Father Matthew Coonan has accepted an appointment by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades to be vicar for clergy, a position that has been added to the curia of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Father Coonan, who will remain pastor of St. Therese and St. Henry parishes in Fort Wayne, will assume the additional responsibility June 15.
“After a long period of consultation and reflection, Bishop Rhoades has decided to make these changes to the structure and personnel of the diocesan curia in order that the curia may better serve the needs of the parishes, the clergy and the ministries in which the diocese directly engages,” said Father Mark Gurtner, vicar general of the diocese.
As episcopal vicar for clergy, Father Coonan will assist Bishop Rhoades in supporting, strengthening and sanctifying the priests and deacons of the diocese, acting in service and governance regarding the ongoing formation of priests and deacons through presbyterate days, annual continuing formation days, retreat, days of recollection and sabbaticals. He will work with vocations director Father Andrew Budzinski to oversee the Office of Vocations and together support, encourage and assist the formation and ministry of diocesan seminarians and priests.
Father Budzinski expressed anticipation for working with Father Coonan, a longtime friend, “true brother priest, and skilled collaborator.”
Canon law provides for the appointment of episcopal vicars in specific parts of the diocese, over certain affairs or over the faithful of a specific rite. The actions of the vicar for clergy should be in conformity with the directives and intentions of the bishop.
Father Coonan is a former assistant director of vocations, having fulfilled the role under former director of vocations Msgr. Bernard Galic. He will manage and lead the mentoring program of recently ordained priests, the Deacon Community Council and the program of formation of permanent deacons. As the episcopal vicar for clergy, he will serve on the bishop’s cabinet and as a member of the Presbyteral Council, Diocesan Review Board, Priest Personnel Committee and the Priest Retirement Board.
He will also work with Assistant to the Bishop for Pastoral Concerns Mary Glowaski to assist and support priests as they confront the increasingly complicated and challenging pastoral needs in parishes, and he will work to ensure the welfare of priests who are sick or who have retired.
“I’m excited about the changes Bishop is making to foster collaboration in the diocesan offices. This includes the important decision to appoint a vicar of clergy in a stable office in the diocese,” Father Coonan said in an email, responding to the news of his appointment. “Many of our priests have mentioned their excitement that this position is beginning. I am humbled that Bishop has appointed me to begin service in this capacity.”
“I recognize that I have much to learn,” he continued. “Since previously many of the duties were fulfilled by either the vicar general or the bishop himself, I know that much of my support and guidance will come from Bishop Rhoades and Father Gurtner. I will also depend on some of our other well-experienced diocesan personnel. I am joyful that this office is beginning for our diocese, humbled that I will serve in this capacity and confident that God will provide me His grace as I learn this new service.”
In order to be physically present to the bishop and to Father Gurtner, Father Coonan will occupy an office at the chancery, the Archbishop Noll Catholic Center in downtown Fort Wayne. The location of some offices within the Archbishop Noll center is currently being reconfigured to facilitate communication between members of the curia.
Effective July 1 and in addition to the new vicar for clergy, the following changes will be made to the structure of diocesan secretariats and offices.
The Secretariat for Evangelization will be renamed the Secretariat for Pastoral Ministries and Catechesis, with Carl Loesch, current head of the Secretariat for Education, as head of the new secretariat. It will be reorganized to oversee the Office of Catechesis and Disabilities, Office of Marriage and Family Ministry, Office of Hispanic Ministry, Young Adult and Campus Ministry, Youth Ministry and Catholic Social Doctrine and Human Development.
The Catholic Schools Office will be headed by the superintendent and report to the vicar general. The superintendent, Dr. Joseph Brettnacher, will serve as a member of the bishop’s cabinet.
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