Fr Earl Fernandes becomes first Indian American Roman Catholic bishop in the US


An Indian American pastor has been appointed as the next Bishop of the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, USA by Pope Francis, on Saturday, 2 April.

Fr Earl Fernandes, a 49-year-old Cincinnati pastor, the son of Indian immigrants from the state of Goa, is the first-ever Indian-American Roman Catholic Bishop in the USA, and the first immigrant from India to head the U.S. Roman Catholic diocese.

Fr Fernandes succeeds Bishop Robert J. Brennan, who now leads the Diocese of Brooklyn. Fernandes’ episcopal ordination and installation is scheduled for 31 May 2022.

Fr Fernandes’ parents migrated to the US in 1970 from Mumbai where they were living after moving from Goa. His parents had traveled to the US with their two sons, while Fernandes was born in Toledo, Ohio and was raised in a devout Catholic family on the city’s south side, a working class neighborhood located near an oil refinery.

His late father, Dr. Sydney Fernandes, who died in 2019, was a physician and his mother, Thelma Fernandes, was a school teacher in India who later earned master’s degrees in education and social work and worked at a university.

After earning an undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Toledo, Fernandes initially pursued a career in medicine, enrolling at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine before discerning a call to the priesthood.

In 2019 he was named pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola parish in Cincinnati, which has some 3,000 families and more than 1,000 pupils in its elementary school. Fernandes also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus.

“I look forward to walking together with the people, the priests, the deacons, and the religious — actually, the whole people of God — in the Diocese of Columbus,” Fernandes said.

“The Holy Father says sometimes the bishop has to walk in front of the people, leading them. Sometimes he has to walk in the midst of them, listening to them (and) their joys, their sorrows. And sometimes he has to walk behind him, so that no one gets left too far behind,” he continued. “I want to walk with the people of God here in the Diocese of Columbus,” he said. “We need to be a Church that walks together, and a Church that listens.”

“Having accepted the appointment to the Diocese of Columbus, I have to admit, that after Almighty God and the Holy Church, the people to whom I owe the greatest debt of gratitude are my parents, without whom I would be absolutely nothing,” he said.

“Throughout my priesthood, people have always asked, ‘Father, what’s your career path?’” he said at the press conference. “I said, ‘That’s the wrong question to ask.’ If you asked me what I’d like to do, I have always said from the very beginning I’d just like to be the pastor of a large parish with a large school and a large youth group. That is enough for me.”