Pope Francis this week appointed two current pastors, Father John Bonnici and Father Joseph Espaillat, to serve as auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of New York.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, announced the appointments early in the morning of Jan. 25, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.
Cardinal Dolan, thanking the Holy Father for the appointments, said, “Pope Francis has selected two outstanding priests, both experienced pastors, to serve the people of God of this archdiocese as auxiliary bishops.
“I look forward to working even more closely with Bishop-elect Bonnici and Bishop-elect Espaillat, as they undertake this new role in their priesthood.”
Their ordination to the episcopacy will take place at a Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral Tuesday, March 1, at 2 p.m. The cardinal said it would be “a day of joy” before the penitential season of Lent begins the next day, Ash Wednesday, March 2.
The cardinal introduced his new auxiliary bishops at his regular 7 a.m. weekday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He called it “providential” they would receive news of their appointment on the feast of St. Paul, “probably the greatest missionary the Church has ever known.”
“My brothers, congratulations and welcome,” the cardinal said. “My thoughts and prayers are with you.”
The cardinal, in his brief homily, noted that Jan. 26 is the feast day of St. Timothy and St. Titus, who served as “auxiliary bishops to St. Paul.”
“That gift continues,” the cardinal said, “and we rejoice in it today.”
The new bishops-elect were joined at the altar by the three other active auxiliary bishops of the archdiocese: Bishop Peter Byrne, Bishop Edmund Whalen and Bishop Gerardo Colacicco.
Bishop-elect Bonnici, 56, has served since last July as pastor of SS. John and Paul and St. Augustine parishes in Larchmont. He has also served as pastor of two other parishes: St. Columba’s, Chester, 2008-2021, and St. Philip Neri, the Bronx, 2002-2008. His first parish assignment was as parochial vicar of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Elmsford, 1992-1994.
He was director of the archdiocese’s Family Life/Respect Life Office, 1996-2002, which he also served as assistant director. He was also an adjunct professor of theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie. A native of Manhattan, he was ordained in 1991 after studying for the priesthood at Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He holds a doctorate in moral theology from the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family at Lateran University in Rome.
Bishop-elect Espaillat, 45, has served since 2015 as pastor of St. Anthony of Padua parish, the Bronx and as director of archdiocesan Hispanic Charismatic Renewal and spiritual director of youth ministry for the archdiocese.
He has also served as pastor of St. Peter’s, Yonkers, 2009-2012, where he earlier was administrator and parochial vicar. He also served as director of youth ministry for the archdiocese, 2012-2015. His first priestly assignment was as parochial vicar of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, Manhattan, 2003-2007. The Manhattan native is the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic. He was ordained in 2003 after studies for the priesthood at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie.
Later the same morning, Cardinal Dolan hosted a reception at the New York Catholic Center for the two bishops-elect, who accepted well wishes from representatives of various ministries and departments of the archdiocese.
The cardinal, in his remarks, said the new bishops-elect would restore the count of active auxiliary bishops in the archdiocese to five, a standard number for the sprawling archdiocese. He said he counts on his auxiliaries for both geographic and ministerial representation.
Both bishops-elect separately told CNY their new appointment left them feeling a tad “overwhelmed.”
Bishop-elect Bonnici said, “I’m trusting in the Lord every day forward.” He called the invitation “to serve in this new way” a manifestation of the “power of God’s grace.”
Bishop-elect Espaillat said, “I’m waiting on the Lord to see what He has in store. Throughout my whole ministry, He has surprised me. This is a big surprise.”