By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
When Bishop-elect J. Mark Spalding announced the news to his family that he was going to be a bishop, he was met with joy and a few tears.
Pope Francis named then-Father Spalding, 52, as the 12th Bishop of Nashville Nov. 21. His consecration and installation will take place Feb. 2.
The newly-named bishop hails from Washington County, Ky., where he grew up on the family farm. He is the son of Joseph Lawrence and the late Mary Aileen Spalding and is the oldest of three siblings.
Faith and family were the hallmarks of the Spalding household, said Sandra Goatley, Bishop-elect Spalding’s younger sister.
There are 48 first cousins in the Spalding family. More than 100 extended family members are expected to travel to Nashville for Bishop-elect Spalding’s installation.
“Our faith was always an important part of growing up. We never missed a holy day of obligation or Sunday Mass. And, we always went as a family,” said Goatley, a parishioner of St. Dominic Church in Springfield, Ky.
After Goatley, 51, was married and had a family of her own, she said her mother still called to remind her of holy days of obligation.
“My mother was the key to our faith. She always said without faith you have nothing,” she said.
Their mother, who passed away in 2002, would be immensely proud of her son becoming a bishop, Goatley said.
“She was proud of all her children. Mark is special; it’s very unique to have a child become a priest or nun. When someone mentioned ‘Father Mark,’ she just glowed,” said Goatley, who teaches second grade at Bardstown Primary School.
She and her husband Glenn have two children: Hunter, 25, and Olivia, 21.
Also proud of his son is Bishop-elect Spalding’s father, Lawrence. When he heard the news, he said he teared up.
“I kind of thought he would be a bishop somewhere down the line. When he told me I got choked up,” he said.
Lawrence Spalding, a retired farmer, said he would have to adjust to his son moving to Tennessee. Currently the two get together for lunch on Mondays, the newly-appointed bishop’s day off.
“It isn’t too far from us. I know all about Nashville. It’s no problem for us. I’ll just get in the car and drive down and see him,” he said.
Lawrence Spalding still resides in Fredericktown in the home where Bishop-elect Spalding and his siblings grew up. Their childhood was marked by hard work on the family farm.
“He worked hard; he never said a word about doing it. But, he never did like farming. He would say his hands were made for chalices, not callouses,” the father said.
The bishop-elect’s younger brother, Brad Spalding said he was shocked at the news that his big brother was tapped to lead the Diocese of Nashville.
“I was utterly speechless. I felt great joy for him. We are all extremely proud of him,” he said. “We all knew Mark was destined for big things. He’s a great priest and a good person.”
Brad Spalding, 43, and his wife Macy live in Boston, Ky., with their three children: Carly, 14; Colton, 11; and Brady, 5. He is the county engineer for Nelson County and attends the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky.
He said his brother was fortunate to have had a number of role models, in addition to his parents, as a young person.
“We had a (great) uncle — Father Jim Thompson, that was the beginning of a good example for Mark to see the good things a priest can do in life,” he said.
In addition to the late Father James Thompson, there are a number of religious vocations in the extended Spalding family. Two of Bishop-elect Spalding’s aunts are Ursuline Sisters of Mount St. Joseph -— Sister Laurita Spalding and Sister Rosanne Spalding.
His second cousin was the late Father Harold Spalding. And, a great aunt on his mother’s side — Sister Francis Xavier Miles — was also an Ursuline Sister of Mount St. Joseph.