by Karen Bonar
The Register editor
SALINA — One day following the 19th anniversary of his ordination as a priest, Msgr. Gerald “Jerry” Vincke was introduced as the newly appointed bishop of the Salina Diocese.
“I want to thank the Holy Father for his confidence in me,” Bishop- designate Vincke, 53, said during the June 13 press conference.
Born outside of Saginaw, Michigan, the bishop-designate was the ninth of the 10 children of Fidelis and the late Henry Vincke.
“My dad worked for General Motors, Buick and was also a small-time farmer,” he said. “I used to get up and milk the cows early in the morning.
“We owned about 130 acres, but we farmed about 500, which is really small.”
The most obvious difference between the two dioceses is size. The Diocese of Lansing, Michigan, has about 6,200 square miles, compared to the Salina Diocese’s 26,685 square miles.
“There’s a big, big difference,” said Bishop-designate Vincke. “It’s going to be a lot of miles they say, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Ordained June 12, 1999, at St. Mary Cathedral in Lansing by Bishop Carl F. Mengeling, he was pastor at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Ann Arbor, Michigan, from 1999-2001, before being asked by his bishop to start a retreat house for youth.
“It was very hard in many ways,” he said of beginning Bethany House. “When you go to a parish you love — to rely on the Lord and the Lord’s will for my life.”
Yet the core of his life and philosophy is simple.
“I love to pray and I love to work,” he said. “I’m ready to get going, to get started here as soon as possible.”
“Work and pray. It sounds like I should be a Benedictine instead,” he quipped, “but the Lord called me to the diocesan priesthood.”
Following Bethany House retreat center from 2001-04, Bishop-designate Vincke became the director of seminarians and vocation director in 2003 for the diocese of Lansing. He then became the spiritual director at the Pontifical North American College in Rome from 2010 to 2015. It was during those years in Rome that he completed his License in Sacred Theology.
The focus of his studies included St. John Vianney and “Evangelii Gaudium,” by Pope Francis.
“The number one thing for him was his pastoral charity,” he said of St. John Vianney. “His whole desire to give his life for his people. I think that was really beautiful reading about him.
“He used to go visit farms and get to know the families. He made himself available to the people. I think that’s a beautiful lesson. He gave everything he had for the people.”
Reflecting on the three main lessons of his priesthood, the bishop- designate said: “Prayer has to be the number one priority for priests. That’s the number one pastoral priority.
“The second is to listen — listen to the people always.
“The third thing I think to focus on right now is evangelization — really, why does the church exist? The church exists to be a missionary church, to be disciples — to make disciples — of the people. That’s what I have a heart for — to make disciples of the people.”
Bishop-designate Vincke said that he was excited by both the Catholic schools and the vibrant youth ministry he saw in the Salina Diocese. (The Salina Diocese sends one of the largest contingents to the National Catholic Youth Conference.)
“I’m anxious to go there and play basketball with the kids, go to Friday night games,” he said of the 11 elementary schools and five high schools.
Bishop Edward Weisenburger, his predecessor as bishop of the Salina Diocese, said he was “overjoyed” to learn of the new appointment.
“Bishop-designate Vincke will soon discover that he has been led to a vibrant diocese with a strong and healthy presbyterate and a Catholic lay faithful strong in their commitment to Christ and his church,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “My prayers are with him today, along with prayerful gratitude to God for sending the good people of Salina a loving and faithful new shepherd.”
Bishop Weisenburger was installed on Nov. 29 as the bishop of the Diocese of Tucson, Arizona.
As he looks to the future, Bishop- designate Vincke said he is excited to get to know the presbyterate.
“I know the western part [of Kansas]. I’m looking forward to going out there and meeting all the priests,” he said. “Many have more than one parish. To me, making the time to be present to them . . . that’s what I hope to do.”
Bishop Earl Boyea, of the Diocese of Lansing, said his diocese is honored that one of its priests was selected to be a bishop.
“The priests of our diocese, as well as myself, will deeply miss our brother priest as he moves into this new ministry,” he said. “The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has honored not only Msgr. Vincke but our diocese with this appointment.
“We offer to Pope Francis our love and gratitude. Certainly, the good people of Holy Family Parish in Grand Blanc, Michigan, will also miss their pastor, since they recognize in him the very gifts which the Holy See finds will provide loving leadership to the Diocese of Salina. He is a fine priest, a man of deep faith in Jesus Christ and a gentle soul. Our loss is most sincerely their gain.”
The ordination and installation for Bishop-designate Vincke will take place on Aug. 22 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina.