Bishop Battersby installed as La Crosse's 11th bishop, 'singularly focused' on Christ

Former Detroit auxiliary bishop, 64, begins new role as shepherd of western-central Wisconsin diocese, birthplace of Fr. Solanus

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LA CROSSE, Wis. — On the day after the celebration of the Church’s birthday — and six days after his own birthday — Bishop Gerard W. Battersby was installed as the 11th bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wis., pledging to serve his new flock with the same fervor and faithfulness as the early apostles.

The Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman in La Crosse was filled May 20, the day after Pentecost, with laity, religious, priests and deacons of the diocese who turned out to witness the historic installation of their new bishop, along with bishops, friends, family and well-wishers who traveled from Detroit and across the Midwest.

Bishop Battersby, 64, succeeds retiring Bishop William P. Callahan, OFM Conv., after Pope Francis appointed the former Detroit auxiliary bishop on March 19 to be the spiritual leader of west-central Wisconsin’s 135,000 Catholics.

Bishop Gerard W. Battersby takes his seat on his cathedra for the first time as bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wis., during his installation Mass on May 20 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman. (Photos courtesy of the Diocese of La Crosse)
Bishop Gerard W. Battersby takes his seat on his cathedra for the first time as bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wis., during his installation Mass on May 20 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman. (Photos courtesy of the Diocese of La Crosse)

Related: Bishop Battersby reflects on time in Detroit, move to La Crosse: 'It's about Jesus' (VIDEO)

The principal celebrant for the Mass was Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, the metropolitan see in Wisconsin. Cardinal Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, and Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron were among the other bishops in attendance.

Before Bishop Battersby took his cathedra — or episcopal seat — Cardinal Pierre addressed the standing-room-only cathedral, thanking Bishop Callahan for his service and praising Bishop Battersby’s willingness to listen to the Holy Spirit.

“Bishop Battersby, thank you for your ‘Yes’ to come to western-central Wisconsin in order to shepherd the people of this local Church," Cardinal Pierre said. "Your closeness to the hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the source of accompaniment and strength, will continue to sustain you in your ministry here. No doubt, the many lessons you have learned in your parish work, your formation of seminarians and in your seven years as auxiliary bishop have equipped you to be the ordinary of La Crosse.”

Bishop Gerard W. Battersby, right, celebrates his first Mass with his new diocese surrounded by priests of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wis., on May 20 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman in La Crosse. (Courtesy of the Diocese of La Crosse)
Bishop Gerard W. Battersby, right, celebrates his first Mass with his new diocese surrounded by priests of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wis., on May 20 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman in La Crosse. (Courtesy of the Diocese of La Crosse)

Cardinal Pierre noted Bishop Battersby was arriving in La Crosse “with a commitment to listening to the people of God and to discerning with them the path on which the Holy Spirit is leading this Church,” themes echoed in Bishop Battersby’s introductory press conference.

The Diocese of La Crosse covers 19 counties with a total population of 875,000 people, including 156 parishes and 65 schools. The diocese is home to St. Rose of Viterbo Convent, the motherhouse of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration; and the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which opened in 2008.

It is also the birthplace of Blessed Solanus Casey, Detroit's well-known Capuchin friar, who was born in Oak Grove, Wis., in 1875.

When Cardinal Pierre read the apostolic mandate from Pope Francis appointing Bishop Battersby to La Crosse, thunderous applause broke out from the congregation.

Bishop Battersby processes through the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman holding the apostolic mandate from Pope Francis announcing his appointment as the 11th bishop of La Crosse.
Bishop Battersby processes through the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman holding the apostolic mandate from Pope Francis announcing his appointment as the 11th bishop of La Crosse.

Bishop Battersby then carried the scroll on which the mandate was printed around the cathedral, as is the Church’s custom, showing it to those in attendance. Afterward, Archbishop Listecki handed Bishop Battersby his crosier, and the bishop took his seat as La Crosse’s new ordinary.

“With faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and with the love of God in my heart, I accept the pastoral care of the people of God in the Diocese of La Crosse. I resolve to serve faithfully the Church in this diocese,” Bishop Battersby proclaimed.

Bishop Battersby was greeted by representatives of the clergy, religious and faithful of La Crosse, who approached one by one to offer congratulations and prayers.

Addressing those gathered, Bishop Battersby thanked Cardinal Pierre and his predecessors in attendance, including Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, who served as bishop of La Crosse from 1995 to 2004, Archbishop Listecki, who served from 2004-10, and Bishop Callahan, who has been La Crosse's bishop since 2010.

Bishop Gerard W. Battersby, second from right, is pictured with three of his predecessor bishops before the installation Mass. Left to right are Bishop William P. Callahan, OFM Conv., the 10th bishop of La Crosse, Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, the diocese's eighth bishop, Bishop Battersby and Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, who served as La Crosse's ninth bishop. (Courtesy of the Diocese of La Crosse)
Bishop Gerard W. Battersby, second from right, is pictured with three of his predecessor bishops before the installation Mass. Left to right are Bishop William P. Callahan, OFM Conv., the 10th bishop of La Crosse, Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, the diocese's eighth bishop, Bishop Battersby and Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, who served as La Crosse's ninth bishop. (Courtesy of the Diocese of La Crosse)

He also thanked Archbishop Vigneron, noting “all the good that I know as a bishop came from listening to him and doing my best to imitate his leadership and wise shepherding” of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Although, Bishop Battersby was quick to add, “any mistakes are entirely mine.”

