Pope accepts resignation of Harrisburg, Pa. bishop, names Philadelphia auxiliary as successor

Auxiliary Bishop Timothy C. Senior of Philadelphia concelebrates a Mass with other prelates from New Jersey and Pennsylvania in the crypt of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 1, 2011. Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg, Pa, April 25, 2023, and named Bishop Senior, 63, to succeed him. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

WASHINGTON (OSV News) -- Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who is 75, and has appointed Auxiliary Bishop Timothy C. Senior of Philadelphia to succeed him.

Bishop Gainer, who has headed the Harrisburg Diocese since 2014, turned 75 last August, the age at which canon requires bishops to submit their resignation to the pope.

Bishop Senior, who turned 63 March 22, has been a Philadelphia auxiliary since 2009. He is regional bishop of Montgomery County and chancellor of the archdiocese's St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. Bishop Senior was the seminary's rector from 2012 to 2022.

The resignation and appointment were publicized in Washington April 25 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Senior will be installed as the 12th bishop of Harrisburg by Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez during a June 21 Mass at St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg.

"This is certainly a joyous day for our clergy, the religious and laity of our diocese, for the members of our diocesan staff and for me personally, and today's announcement is one that we have been expecting for several months," Bishop Gainer said at a press conference in Harrisburg.

He said he was grateful to Pope Francis for sending the diocese "a man devoted to living the demands of the Gospel."

"As we enter this new chapter in the history of the Harrisburg Diocese, I do so with confidence that the offices of teaching, sanctifying and shepherding in our local church are in the very best hands," Bishop Gainer said, noting that his successor is "a classically trained pianist."

"I'm confident that the music and singing at our diocesan staff Christmas party will be kicked up a few notches," he added.

Bishop Gainer also thanked the media, saying, "You help us to spread the message of the diocese beyond the walls of our churches, and I am grateful for your presence today."

Introduced by his predecessor, Bishop Senior said he was "profoundly grateful" to the pope for "his confidence and trust in appointing me to serve the faithful of the Diocese of Harrisburg as their next bishop."

"Trusting in God's will and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I pray that I may be a faithful, holy and worthy shepherd for the people of central Pennsylvania in service of Jesus Christ and for the good of his church."

Archbishop Pérez called Bishop Senior's appointment a "moment" of "great joy for the Church in Philadelphia!"

"I've known and worked closely with Bishop Senior since long before either of us were bishops. He is an exemplary priest who has served his hometown faithfully for many years with great wisdom, intelligence and apostolic zeal for the good of souls," the prelate said in a statement. "It has been an inspiration for me to witness his humility, devotion and unending dedication for many years."

The pope, he added, has given the faithful of the Harrisburg Diocese "a true gift in making this appointment. I know Bishop Senior will serve them joyfully as a faithful shepherd."

Then-Msgr. Senior was named an auxiliary bishop for Philadelphia June 8, 2009, and he was ordained a bishop July 31, 2009. Bishop Senior served as the moderator of the curia for the archdiocese from 2009 to 2012, when Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, then head of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, appointed him rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

In July 2022, Archbishop Pérez named him seminary chancellor with responsibility over the plans for the seminary's move from its historic Wynnewood campus west of Philadelphia in 2024 to Lower Gwynedd Township, which is northeast of the city. The official groundbreaking on the new campus took place Dec. 8, 2022.

Timothy Christian Senior was born March 22, 1960, in North Wales, Pennsylvania, to James Harwood (d. 1977) and Elise (née Rothwell) Senior. The youngest of three children, he has a brother, Jim, and a sister, Myra. He attended St. Rose of Lima Elementary School and graduated from Lansdale Catholic High School in 1977. He then studied at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, earning bachelor of philosophy degree in 1981. He also has a master of divinity and a master of arts degrees in pastoral theology degrees from the seminary.

He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by Cardinal John J. Krol May 18, 1985. He served as an assistant pastor at a parish in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and taught religion in an archdiocesan high school before pursuing full-time graduate studies at Boston College, where he earned master's degrees in social work and business administration.

When he returned to Philadelphia, he served in the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Human Services from 1992 to 2004, first as deputy secretary and then secretary. He was vicar for clergy from 2004 to 2009. He was named a monsignor in 2005.

He is a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

The 15-county Harrisburg Diocese covers 7,660 square miles and has a Catholic population of about 206,000 out of a total population of just over 2.3 million people.



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