Bishop Dorsonville ‘humbled’ over appointment to shepherd Houma-Thibodaux diocese

Pope Francis appointed Washington Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville Feb. 1, 2023, as bishop of Houma-Thibodaux, La. Bishop Dorsonville is pictured giving the homily during Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington Sept. 26, 2021. (OSV News Photo/CNS file by Andrew Biraj, Catholic Standard)

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington to shepherd the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana.

The appointment was publicized Feb. 1 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican nuncio to the United States.

The Colombian-born bishop, 62, was named a Washington auxiliary bishop by the pope March 20, 2015, and he was ordained to the episcopate on April 20 of that year. He has served as vicar general for the Archdiocese of Washington since 2015.

Bishop Dorsonville will be installed as the fifth bishop of Houma-Thibodaux March 29 at St. Francis de Sales Cathedral in Houma. He succeeds now-Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre of Louisville, Kentucky. On Feb. 8, 2022, Pope Francis named then-Bishop Fabre to succeed retiring Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz.

“The Archdiocese of Washington now presents a great gift” to the Louisiana diocese in the appointment of Bishop Dorsonville as that local church’s “new shepherd,” Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington said in a statement.

“We thank Pope Francis for appointing Bishop Dorsonville first to serve us as an auxiliary bishop and now to bring his many talents in service” to Houma-Thibodaux, he added. “May the Lord abundantly bless him and his new family of faith.”

At a news conference at the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux Pastoral Center, where he was introduced to his new diocese, Bishop Dorsonville said, “I am humbled and very happy and … I am here to serve you.”

“I am one with you. I am one for you,” he told staff, members of the local press and others gathered at the pastoral center. “I pledge my time, my care, my devotion and my love as a shepherd to be the instrument to bring Jesus Christ in your life.”

Father Patrick John “PJ” Madden, who has served as the interim diocesan administrator since last April, told Bishop Dorsonville that he would discover in the diocese “a faith-filled Cajun spirituality — you are going to love it.”

He called the appointment “a proud moment for us this morning” and noted that Bishop Dorsonville, who comes from a Colombian and French heritage, has “a multicultural background that perfectly suits our multicultural diocese.”

In his remarks, Bishop Dorsonville praised his predecessor, Archbishop Fabre, as “a wonderful leader and shepherd.” Archbishop Fabre said in a statement he welcomed the appointment of his successor “with great joy. I thank God.”

Located southwest of New Orleans, the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux was established in 1977, and comprises the civil Louisiana parishes of Terrebonne and Lafourche, as well as parts of St. Mary and Jefferson civil parishes. The diocese covers an area of 3,500 square miles with a total population of 257,423 of which nearly 32% — about 81,500 — are Catholic.

The diocese is still recovering and rebuilding from Hurricane Ida, the deadly Category 4 storm that slammed Louisiana in August 2021. It was one of the three strongest hurricanes on record to ever hit the state.

Father Jay Baker, chancellor of the diocese, told Bishop Dorsonville that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and continuing hurricane rebuilding efforts, he will find “a land flowing with challenges and possibilities.”

Bishop Dorsonville said he is focused on “so much suffering in today’s world” and told his new flock that “we need to, as our beloved Pope Francis has said, move from indifference to solidarity.”

“I come to continue the process of rebuilding, the process of being better and the process to be there as an instrument of Jesus Christ in the lives of those who are suffering,” he said. “We will walk together finding the voices of the Holy Spirit that will let us know what are the paths we will take.”

Pointing out that he comes from an archdiocese that has “so many accents, so many faces, but just one faith — we are one family,” Bishop Dorsonville said he was happy to learn his new diocese “has great people and a rich history.”

“I’m delighted to see how Houma-Thibodaux has the spectrum of so many cultures and many talents and gifts,” he said.

Speaking to his “dear brother priests” and the men and women religious who serve in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Bishop Dorsonville said, “I will count on your wisdom and pastoral care to continue to build this church of Christ,” and he encouraged them to reach out to youth and families.

Born Mario E. Dorsonville Oct. 31, 1960, in Bogotá, Colombia, the bishop is the only child of Leonor M. Rodríguez and Carlos J. Dorsonville. He attended the major seminary of the Archdiocese of Bogotá, receiving a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1981 and a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology in 1985.

He was ordained to the priesthood Nov. 23, 1985, in Bogotá. Following his ordination, he was parochial vicar of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Bogotá for a year, then for the next four years (1987-1991) was pastor of San Jose de Calasanz Parish, Bogotá. During that time he also was an associate chaplain at the National University of Colombia in (1988-1991) and a professor of business ethics (1990-1991).

Then-Father Dorsonville received a licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Xavierian University of Bogotá in 1991. He earned a doctorate in ministry from The Catholic University of America In Washington in 1996.

From 1992 to 1994, while studying at Catholic University, he assisted the Hispanic community on weekends at Good Shepherd and Christ the Redeemer parishes in Arlington, Virginia, and served as a lecturer at the Inter-American Development Bank headquarters in Washington.

He also was a professor of theology and catechesis at the Institute for Hispanic Pastoral Studies of Arlington from 1993 to 1994.

In the Washington archdiocese, he was parochial vicar of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bethesda, Maryland (1997-2004), then he was named parochial vicar of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Hyattsville, Maryland, where he served for a year.

From 2005 to 2015, then-Father Dorsonville was vice president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington and director of the Spanish Catholic Center. He also was an adjunct spiritual director of St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington and a mentor for newly ordained priests (2011-2015).

Bishop Dorsonville is the immediate past chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, serving in the post for a three-year term (2019-2022). He remains a member of that committee and also is a member of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty and a bishop consultant to the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism.

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