While many priests who are appointed to the role of bishop are diocesan priests, some are religious priests who are members of religious orders, like the Society of the Divine Word (SVD).

Worldwide, there are 49 SVD bishops, two of whom are retired and living in the United States. In November, Pope Francis appointed Fr. Timothy Norton, SVD as Auxiliary Bishop to the Archdiocese of Brisbane in Australia. He was ordained to the episcopate on February 22, 2022. Bishop Norton was born and raised in Australia and served in Mexico for a few years before returning to his home country. Most recently, he spent several years in Rome running renewal programs for priests and brothers. In a video interview that Bishop Norton did for the archdiocese after his appointment was announced, he said that he was initially surprised to learn that he was selected for the role of bishop. It wasn’t a position he ever expected to hold.

“So these first few months I think will just be about me learning what the role may be and what I can add to the role,” he said in the interview.

“It is indeed difficult to imagine myself as anything other than an SVD,” Fr. Norton said in a press release issued by the SVD Australian Province.  “….I have been trying to think of myself as a member of the ACBC (Australian Catholic Bishops Commission) and the Archdiocese of Brisbane, who, as an SVD, will bring a focus on culture and mission that may be helpful.” He said he would bring to his ministry in Brisbane “an intense interest in culture, and the mission of God in the world, whatever shape or form that may take.”

Newly ordained bishop, Tim Norton, SVD

Last month, Pope Francis appointed another Divine Word Missionary Priest, Fr. Walenty Gryk, SVD, as Bishop of the Diocese of Goroka in Papua New Guinea. There are 14,898 Catholics living in the diocese, accounting for 2.5% of the population, according to a release from the SVD Curia.

Born in Poland and ordained in 1957, Fr. Gryk started serving in Papua New Guinea in 1984. Most recently, he’s been serving as Provincial Councilor, Mission Secretary and Coordinator for Ongoing Formation on the island country. With Fr. Gryk’s appointment, there will be five Divine Word Missionary bishops in Papua New Guinea.


What is a bishop?

A bishop is the highest order of ordained ministry in Catholic teaching.

What qualifications does a priest need to become a bishop?

  • He must be ordained for at least five years
  • Must be at least 35 years old
  • Have a good reputation
  • Possess outstanding good faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls, wisdom, prudence and human virtues and other qualities which make him suitable for the position
  • Possess a doctorate, or at least a licentiate, in sacred scripture, theology or canon law or be a true expert in these disciplines

Source: Canon Law 378.1

Who appoints a bishop?
The pope appoints bishops or confirms those who are legitimately elected.

Source: Canon Law 377.1

How long does a bishop serve in the role?
When a bishop reaches age 75, he submits a request for resignation to the Pope.

Source: Canon Law 401.1

*Photos courtesy The Catholic Leader
Newly ordained:  Brisbane auxiliary Bishop Tim Norton (second from right) after his ordination at St Stephen’s Cathedral on February 22 with (from left) Brisbane auxiliary Bishop Ken Howell, Archbishop Mark Coleridge and Archbishop Douglas Young of Mt Hagen, PNG. Photo: Alan Edgecomb
The photo of the bishop alone by Mark Bowling.

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