Latest News

New auxiliary bishop appointed for Archdiocese of Washington

Fr Mario Dorsonville distributes ashes during an Ash Wednesday liturgy (CNS)

Pope Francis has appointed Fr Mario Dorsonville, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, as an auxiliary bishop of that archdiocese.

The appointment was announced in Washington on Friday by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican’s nuncio to the United States.

Bishop-designate Dorsonville, 54, will assist Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl in the pastoral care of the 620,000-member archdiocese. His episcopal ordination take place at a Mass on April 20 at the Cathedral of St Matthew the Apostle in Washington.

He currently is vice president for mission for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, its social ministry outreach arm, and he is director of the Spanish Catholic Center.

Since 2011, Bishop-designate Dorsonville also been adjunct spiritual director at the St John Paul II Seminary of the Archdiocese of Washington.

“Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has certainly manifested his great care for the Archdiocese of Washington” by naming an auxiliary bishop, said Cardinal Wuerl in introducing the new bishop at a news conference at Catholic Charities’ headquarters.

Bishop-designate Dorsonville “over many years of pastoral ministry, has demonstrated his priestly dedication, concern for the marginalised and love of the Church,” the cardinal said. “As auxiliary bishop, he will bring all of those gifts to better manifest the kingdom of God here in the archdiocese.”

The newly named bishop said he received the news of his appointment “with a sense of humility and profound gratitude” to Pope Francis, adding that he is “very eager and open to collaborate” with Cardinal Wuerl “in the efforts he has developed to care for the spiritual and pastoral needs of the people of the Archdiocese of Washington, especially those within the Spanish-speaking community.”

The archdiocese is served by two other active auxiliaries, Bishops Barry Knestout and Martin Holley, and retired Auxiliary Bishop Francisco Gonzalez. It is home to more than 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in the District of Columbia and five Maryland counties, St Mary’s, Charles, Calvert, Prince George’s and Montgomery.

Born in Bogota, Colombia, Bishop-designate Dorsonville was ordained in 1985 as a priest of the Archdiocese of Bogota. He was incardinated as a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington in 1999, four years after he earned a doctorate in ministry at The Catholic University of America. He received a licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University Javeriana of Bogota in 1991.

Over the years, he served as a parochial vicar at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bethesda, Maryland, and at St Mark the Evangelist Parish in Hyattsville, Maryland.

In an earlier interview with the Catholic Standard, the archdiocesan newspaper, then-Fr Dorsonville reflected on his work at the seminary.

“The seminary is like the heart of the diocese. … It’s like coming back to my roots … who I am, how the Gospel has to be the most important thing in my life.”

As for his service with the Spanish Catholic Center and Catholic Charities, he once said that working for the poor is a gift.

Trying to bring hope to those who come to the doors of the Spanish Catholic Center is continuing the work of Jesus, the priest said, noting Christ’s own special love for the poor. “He said it, he taught it, and he did it,” the future bishop said.

Catholic Charities is the largest private social service provider in the Washington area, serving more than 120,000 people in need annually through more than 65 programs in 48 locations, with a staff of nearly 900 and thousands of volunteers. The Spanish Catholic Center, established in 1967, provides medical, dental, immigration, legal, education and social services to more than 40,000 clients, primarily new Latino immigrants in Mount Pleasant, Gaithersburg and Wheaton.

In a 2011 interview, he said he also wanted to share his experience of serving people from different cultures, because that is the reality of the universal church — it consists of people from many different lands who share one faith.

As for his own priesthood, he said his life was full of joy. “It’s about being yourself, being committed, being faithful and being holy, being open to God’s grace and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform your life,” he said.

Mario Eduardo Dorsonville was born on October 31 1960, in Bogota, the only child of Leonor Rodriguez Hogar and the late Carlos Dorsonville Zarate. He attended the major seminary of the Archdiocese of Bogot, receiving a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1981 and a bachelor’s in sacred theology in 1985.

He was ordained to the priesthood on November 23, 1985 in Bogota. Following ordination, he served as a parochial vicar, was chaplain of the National University of Colombia in Bogota and later a pastor. He later a professor of ethics at the National University of Colombia.

While studying at The Catholic University of America, he was parochial vicar of Good Shepherd and Christ the Redeemer parishes in Arlington, Virginia, and was a lecturer at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington. He served as a professor at the Hispanic Apostolate of Arlington from 1993 to 1994.

He returned to Colombia to serve as chaplain and professor of ethics to the National University of Colombia and professor of pastoral counselling and catechesis at the major seminary of the Archdiocese of Bogota from 1995 to 1996.