The Rev. W. Shawn McKnight, pastor at the Church of the Magdalen in Wichita, has been named by Pope Francis as the fourth bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri.
This brings the list of Wichita priests who have become bishops to five since the summer of 1998, a high number for a diocese of nearly 117,000 Catholics.
McKnight will join the Rev. John Brungardt, ordained to the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City in 2011; Bishop Ronald Gilmore, ordained to Dodge City in 1998; Bishop Paul Coakley, ordained to the Diocese of Salina in 2004; and Bishop James Conley, ordained as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Denver in 2008.
Coakley is now the archbishop of Oklahoma City and Conley is now the bishop of Lincoln, Neb.
The Rev. Eugene John Gerber, bishop-emeritus of Wichita, also came from the Wichita Diocese. He was ordained in Dodge City in 1976 and Wichita in 1983.
Wichita Bishop Carl Kemme said the diocese has produced so many bishops because it produces good priests. The number of priests from Wichita is also high: the diocese ordained 10 earlier this year.
“It just really speaks volumes about the quality of our priests and the dynamic Catholic life from which they’ve come,” Kemme said. “It just all fits together and creates this beautiful fruit, if you will, of really qualified priests that, if called, would serve very well as bishops of the church.”
McKnight will succeed Bishop John Gaydos, who was ordained and installed as bishop in 1997. The Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City has more than 81,000 Catholics, 95 parishes and 15 missions.
McKnight has also served on the diocesan chancery, with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as pastor of Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Wichita and as chaplain at Newman University.
During the announcement in Jefferson City, which was live-streamed, McKnight asked for prayer for himself and Gaydos during the time of transition. Gaydos plans to retire.
McKnight will be ordained and installed as bishop on Feb. 6.
“I hope and pray that as bishop for you, you may tangibly see my personal faith and love for Christ and for you, his people,” McKnight said. “You are all now in my daily prayers. I entrust us to the sacred heart of Jesus through the immaculate heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose presentation we celebrated today, to be our safeguard in the faith now and forever.”
Kemme said he will likely name a new pastor for the Church of the Magdalen in February. He also said he wasn’t surprised that Pope Francis named McKnight a bishop.
McKnight has done extensive studies in theology, been a good pastor, a seminary professor, an administrator and more, Kemme said.
“(He) just has a great love for the church and will dedicate his whole heart and soul to the work that’s before him,” Kemme said.
Contributing: Stan Finger of the Eagle