Three minutes and 15 seconds into his remarks after being introduced at a news conference as the new bishop of the Diocese of Toledo, Daniel E. Thomas, who comes from Philadelphia where he was an auxiliary bishop, established a Toledo connection.
“So, I know you’re wondering, just who is this bishop Pope Francis has sent to you?” he said. “Well, the word’s already out: Pope Francis has sent Toledo a new Danny Thomas.” Then he stretched the analogy past their sharing the same name. “Now, since the bishop is the father of the family of faith in the diocese, I guess this is Pope Francis’s was of saying to all of you, “Make Room for Daddy.” Now for those of you under 50, you may not know that this rather popular actor grew up here and that that was the name of his rather famous television show.”
Three fathers were pleased to make room for their bishop daddy, whose official first day of work is Oct. 22. The Rev. Charles Ritter, who had been serving as diocesan administrator doing episcopal duties in the interim between bishops, said, “I’m going to be very happy when we get to about 5 p.m. on the 22nd of October because, technically, I am still the one responsible for the diocese until he’s installed, and God forbid that anything happen to him between now and October or I’ve got this job for a lot longer than I had planned.
“But we’re just delighted to have him here, and I think he’ll be good. He certainly brings an energy and enthusiasm.” Father Ritter looks forward to resuming his regular duties as associate pastor of St. Joseph in Sylvania.
The Rev. Monte Hoyles, diocesan chancellor, and Msgr. William Kubacki, moderator of the curia or administrative body of the diocese, will not only work closely with Bishop Thomas; they’ll live with him, too, in a rectory, near Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral.
“I’m excited,” Father Hoyles said. “He has a lot of energy, a lot of joy, a focus on the gospel. You couldn’t have asked for anything better than that for a bishop for our diocese.”
You always go by first impressions, and the first impressions are excellent," Msgr. Kubacki said. "Father Ritter's been great to work with but, you know, there's not a bishop, and some people may not understand that totally. To get somebody on board, this makes a difference."
The bishop's philosophy will become apparent as he does his work.
"I don't like labels like ‘conservative' or ‘liberal,' Bishop Thomas said at the news conference. He spoke about a bishop accused of being conservative with his feet planted in cement and he responded. He said, “That’s not the case at all. I’m just a faithful Catholic with my feet planted firmly on the ground.”
"I think the reality is, Pope Francis is preaching the gospel ... and I hope to imitate that style and, please God, draw everyone without labels to the church and to the lord."
Bishop Thomas referred to a priest who, in 1941 in the Auschwitz concentration camp, volunteered to replace a stranger in a group selected to be starved to death. Bishop Thomas said, "Just who is this coming to you? Perhaps to parahrase St. Maximilian Kolbe, on whose feast [Aug. 14] I learned I would be your bishop, I would simply respond: I am a Roman Catholic bishop.
"Just as for St. Maximilian when he was asked who are you, he said, ‘I am a Roman Catholic priest.' It was more important than announcing his name, so for me, simply stating ‘I am a Roman Catholic bishop' I think should say it all! What is important is not so much my name, but who I am for you, a father, brother, and friend."
And Toledo and northwest Ohio will learn about the new Danny Thomas when his feet are on the ground.