WASHINGTON (November 15, 2004) — The nation's Catholic bishops today elected Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane to a three-year term as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). He will be the thirteenth president of the Catholic bishops since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago was elected to a three-year term as Vice President.
Bishop Skylstad, currently Vice President of the USCCB, will succeed Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville, IL., as President. The two bishops have served in their respective posts since November 13, 2001.
The USCCB is the national organization of the Catholic bishops. The USCCB, which formally came into existence July 1, 2001, is the successor organization to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference, which had served the bishops since 1966.
Bishop Skylstad was elected President on the first ballot at the Bishops' semi-annual meeting here.
William S. Skylstad was born March 2, 1934, in his family's home, in Omak, Washington located in the Diocese of Spokane.
Reflecting on his vocation this year, Bishop Skylstad said, "Our family lived in a very non-Catholic area. In almost all of my years in grade school I had no Catholic
classmates. In the seventh grade, I felt a strong call in my heart to become a priest. Don't ask my why; no one ever mentioned that possibility to me. … Only in later years have I come to appreciate the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives…"
Bishop Skylstad attended the Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio, arriving there as a high school student. After priestly formation, he was ordained to the priesthood May 21, 1960. After ordination he was assigned as a teacher at the diocese's high school seminary, Mater Cleri.
After his time as a seminary educator and administrator, he was named pastor of a growing parish north of the City of Spokane. After six years, he was called to pastor another parish for two years, and then was named chancellor of the Spokane Diocese.
On May 12, 1977, he was ordained a bishop for the Diocese of Yakima, located in Central Washington State, just west of the Spokane Diocese.
He was appointed Bishop of Spokane on March 31, 1990.
Bishop Skylstad is the former chair of the USCCB Committee on the Permanent Diaconate, the USCCB Committee on Social Development and World Peace-Domestic Policy, and the Ad Hoc Committee on Bishops' Life and Ministry. He is also Episcopal Liaison for Worldwide Marriage Encounter.
Previous presidents of the Catholic bishops' conference were: Cardinal John Dearden of Detroit, 1966-1971; Cardinal John Krol, Philadelphia, 1971-1974; Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, then Archbishop of Cincinnati, 1974-1977; Archbishop John Quinn, San Francisco, 1977-1980; Archbishop John Roach, St. Paul and Minneapolis, 1980-1983; Bishop James Malone, Youngstown, 1983-1986; Archbishop John May, St. Louis, 1986-1989; Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk, Cincinnati, 1989-1992; Cardinal William Keeler, Baltimore, 1992-1995; Bishop Anthony Pilla, Cleveland, 1995-1998; Bishop Joseph Fiorenza, Galveston-Houston, 1998-2001; and Bishop Gregory, 2001-2004, who will leave office at the conclusion of the current meeting.