Louisville priest named Bishop of Nashville

Father J. Mark Spalding

Bishop-elect J. Mark Spalding

For the third time in eight years, the Holy See has looked to the Archdiocese of Louisville for a new bishop.

Father J. Mark Spalding, 52, was named the Bishop of Nashville by Pope Francis in an announcement released Nov. 21. His consecration and installation will be Feb. 2 in Nashville.

Bishop-elect Spalding is pastor of two parishes — Holy Trinity and Holy Name churches — and serves as vicar general of the archdiocese.

He welcomed the appointment during an interview, noting “it’s amazing how God works and uses a humble instrument to build up his church.”

“God has always worked in my life,” he said. “Sometimes I didn’t understand how God was working, but in time I did see his hand guiding me, leading, encouraging, challenging me to be more in the world. I feel like this is one more occasion for God to work in and through me.”

Bishop-elect Spalding is a native of Fredericktown, Ky., and grew up at Holy Trinity Church there. He is the eldest of three children raised on the family farm. His childhood, he said, was marked by hard farm work, and centered on family and faith.

He is a 1983 graduate of Bethlehem High School. Afterward, he attended St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, the American College of Louvain in Belgium and the Catholic University of Louvain, where he earned a Licentiate of Canon Law in 1992.

He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville on Aug. 3, 1991. After ordination he served as associate pastor of the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky., (1992-1996);associate pastor, St. Augustine Church, Lebanon (1996-1998); associate pastor, St. Margaret Mary Church (1998-1999); pastor, Immaculate Conception Church, LaGrange, Ky., (1999-2011); pastor, Holy Trinity Church (2011-present) and pastor of Holy Name Church, (2016-present).   

Bishop-elect Spalding also served as judicial vicar archdiocese from 1998-2011 and is currently vicar general. 

In addition to Bishop-elect Spading, the Archdiocese of Louisville has had two other priests elevated to the episcopacy — Bishop William F. Medley of Owensboro and Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis.

Bishop-elect J. Mark Spalding issued the following statement Nov. 21, the day the Holy Father named him Bishop of Nashville. (Statements from Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz and the administrator of the Diocese of Nashville are listed below):

I am humbled by the confidence of our Holy Father, Pope Francis and deeply grateful for his support in naming me the twelfth bishop of the Diocese of Nashville. Led by the grace of God, I look forward to serving the people of Nashville with my brother priests, as together we seek to live and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. I eagerly anticipate getting to know the priests, deacons, consecrated religious, seminarians, and lay faithful of this local Church and ask for your prayers as I begin this ministry.

As one whose faith and vocation was nurtured in the “Kentucky Holy Land” in one of the oldest dioceses in the United States, I appreciate the deep legacy of Catholicism in the Diocese of Nashville, the first diocese established in the state of Tennessee and the second oldest diocese in the Province of Louisville. I am honored to participate in this legacy and to continuing the ministry of Bishop David Choby, whose joyful and humble pastoral leadership graced this diocese for the past decade. I also extend deep thanks to Father Michael Johnston, who has administered the diocese since Bishop Choby’s death in June of this year.

Since my ordination in 1991, I have served with so many wonderful priests, deacons, religious, and lay ministers, and I have learned so much from the parishes I served. I love being a pastor and being present to parishioners in times of great joy and sorrow. I treasure preaching the joy of the Gospel and celebrating Mass and the other sacraments. I will miss my home in Kentucky but look forward with great anticipation to my new home as pastor of the Diocese of Nashville. 

I am very grateful to Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, and the late Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly, O.P., who ordained me. Both of these men, along with my brother priests from the Archdiocese of Louisville, the Most Reverend William Medley, Bishop of Owensboro and Most Reverend Charles C. Thompson, Archbishop of Indianapolis, are valued mentors and models of pastoral leadership. I appreciate Archbishop Kurtz’s confidence in me and the experience of serving as his Vicar General since 2011, and I am pleased that I will remain in the Province of Louisville. I also appreciate the guidance and support of Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who has been so helpful since my appointment.

My family has always been my anchor. I know my dear mother is celebrating in heaven, and I appreciate the love and support of my father and my siblings and their spouses and children.

