LAKE GENEVA — Just a little over six weeks ago, parishioners at St. Francis de Sales Parish celebrated the formal installation of then-Msgr. David J. Malloy as pastor of the parish. He had arrived last August after serving a five-year term as general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and they expected he’d lead St. Francis for a while.
Their celebration, however, was rather short-lived as on Tuesday, March 20, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, announced that Pope Benedict XVI had appointed Msgr. Malloy, 57, the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Rockford in Illinois to succeed the retiring Bishop Thomas Doran.
It’s good and bad news, St. Francis principal and parishioner, David Wieters, admitted.
“The Rockford Diocese is lucky to have him,” he said, adding that he’s also sorry to see him leave St. Francis.
“I think we all kind of knew, given his qualifications, given his ability, that somewhere down the road, he’d be called to the next level,” said Wieters of Bishop-elect Malloy, “but selfishly, I was hoping we’d be able to keep him here a little longer, but God has reasons for what he does, and he wants him to be in Rockford now.”
The bishop-elect, one of six children of Mary and the late David Malloy, attended Christ King Elementary School, Wauwatosa, and graduated from Wauwatosa East High School in 1974. He graduated from Marquette University in 1978 with a bachelor’s of science degree in biology and studied for a year at Saint Francis Seminary, St. Francis, and five years at the Gregorian University in Rome where he received an advanced degree in theology.
He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland in 1983.
He served two years as associate pastor of St. John Nepomuk Parish in Racine before returning to Rome to study for the Vatican diplomatic corps. He earned a licentiate in canon law from Rome’s Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, known as the Angelicum, and a doctorate in theology from Gregorian University.
His diplomatic assignments included serving at Vatican embassies in Pakistan, Syria and the United Nations, as well as assisting in the Prefecture of the Papal Household at the Vatican, 1998-2001. He speaks English, Italian, Spanish and some French.
Appointed an associate general secretary of the USCCB in 2001, he became general secretary in 2006, serving a five-year term. Upon his return to the Milwaukee Archdiocese he was named administrator and later pastor of the Lake Geneva parish.
While his resumé reads like that of a diplomat, Bishop-elect Malloy’s mother, Mary, told your Catholic Herald that all he really wanted to be was a parish priest.
“He loved being in a parish, always liked being with people – that was the highlight,” she said, noting that he’s the same “straight as an arrow person” today as he was when he was a youngster.
“The parish priests at our parish (Christ King) were very good with all my sons,” she said of the example they set. “They certainly were great examples to them, and I think that the aspirations of both of them were to emulate what they saw in the parish priests,” she said, noting that one of the priests was Bishop Leo Brust.
Mary recalled early mornings when the Malloy boys would be “ready at 6 a.m. (to serve Mass) – no problem – all dressed and ready to go, sitting at attention, everything done, but the candles weren’t lit until the priest arrived.”
Calling herself very proud and very blessed to have two sons who are priests – in addition to Bishop-elect Malloy, his younger brother, Fr. Francis X. Malloy is a Milwaukee Archdiocesan priest serving as a chaplain at Bay Pines VA Medical Center in Bay Pines, Fl. – Mary said, she received an early morning call from her older priest-son with the news he was to be a bishop.
The role will be a great fit for him, she said. “He’s a hard worker, very sincere in his thoughts about the church, his devotion to it and spreading the Word. I could go on all day about that.”
As his mother, she was happy to see that her son will be in a neighboring diocese where she will be able to see him often.
It’s not that common for a family to have two children called to religious life, admitted Mary, but she said her children had a good example at school with the Notre Dame Sisters as well as in their home life.
“I used to say, ‘Open the door, but don’t push.’ You mention it, but that’s the Lord willing,” she said.
During Bishop-elect Malloy’s short stay in Lake Geneva, Wieters said he brought strong leadership.
“He had goals and visions for the parish and wanted us to keep moving forward and to get better. He wanted us to raise the bar even higher and that’s challenging,” said Wieters, calling Bishop-elect Malloy a devout person of God.
“He’s inspiring and even though he’s not all ‘rah, rah,’ he brings a calming touch and he’s a real leader, even though not all the bells and whistles. He makes everything he touches a little better,” he said.
Wieters said Bishop-elect Malloy especially made an impact on the school children during his time at St. Francis.
“He was awesome with the school kids. I can’t say enough about that. He’s been in the school more, been to more extra curricular events than some of the parents,” he said, noting Bishop-elect Malloy was a fixture at the school’s sporting events. “The kids loved to see him there, and it wasn’t just at the home games; he would even travel to some away games.”
Wieters attributed his presence to Bishop-elect Malloy’s strong belief in Catholic education.
“He was such a strong believer in the values it brings, and showed that not just by words, but by his actions. He felt as pastor of the parish, it was important that he be a leader and be visible,” said Wieters, adding he also regularly interacted with the school children on the playground or visiting with them at lunch.
“He really brought a positive attitude. Pastors often put in long hours and have a lot of stress,” said Wieters, “But even when times were tough, he always had a smile or a good word. It’s very reassuring to have a person like that to work with.”
During a press conference in Rockford on Tuesday, Bishop-elect Malloy said, “I stand here with both humility and joy. Humility because the prospect of becoming a bishop entrusted with the task of shepherding the life of a diocese is truly daunting.
“… But I am here with joy as well. I love the church. I believe in the goodness of the church founded by Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit. So I am confident that the help of God and the prayers of so many, including the faithful of the Diocese of Rockford, will strengthen my weaknesses and guide my efforts as the ninth Bishop of Rockford.”
In an emailed message to priests and staff of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki praised the selection of Bishop-elect Malloy as Rockford’s bishop.
“I am extremely proud and pleased that the Holy Father has chosen a priest of our diocese to lead the Diocese of Rockford. Although a loss for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and his parish, Saint Francis de Sales in Lake Geneva, it is a gain for the faithful of Rockford and the State of Illinois, as well as the church of the United States. Our prayers and good wishes go with him as he responds to this new call,” said Archbishop Listecki.
The date of Bishop-elect Malloy’s episcopal ordination and installation will be determined shortly.
(CNS contributed to this story.)