Bishop-elect Wack, 49, currently serves as pastor of St. Ignatius Martyr Parish in Austin, Texas, where he has been since 2009. He succeeds Bishop Gregory L. Parkes, who was named last November to head the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida.
The appointment was announced in Washington May 29 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. The date of Bishop-elect Wack’s episcopal ordination has not yet been determined.
“Now I know for sure that God is merciful, having called this sinner to serve in this capacity,” Bishop-elect Wack said May 29 in a statement about his appointment. “The first words which came to mind when I heard of the appointment were, ‘Lord I am not worthy … but only say the Word ….’ With joy and zeal, I accept this appointment, and I am thrilled to begin service to God’s people as a bishop.”
Bishop-elect Wack spent six years, from 2002 to 2008, as director of André House of Hospitality in downtown Phoenix, which ministers to the city’s poor and homeless. It runs a soup kitchen, which serves over 200,000 meals per year, and provides a small transition shelter for men and women; clothing and blanket distribution; and showers and lockers for its clients.
“Both the guests who came to André House, as well as the staff and volunteers who worked with Fr. Bill saw a natural love he had for everyone, but particularly those who experienced poverty or homelessness,” said Holy Cross Father Tom Doyle, the current director of André House.
Fr. Doyle, who spent some time in seminary with Bishop-elect Wack, said his predecessor loves being a priest more than anyone he has ever met and there is excitement within the André House community for his new appointment.
“He is a man who has a great love for Jesus, he lives life with extraordinary joy and he’s an extraordinarily humble servant,” Fr. Doyle said. “The André House community recognizes Fr. Bill’s greatest gift is as a priest and pastor. When he takes his ministry to the diocese, he’ll serve the people of God with great love as a pastor.”
I have never wanted to be anything but a Holy Cross priest, but because God called (through Pope Francis) I can only say, “Here I Am”.
— Fr. Bill Wack, CSC (@FrWack) May 29, 2017
In his statement, Bishop-elect Wack said he has always loved being a priest. “For me there is nothing higher than the privilege of celebrating the Eucharist and the other sacraments,” Bishop-elect Wack said. “Over the past 23 years I have grown tremendously in my faith, through the very mysteries I have served.”
As a Holy Cross priest, he continued, “I know of the power of the cross of Christ, and the hope that it brings to all creation. We in Holy Cross strive to be ‘educators in the faith’ wherever we go, and I am happy to continue to do this in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee.”
Bishop-elect Wack added: “While I embrace a leadership position in the Church once again, I believe that I stand to learn much from the very people I will serve. We are all God’s children, for we have been given God’s Spirit. It is our sacred duty to celebrate and practice our faith together, and to make God known, loved and served in all that we do.”
“I welcome the good news that Fr. Bill Wack has been named the next Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee,” said Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix. “Many of us here in Phoenix know Bishop-elect Wack well from his years of generously serving the poor and hungry at Andre House. We assure him of our prayers and best wishes as he begins his new mission from the Risen Lord.”
Holy Cross Father Thomas O’ Hara, provincial superior of the U. S. province of the Congregation of Holy Cross, called Bishop-elect Wack “a gifted pastor and administrator who possesses an extremely welcoming personality.”
“He is quick to reach out to all, is strong enough to lead and humble enough to listen. Above all, he is an outstanding priest who is passionate in his faith and absolutely dedicated to serving the people of God,” Fr. O’Hara said.
Bishop Parkes said he shared in the joy of Catholics of Pensacola-Tallahassee getting a new shepherd, who with the diocese “will be in my prayers during this time of transition.”
Since Bishop Parkes’ appointment to St. Petersburg, Msgr. James Flaherty has served as Pensacola-Tallahassee’s diocesan administrator.
Born June 28, 1967, in South Bend, Indiana, Bishop designate-Wack is the second-youngest of 10 children. His younger brother also is a Holy Cross priest, Father Neil Wack.
William A. Wack entered the novitiate for the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1989. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in government and international relations from the University of Notre Dame in 1989. He earned a master of divinity degree in 1993, also from Notre Dame.
He professed his final vows in 1993 and was ordained a priest April 9, 1994. His assignments after ordination included associate pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Colorado Springs, Colorado, from 1994-1997. He was associate director of vocations for his congregation from 1997-2002 at Notre Dame; at that time, he also was with the Holy Cross Associates, 1998-2002.
The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee covers about 14,000 square miles in Florida’s panhandle. Out of a total population of 1.46 million people, about 5 percent, or 67,316 people, are Catholic.