Archbishop Vigneron praises choice of ‘two well-loved and respected priests’ to serve as bishops
DETROIT — Less than a month after the Archdiocese of Detroit found out it would be losing one of its auxiliary bishops, the Vatican announced it would be gaining two more as Pope Francis appointed Detroit priests Fr. Gerard W. Battersby and Fr. Robert J. Fisher to the episcopal ministry.
The Vatican made the announcement Nov. 23, just days after the conclusion of the archdiocese’s Synod 16, which was headed in part by outgoing Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes, who served for five years as a Detroit auxiliary and will transition to the Archdiocese of Agana, Guam, starting this week.
Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron praised the pope’s appointments of “two well-loved and respected priests” as the 29th and 30th auxiliary bishops for the archdiocese, saying they will play an important role in galvanizing the faithful to share the Gospel.
“Just days ago we celebrated Synod 16 to move the whole Catholic community in southeast Michigan forward in our efforts to ‘Unleash the Gospel,’” Archbishop Vigneron said. “Both of these new bishops bring a rich set of gifts and talents to the roles they will play in leading our community in our mission to share the good news of Jesus.”
Bishop-designate Battersby, 56, has been vice rector and dean of seminarian formation of Sacred Heart Major Seminary since 2011, also serving as pastor of Detroit’s St. Mary of Redford Parish since October 2015. Bishop-designate Fisher, 57, has served since 2014 as pastor and rector of the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak.
Auxiliary bishops serve alongside an archbishop in the administration and pastoral care of a diocese, assisting him with carrying out a bishop’s threefold ministry of teaching, sanctifying and governing.
Archbishop Vigneron said the two men each will bring something unique to the episcopate, citing their distinctive backgrounds in different ministries of the Church.
Bishop-designate Battersby, he said, “is a gentle but ardent priest, with a particular love for those on the peripheries, a pastor who, because of his exemplary service, has been an outstanding model and mentor for seminarians at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.”
Bishop-designate Battersby will become the first Detroit bishop certified through the seminary’s groundbreaking graduate program in the New Evangelization — which he also helps oversee as the seminary’s vice rector.
Archbishop Vigneron said the new bishop’s “experience of forming priests for the New Evangelization gives him a strong foundation for supporting all his brother priests in our mission.”
Likewise, the archbishop said Bishop-designate Fisher is among “the most respected members of the Detroit presbyterate.”
“He has given remarkable service as pastor in some of the most challenging assignments in the archdiocese, most recently at the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “His particular dedication to the apostolate of our Catholic schools will be especially helpful in our efforts to make our schools centers for forming missionary disciples.”
The new bishops-designate shared their surprise and gratefulness at the news, each expressing a desire to serve the Detroit church with humility, grace and a servant’s heart.
“I would like to thank God and His Holiness Pope Francis for this inestimable blessing,” Bishop-designate Battersby said in a statement. “It is with joy and confidence in Jesus Christ that I accepted the Holy Father’s invitation to be a co-worker of his in the apostolic ministry. I would also like to thank His Excellency Archbishop Vigneron, who has been truly a good shepherd and a sterling exemplar to me.”
Likewise, Bishop-designate Fisher said he looks forward to helping others to follow the example of Jesus.
“I am humbled by the Holy Father’s call to serve as an auxiliary bishop. I am grateful for Archbishop Vigneron’s guidance, direction and fraternal support,” Bishop-designate Fisher said. “With the prayers of the community, I will direct all my energy toward sharing Christ in and through the Church.”
An ordination Mass for the two new bishops is set for Jan. 25, 2017, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
The two new bishops-designate were introduced during a news conference Nov. 23 at the archdiocese’s Chancery building. (Click here for story.)
Meet your new bishops
Bishop-designate Gerard W. BattersbyThe youngest of nine children along with his twin brother, Gerard W. Battersby was born May 15, 1960, to the late Christopher and the late Helen (Buckley) Battersby. He grew up in northwest Detroit and attended St. Benedict Parish and school in Highland Park.
He attended college at Wayne State University, receiving a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1983. Following graduation, he worked briefly in the pharmaceutical industry and subsequently became a designated senior residential appraiser, and worked in the appraisal field for a decade following college.
In 1993, he entered Sacred Heart Major Seminary as an adult vocation, and received a Master of Divinity degree in 1998, being ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Adam J. Maida.
After ordination, he served in parish ministry for approximately 10 years, being sent as an associate pastor to St. Thecla and St. Claude parishes in Clinton Township, and later as associate pastor of Presentation/Our Lady of Victory, Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Gerard parishes in northwest Detroit. During that time, he also served as vicar of the Northwest Vicariate.
In 2002, he was named pastor of St. Christopher Parish in Detroit, and in 2007, was appointed to Sacred Heart Major Seminary, where he received a License in the New Evangelization in 2008. 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, and as Theology House Director.
In 2009, he was assigned to graduate studies in Rome at the University of St. Thomas, where he is currently awaiting the completion of a terminal graduate degree in spirituality. In 2011, he returned to Sacred Heart Major Seminary as vice-rector and dean of seminarian formation. In October 2015, he was asked to become pastor of Detroit’s St. Mary of Redford Parish in addition to his duties at the seminary, and he continues to serve in both roles.
Bishop-designate Robert J. FisherThe oldest of the four children of Robert and Trudy (Torzewski) Fisher, Robert Joseph Fisher was born Sept. 24, 1959, and attended Epiphany and St. Bede Elementary schools before graduating from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School in 1977.
He went on to the University of Detroit, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in management science. During his summers, he worked for the Catholic Youth Organization at their summer camps near Port Sanilac. After graduating, he worked full time for the CYO overseeing the camping services department.
While working for the CYO, he began his discernment of the diocesan priesthood and entered formation at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in the fall of 1986, earning a Master of Divinity degree.
After being ordained a priest by Cardinal Adam J. Maida in 1992, he was sent as associate pastor to Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Grosse Pointe Woods. In 1995, Cardinal Maida assigned him as the director of priestly vocations for the archdiocese.
In 2000, he returned to parish ministry, serving as pastor of St. Angela Parish in Roseville (2000-03) and St. Lawrence Parish in Utica (2003-14). In March 2014, he was named to succeed the late Msgr. William Easton as pastor — and later rector — of the National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, which earned the distinction of being named a minor basilica in January 2015.
During his pastorates, he has been a seminarian mentor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, and served on the Program Review Committee and the archdiocesan Presbyteral Council. Currently, he is a member of the archdiocesan Catholic Schools Council and the board of directors of the Catholic Youth Organization.
His father and mother live in Troy. He has two sisters, one brother, two nieces and two nephews.
For more stories about the ordination and background of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s new auxiliary bishops, Bishop Robert Fisher and Bishop Gerard Battersby, check out The Michigan Catholic’s special section.