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Bishop David Malloy

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April 11, 2012 | 07:59 AM
His dream was to be a simple parish priest.

And that's what he's been the last eight months, here in Lake Geneva, at St. Francis De Sales Parish.

But there's nothing simple about soon-to-be Bishop David Malloy. Humble for sure, but not simple.

He knows three languages, spent more than a decade in Rome and traveled the world for the church. And when he is consecrated as Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Rockford on May 14 his flock will consist of 456,965 Catholics in 105 parishes in an area that encompasses 6,457 square miles.

Numbers like that measure a multitude of accomplishments. Yet Malloy still fit the shoes of a parish priest when he sat down for an interview last week in a simple, unadorned room off the parish office at St. Francis on Lake Geneva's "Catholic Hill." It's an incredibly busy time for Malloy. Not only is he preparing for his new job, but last week was Holy Week — a time of renewal, and also an awful lot of work for a parish.

That work will only increase after Malloy leaves as a new pastor has not yet been named.

Down the hall, prior to the interview, Malloy was overheard on the phone talking about the names of cardinals, ending the conversation graciously with: "Is there anything else I can do for you?" He was just as humble with this reporter, starting the interview by saying, "my time is your time."

Challenges and new jobs have become par for Malloy ever since he decided to follow a spiritual life. He grew up in the 1960s and 70s in Milwaukee, part of a very involved Catholic family, so involved that he also has a brother in the priesthood.

Malloy studied biology at Marquette and had been accepted to medical school, but decided instead to try the seminary. If it didn't work out, he reasoned, his medical school invitation would be open for a year. The calling to priesthood had been in the back of his mind for a long time. "It wouldn't give me rest until I gave it a try," he said.

Since then it's been a global whirlwind. He studied at the Gregorian University in Rome and earned a degree in Canon Law at the Dominican University there. Later, he also spent time in the papal household. Malloy also was in the Vatican diplomatic corps in Pakistan and Syria and general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops before coming to Lake Geneva. Ironically, after traveling the world, he had never been to Lake Geneva before his assignment there.

During his career, Malloy has been in both administration and in contact with parishioners on a more personal basis. He feels his new job will be a happy marriage between the two and finds no contradiction between working and a spiritual life, believing everyday living provides opportunities to express spiritual and ethical values.

He readily admits to facing the Rockford "calling" with mixed feelings.

"I've loved my time at this parish. At the same time, as priests, when you're ordained you go where God asks you to go," he said.

Yes, he acknowledges, even priests find new "spiritual responsibilities" to be daunting at first.

"You always take a deep breath yet know you're going to do it," he said.

One of his challenges in his new job will be recruiting more young me to the priesthood. "So much of the secular culture puts pressure on young people not to see a calling that could be so fulfilling," he said. "But we have to face the task with optimism."

Malloy acknowledges the Catholic Church is in a transitional period but says it's healthy to evolve. "It's always in need of reform," he said.

At a news conference announcing his new assignment, Malloy said: "I am confident with the help of God and the prayers of so many including my brother priests, the faithful of the diocese of Rockford will strengthen my weaknesses and guide my efforts."

He went on to say that he faced his new job with a combination of humility and joy.

"The humility comes from the fact that becoming a Bishop entrusted with the task of shepherding the life of a diocese is a daunting task Ö I also come here with a great sense of joy. I love the church. I believe in the goodness of the church."

The announcement of Malloy's new appointment came from Pope Benedict XVI. He will succeed Bishop Thomas Doran, who retired on his 75th birthday in accordance with church law.

Malloy starts with a groundswell of support from others.

"He's very personable, has a pleasant sense of humor," said the outgoing Bishop who has known Malloy for 30 years and adds that his replacement has "a real dedication to the church."

Monsignor Jim McLoughlin added: "He's very gifted. I'm kind of surprised he wasn't made a Bishop (already)."

Kind words for a man the Lake Geneva community has known for far too short a time.

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