New Bishop of Knoxville appointed; Archbishop Fabre will continue duties through July

Pope Francis has appointed Father James M. Beckman, a priest of the Diocese of Nashville, Tenn., to be the bishop of Knoxville. Bishop-designate Beckman is pictured in an undated photo.
(OSV News photo/courtesy Diocese of Nashville)

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed Father James M. Beckman, a priest of the Diocese of Nashville, to be the bishop of the Diocese of Knoxville, Tenn.

The appointment was publicized in Washington May 7 by Cardinal Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop-designate Beckman succeeds Bishop Richard F. Stika, who resigned June 27, 2023, at age 65 citing health concerns, 10 years earlier than bishops are required to submit their resignation to the pope.

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre, Archbishop of Louisville, has served as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Knoxville since then. He will continue in that role until Bishop-designate Beckman’s episcopal ordination in late July.

In a May 7 statement about the appointment, Archbishop Fabre wrote that he has known the newly named bishop “for a long time. We were seminarians together at the Catholic University in Louvain, Belgium, many years ago. I believe in my heart that he will be a good shepherd for the faithful of the Diocese of Knoxville.”

He also penned a letter to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Louisville, thanking them for their patience while he was serving both dioceses.

“I want to thank you, the wonderful People of God in the Archdiocese of Louisville, for the great patience, understanding, and support that you have shown to me over the time I have served in Knoxville,” he wrote. “I am forever grateful for your understanding regarding limitations on my schedule due to my trips to Knoxville and for your prayers and kind support offered for me during this time.”

Archbishop Emeritus Joseph E. Kurtz, who served as Bishop of Knoxville before he was appointed to the Archdiocese of Louisville in 2007, also welcomed the appointment.

“I join with Archbishop Fabre and the faithful of the Diocese of Knoxville in rejoicing at the appointment of Bishop-elect J. Mark Beckman as the fourth bishop of Knoxville,” he wrote in a May 7 statement. 

“I have had the privilege of knowing Bishop-elect Beckman for the last 25 years and hold him in great admiration as a holy and dedicated priest,” he wrote. “May he serve Christ and the faithful of the Diocese of Knoxville well for many years to come.”

Nashville Bishop J. Mark Spalding, formerly a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville, said in a statement, “While our own hearts are saddened by the departure of such a dear friend and collaborator in ministry, we are joyful for our brothers and sisters in our neighboring diocese who are receiving such a kind, faithful, and capable new shepherd.”

Bishop-designate Beckman, 61,  is currently pastor of St. Henry Church in Nashville. He was born Oct. 19, 1962, in Lawrenceburg, Tenn. He attended Sacred Heart School and Lawrenceburg County High School and received a bachelor’s degree in history from St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa, in 1984. He also earned a master’s degree in religious studies from Catholic University in Louvain, Belgium, in 1988.

He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Nashville by Bishop James D. Niedergeses on July 13, 1990. Since his ordination, he has served as a pastor, teacher and associate principal. He also has served as director of priest personnel for the Diocese of Nashville since 2018.

“I am blessed and honored to accept this appointment from the Holy Father,” Bishop-designate Beckman said in a statement released by the Diocese of Knoxville. “I am a native Tennessean, and I am grateful that I can continue serving the Church and now the faithful of the Diocese of Knoxville in this region that I know well and love tremendously.”

The Diocese of Knoxville covers 14,242 square miles and has a Catholic population of just over 71,000 out of a total population of over 2.5 million.

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