesan committees and has served as chaplain at Sacred Heart Academy.
Bruce Hines, the business manager at Holy Trinity, said he was not surprised by the announcement Tuesday.
“Father Mark is certainly prepared to assume the responsibilities of bishop. We will certainly miss him. He is truly special,” Hines said.
Mary Jean Gandolfo, pastoral associate at Holy Trinity, said she is very happy for her pastor and friend, but added that his appointment is bittersweet.
“I’m so happy for him but it is a bittersweet moment for us. We are selfishly sad for us. The Diocese of Nashville is getting the very best,” she said.
Gandolfo said Bishop-elect Spalding will bring his skills as a “pastoral leader” to Nashville.
“He is very humble and authentic. He truly understands the importance of meeting people where they are and walking with them,” she said.
Ursuline Sister of Mount St. Joseph Rosanne Spalding, who is Bishop-elect Spalding’s aunt, said the news didn’t surprise her either.
“I knew it would be coming some time soon but I didn’t know when. The whole family is excited for him. We are very proud of him. He will be a good bishop,” said Sister Spalding, who serves as pastoral associate of Precious Blood Church in Owensboro, Ky.
Sister Roseanne is the fourth of nine children from Springfield, Ky. Bishop-elect Spalding’s father, Joseph Lawrence, is her older brother. She described the newly-named bishop as “a holy man” and “very down to earth.”
“I think he is a good listener and a good spiritual leader. He’s very smart but also has common sense about him,” she said.
Another aunt, Ursuline Sister of Mount St. Joseph Laurita Spalding, the fifth child in that family, lauded her nephew’s leadership skills.
“I think he will be a great leader of Nashville. Louisville is going to miss him but Nashville has gained an excellent leader,” said Sister Laurita, a second-grade teacher at Holy Name School in Henderson, Ky.
She added that Bishop-elect Spalding has always been a special person in her family.
“I know the whole family is excited. We feel so blessed with his vocation and what he has done for the last 25 years for the Archdiocese of Louisville,” she said.
Carole Whayne, a parishioner of Holy Trinity, said she was happy that Bishop-elect Spalding’s talents were being recognized but sad that her parish will lose him as pastor.
“He is an amazing pastor, one of the best I have ever known. He’s just so warm and friendly and fun and happy and smart. He’s top notch,” said Whayne, who chairs Holy Trinity’s parish life committee.
Mike Herrington, a parishioner of Holy Trinity, said the people of his parish have a special fondness for Bishop-elect Spalding.
“Father Mark has an incredible way of delivering a homily. They are always focused, entertaining and not too long.
“He will serve the people of Nashville well. As long as he doesn’t become a Vandy fan,” Herrington joked and added that Bishop-elect Spalding is a big University of Kentucky fan.