Havana native bishop-elect of Pueblo diocese

Bishop Arthur Tafoya on pilgrimage to Greece, Turkey

The bishop-elect of the Catholic Diocese of Pueblo was born in Havana, Cuba, and while working for a bank in Florida promoted some of the first automatic-teller machines before joining the priesthood.

The Rev. Fernando Isern, 51, will be installed Dec. 10 in Pueblo as the fourth bishop of the diocese, which includes western and southern Colorado.

In a statement issued after his appointment was announced, Isern highlighted his experience as a pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes parish and the president of two Catholic schools.

“I have been able to experience the wonderful vibrancy and love of this archdiocese in the commitment of its laity,” he said in the statement. “As president of Archbishop Coleman Carroll High School and Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School, I have seen the wonderful contribution that Catholic education makes to the church.”

He also stressed the importance of prison ministries in his statement.

Bishop Arthur Tafoya, 76, the current bishop of the Pueblo diocese is on a pilgrimage to Greece and Turkey.

Tafoya’s personal touch with individuals was a rare attribute, said the Rev. Mike Smith, pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Fruita.

At a recent Catholic Foundation dinner, the bishop “personally greeted everybody,” Smith said. “That’s a pretty good talent.”

He also visited the Grand Junction deanery at least twice a year, Smith said.

The diocese includes about 100,000 Catholics in a population of more than 600,000 people.

Ann Ashwood-Piper, the principal of Holy Family School in Grand Junction, said she particularly welcomed the new bishop’s educational background.

“He’ll be pleased with what we’re doing and supportive of our future plans” to add the ninth grade to the school, Ashwood-Piper said.

Isern’s background in banking also will be welcome, she said.

“What a gift to the diocese,” she said.

Tafoya has been bishop of the diocese, which was formed in 1941, for 29 years. He submitted his resignation 19 months ago, when he turned 75, the mandatory retirement age, but has remained in the position pending the appointment of his successor.

“He is truly a pastoral leader, a very kind, concerned, Christian man,” whose legacy will include a long period of stable leadership, Ashwood-Piper said.

Isern moved from Cuba to Venezuela with his family at the age of 5. When he was 9, they moved to Miami, where he attended public elementary school and a private high school.

He was ordained a priest in 1993.

Isern owns “a little 25-foot sailboat, so I enjoy sailing,” he said in a blog posting at the Miami diocese Web site. “I get out there on the ocean … I really cherish it.”


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