Pope Names Wyoming Catholic Bishop To Be Anchorage Archbishop
Pope Francis named Bishop Paul Etienne of the Diocese of Cheyenne to be the fourth Archbishop of Anchorage on Tuesday, according to the diocese.
"Today, I turn my attention to the People of God of this ‘great land’ of Alaska," Etienne wrote in his blog on the Cheyenne diocesan website.
"However, as I write this entry, I simply wish to say to the holy, faithful people of God in Wyoming: 'I love you.' In time I will return to you for a brief period to celebrate with you the seven years we have spent together building up the Kingdom of God," he wrote.
He will replace Archbishop Roger Schweitz, who was named to the post in 2001.
Etienne will begin his duties Nov. 9, said Deacon Mike Leman of Holy Trinity Church in Cheyenne.
Etienne wrote he received a call on Sept. 24 from the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington about the appointment.
The Archdiocese of Anchorage covers 139,000 square miles of south central Alaska and has about 32,000 Catholics who belong to 14 parishes and missions, according to its website.
Etienne, 57, was named bishop of the Wyoming diocese in 2009. He grew up in Tell City, Ind., and graduated from the University of St. Thomas/St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., with a bachelor's degree in business administration. In 1992, he graduated from the North American College in Rome and received a Bachelor of Sacred Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
He was ordained in 1992 in Indianapolis. He served parishes in Indiana before being named the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Cheyenne in September 2009. There are about 55,000 Catholics in the state and 72 parishes and missions in the diocese, which covers the geographical area of Wyoming.
After Etienne begins his duties in Anchorage, Leman said a group of priests in the diocese will select a diocesan administrator until the pope names a new bishop for Wyoming, which could take a year.
Etienne will be remembered for his energy to bring unity to the diocese, and a personal touch in a large state, Leman said.
For example, he would travel to parishes and missions as much as he could for the sacrament of confirmation, even though that was not necessary, Leman said. "That really meant a lot to people to see their bishop given the size of our diocese."
Etienne also took his beliefs to court.
In 2014, The diocese and other Catholic organizations sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over the Affordable Care Act, which they said would require them to either sign up with third-party insurers offering contraception and abortion services or pay penalties.
They filed a motion demanding the court issue an injunction against HHS to block this requirement.
The U.S. Department of Justice responded the act does not substantially burden Catholic schools and charities.
U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl denied the motion, and the diocese appealed his decision.
The case is still before the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.