Victoria bishop retires after 50 years in service

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

April 23, 2015 at 10:51 p.m.
Updated April 24, 2015 at midnight

Bishop David Fellhauer held a news conference at the Victoria Diocese Chancery to announce that Rev.  Brendan Cahill, the Vicar for Clergy in the Galveston-Houston Diocese, will become the third bishop of the Victoria Diocese. Fellhauer, who turns 75, will retire but remain in Victoria.

Bishop David Fellhauer held a news conference at the Victoria Diocese Chancery to announce that Rev. Brendan Cahill, the Vicar for Clergy in the Galveston-Houston Diocese, will become the third bishop of the Victoria Diocese. Fellhauer, who turns 75, will retire but remain in Victoria.   Frank Tilley for The Victoria Advocate

Hundreds of curious eyes stared forward Thursday morning, as the Most Rev. David Fellhauer, bishop of the Diocese of Victoria, entered a conference room alongside Bishop-elect, Rev. Brendan Cahill.

Earlier that morning, it was confirmed Pope Francis had approved Fellhauer's resignation as bishop, and appointed Cahill, a priest of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, as his replacement.

In jovial spirits, Fellhauer, 75, announced he was retiring after 50 years of service to the priesthood.

Twenty-five of those years he served as bishop for Victoria Diocese.

"I'm delighted," he said, smiling, mentioning his plans to retire in Victoria and remain available to the diocese when necessary.

In jest, poking fun at his age, Fellhauer said he plans to serve as "bishop emeritus" because "it sounds better than being a retired bishop."

The transfer of bishop was effective Thursday, and Cahill will be ordained as bishop June 29, where he will become the spiritual head for more than 100,000 Catholics in the diocese.

"I'm honored and humbled ..." he said, pausing to wipe the tears from his eyes. "That's another thing you'll learn about me. I'm emotional."

Finishing his thought, he began once more, "I'm honored and humbled to become the shepherd of this wonderful diocese."

Among Cahill's accomplishments, he has served as spiritual director for the Houston Senatus of the Legion of Mary, formation director at St. Mary's Seminary and later as rector at St. Mary's Seminary. He was an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Theology, and served as administrator pro-tem at St. Joseph Church in Houston.

"My family calls me a joiner, because I'm always finding a group to join," he said. I find that "spiritually, we learn by being in community with others."

Cahill holds a bachelor's degree in psychology, a master's degree of divinity, a master's degree in theology with an emphasis in African-American studies, and a doctorate in dogmatic theology.

He is fluent in Spanish and Italian.

Cahill said he recognizes the importance of the cultural diversity in Victoria and the Hispanic influence in the church, of which he plans to continue to nurture as the previous bishop did.

"I've worked hard on my Spanish," he said, laughing, speaking in Spanish to the audience that he would be happy to take questions in Spanish if anyone so chose to address him in the language. "One of my great loves all these years has been the love of culture."

While the new bishop transitions in and Fellhauer transitions out, the diocese will continue to be governed, but neither bishop will be officially serving the public.

The governance of the diocese will be handled by diocesan consulters, a team of individuals and priests who meet Monday to elect an administrator until the ordination of Cahill.

No major changes to diocese will take place in the interim.

Nor will much change follow Cahill's new appointment, he said.

"I want to wait for at least a year before changing anything, and maybe more than that, so we can continue to build on the work that's already being done," Cahill said. "My job is to listen."

Later, he hopes to continue his work with various Catholic groups and work with Catholic youth as much as possible.

Jennifer Vincent, a member of Our Lady of Victory Cathedral, said she will miss Fellhauer, but she's excited to get to know the new bishop.

"I love Bishop Fellhauer; he's always been a spiritual source of support, so I will miss him as bishop, but I'm thrilled he's going to stick around Victoria," she said. "I really look forward to getting to know Cahill. He seems to have a heart for ministry."

Vincent said Cahill appears to be a caring, spiritual leader for the Catholic faith and Victoria community.

Fellhauer said he's looking forward to Cahill - the third bishop of the diocese - taking over his post.

Other than having bittersweet memories about retirement, he knows he's leaving the diocese in good hands.

"The pope couldn't have put (Cahill) in a better diocese," he said.


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