Divine Redeemer priest recalls working with newly appointed bishop
The Rev. Martin Moran, who worked with the newly-appointed bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg, said the Most Rev. Ronald W. Gainer is a kind and humble man who cares for all people.
"For him, everyone is not a stranger," said Moran, pastor of the Divine Redeemer Parish, Mount Carmel.
Especially the poor, he added, noting Gainer spent the last Holy Thursday washing the feet of the homeless at a shelter in the Lexington, Ky., and giving them socks.
"We've had some great bishops, and we're continuing that with him (Gainer)," said Moran. "He's a true shepherd."
On Friday, Pope Francis named the 66-year-old Pottsville native as the 11th bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg, succeeding Bishop Joseph P. McFadden, who died, May 2, 2013, according to an announcement by the Very Rev. Robert M. Gillelan Jr., diocesan administrator.
As former executive director for the Catholic Campus Ministry Association in Cincinnati, Ohio, Moran worked closely with Gainer for five years. Gainer was the episcopal moderator who represented the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB), an outreach for catholic college students from the campus ministry.
Moran and Gainer also served together on the USCCB Committee for Catholic Education, of which McFadden chaired.
The new bishop is joyful, hardworking and "the cream of the crop," Moran said.
Ordained in Allentown
Gainer was born Aug. 24, 1947.
He attended Mary, Queen of Peace Grade School, Pottsville, graduated from Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia, receiving a B.A. degree in June 1969 and a Masters of Divinity Degree (summa cum laude) in June 1973, attended the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, Italy, from 1984 to 1986, receiving the Licentiate Degree in Canon Law and a Diploma in Latin Letters in June 1986.
Gainer was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Allentown May 19, 1973, named a Prelate of Honor (Monsignor) by Pope John Paul II Aug. 20, 1991, named second bishop of Lexington by Pope John Paul II Dec. 2, 2002, and was ordained to the episcopacy by Archbishop of Louisville Thomas C. Kelly, and solemnly installed as Bishop of Lexington Feb. 22, 2003, with Bishops Edward Cullen and Joseph Kurtz serving as co-consecrators. Archbishop Kurtz is a native of Mahanoy City. Bishop Cullen is the former bishop of Allentown.
During his 30 years as a priest of the Allentown Diocese, he was an assistant pastor at the former St. Bernard's Church in Easton and St. Catharine of Siena Church in Reading and a campus minister at Lafayette College in Easton and at Kutztown University and Albright College in Reading. He was the Judicial Vicar of the diocese, pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Whitehall, and the first Secretary of Catholic Life and Evangelization in the diocese.
For much of his priesthood, Gainer served in parish, campus ministry, marriages and family, and tribunal positions. As Secretary of Catholic Life and Evangelization for the Diocese of Allentown he supervised 14 diocesan offices and the promotion of the works of spiritual renewal and evangelization.
He will be installed as bishop of Harrisburg Wednesday, March 19.
The Diocese of Harrisburg consists of 15 counties (Adams, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Mifflin, Montour, Northumberland, Perry, Snyder, Union and York) in central Pennsylvania with a Catholic population of almost 250,000 people. It was established in 1868, the same year the Diocese of Scranton was established.
In comparison, the Lexington Diocese is comprised of 50 counties in central and eastern Kentucky with a total Catholic population of about 46,000.
Gainer expressed surprise at his appointment in comments on the Lexington diocese website. He said he learned of the transfer Jan. 13.
"While I was completely surprised and, quite frankly, stunned by the news of my transfer, I willingly and happily accept our Supreme Pastor's decision as God's will for us and for me," he said.
He expressed his gratitude to the people of the Lexington diocese and asked for their prayers.
"Pray especially for the faithful of the Harrisburg Diocese as I prepare to join them as their shepherd and know that I will continue to pray for the faithful of the Lexington Diocese. May God bless us all we move forward into this new chapter in the life of the Church."
'A new renaissance'
Gainer is excellent at forming relationships with the priests under him and the staff, and he "has a way of engaging the young people in the church about the practice of living their faith," Moran said.
As the grandson of a coal miner and the knowledge of the area, Moran said Gainer will be sympathetic to the consolidation of parishes and schools.
"I think we'll see a new renaissance of Catholic life," Gainer said.
The Rev. Frank Karwacki, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, said it's great news to hear the new bishop is from the Coal Region and ordained from Allentown.
"He is already a bishop from Lexington, and he comes to us with experience," he said. "We welcome him back home to the Coal Region."
Monsignor Edward J. O'Connor, pastor of St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church in Pottsville, had worked with Gainer when was a diocesan priest.
"He's a very, very friendly man. A very congenial person," said O'Connor. "He's a man of great gifts and very pastoral. He's a Pottsville native and very proud of Schuylkill County. And we're very proud of him."
(Time-Shamrock Writer John E. Usalis contributed to this report.)