Bishop appoints new episcopal vicar for Central Vicariate

(Left to right) Father Matt Kiehl, vicar for vocations; Father David Ssentamu, pastor, Sts. Peter and Paul, Palmyra, and St. Joseph, Columbia; Father Joe Wamala, pastor, Christ the King, Norfolk; Father Ken Shuping, pastor, St. Bridget, Richmond, and episcopal vicar for Central Vicariate; and Father René Castillo, pastor, Holy Family, Virginia Beach, at the World Youth Day Closing Mass in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 6. (Submitted by Father Joe Wamala)

Father Ken Shuping, pastor of St. Bridget, Richmond, says he has plenty of additional responsibilities to juggle with the new fiscal year underway.

Father Shuping was appointed episcopal vicar for the Central Vicariate of the diocese, effective July 1. Bishop Barry C. Knestout also appointed Father Shuping to the College of Consultors, Priests’ Council, and the Priest Personnel Board.

Msgr. R. Francis Muench filled those roles before he retired on July 1. “He is a wise and talented priest,” said Father Shuping. “It will be difficult to fill his shoes.”

Father Eric J. Ayers is episcopal vicar of the Eastern Vicariate and Father Kevin L. Segerblom is episcopal vicar of the Western Vicariate.

Mary Landry, from St. Francis of Assisi, Staunton, receives Holy Communion from Father Ken Shuping during Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Lourdes, France, July 25. (Photo/Katie Yankoski)

Father Shuping described the Central Vicariate as covering one-third of the diocese, including the area between Emporia and Lake Gaston, Amherst and Charlottesville, and Ashland and Tappahannock.

“I am grateful to Father Shuping for taking on this new responsibility of oversight in the Central Vicariate and I look forward to working with him,” Bishop Knestout told The Catholic Virginian. “He is an experienced pastor, and I am confident in his ability to assist in the administration of the diocese.”

As episcopal vicar, Father Shuping will visit the parishes of the five priests who serve as deans in his vicariate. Father Brian W. Capuano, judicial vicar and chancellor of the diocese, explained that the responsibilities of the episcopal vicars are to collaborate with the bishop, all the faithful, and particularly with the deans to support pastoral efforts in their assigned regions.

Father Capuano said the vicar’s qualifications are noted in the Code of Canon Law: an episcopal vicar must be of “sound doctrine, integrity, prudence and practical experience” (canon 478 §1).

“As I learn about the people in all the parishes in the Central Vicariate, it’s important to keep in mind the way each has its own needs,” said Father Shuping.

Bishop Knestout appoints a group of priests to be his College of Consultors. Members are appointed for a five-year term and aid the bishop in significant decisions impacting the diocese. Father Capuano explained that in some cases, the bishop is required to consult the College; in other cases, he cannot act without the consent of the College.

In addition to those appointments, the bishop also appointed Father Shuping to the Vocations Advisory Board. Father Capuano noted that it is helpful for local clergy to assist the Office of Vocations in reviewing applications for admission to formation and determining a candidate’s suitability for Holy Orders.

Just weeks after his new appointments took effect, Father Shuping joined the diocesan delegation for World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal. As the two-week pilgrimage wrapped up, he said, “I love World Youth Day. I’ve been to several of them now – it’s a great chance to see the universal Church, people from all over the world coming together.”

As he settles into his new roles back at home, he emphasizes that he will work to unite the Church.

“We are one Church, with many kinds of gifts,” said Father Shuping. “I hope to bring with me an openness to understanding these differences, and to see how they all come together so that we are one people in Christ.”

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