p.1sklbacsw2004Tessa Goulais, a first grader at St. Matthew School in Campbellsport, presents the eucharistic gifts to Bishop Richard J. Sklba during a Catholic Schools Week Mass celebrated Jan. 28, 2004, at St. Mary’s Springs High School in Fond du Lac. Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Bishop Sklba who turned 75 Sept. 11. (Catholic Herald file photo by Sam Lucero)MILWAUKEE — Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Auxiliary Bishop Richard J. Sklba of Milwaukee, who turned 75 Sept. 11.

The resignation was announced at the Vatican Oct. 18. Under canon law, bishops must submit their resignation at age 75.

Bishop Sklba, who is also a vicar general, has been a Milwaukee auxiliary since 1979.

He became one of the youngest bishops in the United States when he was ordained a bishop Dec. 19, 1979, at age 44, by now-retired Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland of Milwaukee.

Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, installed in January as Milwaukee’s archbishop, said that while he had ministered with Bishop Sklba for a short time, he had come to appreciate “his love of the church, especially the church of southeastern Wisconsin.”

“As a seminarian, parish priest, student, scholar, rector and bishop, Bishop Sklba has combined an extraordinary pastoral approach with the keen sense of a teacher,” the archbishop said in a statement. “His international reputation as a Scripture scholar and prominent expert on ecumenical and interreligious relationships needs no further acclaim from me.”

Archbishop Listecki said the bishop will continue to serve the archdiocese through the end of 2010. After that, he plans to help out in parishes on weekends and preside at confirmations in 2011 as he can. Bishop Sklba also is involved in several writing projects.

The bishop said he was thankful for the opportunity to serve the church as a bishop. His “continuing prayer is simply ‘Marana Tha/Come Lord Jesus’ into every aspect of the church’s mission and life so God may be glorified and the world truly transformed by God’s healing grace,” he said.

“These years have not always been easy, but they have inevitably offered many experiences of God’s loving mercy, grace and growth,” Bishop Sklba said in a statement.

To have lived “in the empowering spirit” of the Second Vatican Council on one hand, he said, and on the other “to have experienced personally the profound sorrows of the church from the effects of the abuse of our children and youth, has been a deep and painful immersion into the Lord’s paschal mystery.”

“Through it all we know that our God is always and ever an almighty source of healing and new beginnings,” he added.

He praised priests as “good and faithful brothers,” the laity as “wise and generous” and parishes as “vital communities.”

Richard J. Sklba was born in Racine, Sept. 11, 1935. He studied at Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome from 1954 to 1960, earning an undergraduate degree in philosophy and a graduate degree in theology. He was ordained to the priesthood in Rome for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in 1959.

After serving two years as an assistant pastor at St. Mary Parish, Elm Grove, he returned to Rome in 1962 for three more years of study. He earned the equivalent of an advanced master’s degree in sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute and the equivalent of a doctoral degree in biblical studies at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas of Aquinas, also known as the Angelicum.

He was at St. Peter’s Basilica for the opening session of Vatican II on Oct. 11, 1962.

After returning to the United States, he spent the next 11 years teaching Scripture at St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee, serving at St. Veronica’s Parish there on weekends. In 1976, he was appointed rector of the seminary by the late Archbishop William Cousins of Milwaukee.

For the past 30 years, he has served on various committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops including priestly life and ministry, doctrine, liturgy, permanent diaconate, as well as marriage and family. He chaired the bishops’ subcommittee on the review of Scripture translations from 1991 to 2001.

Bishop Sklba also chaired the bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs from 2005 to 2008. As chairman he introduced leaders from various faiths, including Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Jain to Pope Benedict XVI during the pontiff’s U.S. visit in April 2008.

He has co-chaired the national Lutheran-Catholic dialogue since 1998 and, in February 2006, attended the ninth general assembly of the World Council of Churches in Porto Alegre, Brazil, as a member of the Vatican delegation. He also has attended many national meetings of Protestant churches and been involved in projects with Jewish scholars to promote interreligious understanding.

Bishop Sklba has been a member of the Catholic Biblical Association of America since 1968, serving as president in 1982. Over the years, he also participated in several archaeological expeditions to sites in Israel.

His many professional memberships include the Catholic Theological Society of America and the Society for Biblical Literature.

Bishop Sklba has also published articles, books, papers and occasional book reviews. In 1988, he received CTSA’s John Courtney Murray Award.

He has remained active in areas of catechetical formation throughout the 10 counties of the archdiocese and taught Scripture at Sacred Heart School of Theology, Hales Corners, from 2006 to 2009.

In retirement, after he fulfills commitments made through the end of 2010, Bishop Sklba will continue to be part of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, and may write a book of reflections.

Your Dec. 16, 2010 Catholic Herald will include a tribute to Bishop Sklba.

From Catholic News Service and local reports.