The wonderful parishioners whom I have served know of my constant reminder to them and to myself:  “To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48).  I pledge to demand much from myself as I work with the priests, deacons, consecrated religious, seminarians, and lay faithful of the Diocese of Nashville to inspire a zeal for the Gospel, serve those in need, promote vocations, provide lifelong formation through strong Catholic schools and parish formation programs, call forth the gifts of our youth and youth adults, provide a place of welcome for persons of every race, culture, and language, and support families in their vocation as schools of love.

As we approach Advent, I am reminded of our Blessed Mother Mary’s visit to Saint Elizabeth and her beautiful hymn of praise, the Magnificat. In it, she recalls God’s work through salvation history. God favors the humble servant and never fails to be with the oppressed and the alienated. The forgotten of the world never leave His heavenly gaze. As I seek to be such a humble servant for the Church, it is from this hymn that I take my episcopal motto: “God has lifted up the lowly.” With God’s grace and Mary’s yes as my guide, I will seek always to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd.

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
21 November 2017
J. Mark Spalding, Bishop-elect of the Diocese of Nashville


Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz issued the following statement Nov. 21 on the appointment of the Most Reverend J. Mark Spalding as Bishop of Nashville.

It is with great joy that I receive the news of Pope Francis’ appointment of Father J. Mark Spalding as the 12th bishop of Nashville. Bishop-elect Spalding brings a wealth of pastoral and administrative experience, a keen intellect, wise judgment, leadership ability and pastoral zeal to the Diocese of Nashville – a diocese that has a venerable history and is growing and rich in diversity.

As both a friend and co-worker, Bishop Spalding has worked closely with me over these past ten years.   I have witnessed firsthand Bishop-elect Spalding’s gifts as a devoted pastor of the faithful, first at Immaculate Conception Parish in LaGrange and most recently at Holy Trinity and Holy Name Parishes in Louisville.  I also am deeply grateful for his sterling service to the Archdiocese of Louisville, first as Judicial Vicar and for the past six years as Vicar General.

One hundred and eighty years ago another Kentucky native, Bishop Richard Pius Miles of Fairfield, Kentucky in Nelson County, was appointed the first bishop of Nashville.  Now once again our “ Catholic Holy Land of Kentucky,” this time in Washington County, shares a son to serve the faithful of the Diocese of Nashville. 

It is with equal joy that I also welcome Bishop-elect Spalding as a bishop of the Province of Louisville, promising him my prayers and support in his years of episcopal service.  I pray that he will serve Christ, our Good Shepherd, with the same zeal, humility and joy that characterized the service of his predecessor and my good friend, Bishop David Choby.  Ad multos annos – may he serve for many fruitful years.

Most Reverend
Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D.
November 21, 2017


The administrator of the Diocese of Nashville, Father Michael O. Johnston, issued the following statement Nov. 21 on the appointment of a new Bishop of Nashville. Father Johnston served as diocesan administrator in the absence of a bishop. Bishop David R. Choby died June 3, 2017.

On behalf of everyone in the Diocese of Nashville, I am very happy to thank our Holy Father, Pope Francis, for appointing Father J. Mark Spalding as the twelfth Bishop of Nashville, and for his generosity in accepting this call. Having served the Archdiocese of Louisville in many capacities over the years, presently as Vicar General and pastor of Holy Trinity Church and Holy Name Church in the city of Louisville, Bishop-elect Spalding brings a wealth of experience to us as our new shepherd.

He is a man filled with enthusiasm and excitement with his new responsibilities. He comes to Nashville and Middle Tennessee, an area of our state that is dynamic, growing, having such great potential. Bishop-elect Spalding is blessed with a joyful spirit, a strong work ethic, a deep love for the Lord and his people, and a great desire to lead and serve. He has already expressed such a keen interest in learning about the Diocese of Nashville, in listening to our needs and our hopes and dreams, and then discerning the direction the Holy Spirit wishes to take us. With God’s gift to him of this spirit of service and willingness to lead us, we are truly blessed.

Archbishop Kurtz and the people of the Archdiocese of Louisville are undergoing the loss of such a fine priest, and we are grateful for their sacrifice. We assure them that our new bishop will be loved and cared for as he begins his new ministry among us. May we pray for Bishop-elect Spalding and the Diocese of Nashville.

Michael O. Johnston
Diocesan Administrator

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