As he did during his introductory press conference, Bishop Battersby reiterated that while he will seek to listen and be the best bishop he can be, his ministry won’t be about himself.

“It was always about Jesus, and it will always be about Jesus,” Bishop Battersby said. “As we heard in today’s Gospel, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. And without me, you can do nothing.’ Surely, this is a bracing antidote to today’s rampant and poisonous narcissism.

“Repent and believe,” Bishop Battersby continued. “These are among Jesus’ first words, and they must be our North Star if we are to be His disciples, if we are to pick up our cross and follow after Him, if we are to love him and keep His commandments.”

Bishop Battersby is greeted by representatives of the Diocese of La Crosse during the installation Mass.
Bishop Battersby is greeted by representatives of the Diocese of La Crosse during the installation Mass.

Bishop Battersby noted that the Christian life, lived through the sacraments, is about responding to the gift of Jesus’ love by giving back one’s whole self to the Father through him.

The National Eucharistic Revival — which will pass through La Crosse at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe as part of a nationwide pilgrimage on June 7 — is a fitting sign of this Eucharistic life in Christ, Bishop Battersby added.

“We, my brothers and sisters, are on a journey, and it is not simply fortuitous that the Eucharistic renewal now rising in our nation is a simple coincident," Bishop Battersby said. "It is a prophetic sign for the Church in the United States, for the Church of La Crosse, to simply embrace anew the path of discipleship which is cruciform, sacramental and essentially Eucharistic. It is Christ’s initiative, to which we offer our own amen.”

A native of Detroit, Bishop Battersby was ordained to the priesthood on May 30, 1998, for the Archdiocese of Detroit. Then-Fr. Battersby served as associate pastor of St. Thecla Parish in Clinton Township (1998-2000), St. Gerald Parish in Farmington (2000-02), Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Detroit (2000-02), and Presentation/Our Lady of Victory Parish in Detroit (2000-02). He served as pastor of St. Christopher Parish on Detroit’s west side from 2002-07.

Bishop Battersby offers Communion for the first time as La Crosse's new bishop. The Detroit native and former Detroit auxiliary bishop spoke about the necessity of placing all of one's faith in Jesus during his installation Mass homily.
Bishop Battersby offers Communion for the first time as La Crosse's new bishop. The Detroit native and former Detroit auxiliary bishop spoke about the necessity of placing all of one's faith in Jesus during his installation Mass homily.

In 2007, Cardinal Adam J. Maida appointed Fr. Battersby to the faculty of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, where he would minister and teach for the next decade. While serving as director of graduate seminarians and graduate pastoral formation at the seminary, Fr. Battersby also served concurrently as administrator of St. Leo Parish in Detroit.

In 2009, he was assigned to graduate studies at the University of St. Thomas (Angelicum) in Rome. He also earned a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) in the New Evangelization from the Angelicum through its partnership with Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

In 2011, Archbishop Vigneron appointed Fr. Battersby vice rector and dean of seminarian formation at Sacred Heart, a role in which he played a significant part in forming the next generation of priests for the Archdiocese of Detroit and nearly a dozen other dioceses and religious orders. In 2015, he was concurrently appointed pastor of St. Mary of Redford Parish in Detroit.

Just days after the conclusion of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Synod 16, Pope Francis named Bishop Battersby and fellow Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Robert J. Fisher the 29th and 30th auxiliary bishops in the archdiocese’s history. Along with Bishop Fisher, he was ordained to the episcopacy on Jan. 25, 2017, by Archbishop Vigneron at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Bishop Battersby greets friends, well-wishers, clergy and faithful of the Diocese of La Crosse outside the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman following his installation Mass on May 20.
Bishop Battersby greets friends, well-wishers, clergy and faithful of the Diocese of La Crosse outside the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman following his installation Mass on May 20.

Since serving as an auxiliary bishop, Bishop Battersby has chaired the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Unleash the Gospel Pastoral Council, which is charged with implementing the vision of Synod 16 according to Archbishop Vigneron’s pastoral letter, “Unleash the Gospel.” Bishop Battersby has also served as temporary administrator of St. Anne Parish, Monroe (2018); St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Newport (2018); and St. Perpetua Parish, Waterford (2019).

On March 19, 2024, Pope Francis appointed him the 11th bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse.

At the conclusion of his homily during his installation Mass, Bishop Battersby reminded his new flock that “time is far shorter than we might imagine,” and urged those gathered to help him in the urgent task of evangelizing a world in need of Jesus.

“My dear brothers and sisters, I am by grace your bishop, and by the grace of God, you are my priests and my people,” Bishop Battersby said. “Let us not spend the time left to us on unworthy and undignified pursuits for a believer. Let us spend our days so that we might become singularly focused, allowing ourselves to be captivated anew by love.”



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