New Pueblo bishop praises energy of valley’s Catholics

Bishop Fernando Isern, the new leader of the Catholic Diocese of Pueblo, is shown recently at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. He also visited nearby Holy Family School, where he received an exuberant welcome during his second visit to Grand Junction since his installation in December.

Some of the younger pupils at Holy Family Catholic School thought they were in the presence of the pope when Bishop Fernando Isern visited Wednesday, school officials said.

“May the Lord be with you,” Isern said during an impromptu prayer to students at lunch. “I love you, and remember the bishop is praying for you every day.”

The pre-kindergarten children joined in the prayer but perhaps were more thrilled to share high-fives with the new leader of the Catholic Diocese of Pueblo.

Bishop Isern replaces Bishop Arthur N. Tafoya, 76, the leader of the diocese for 29 years, who retired in early December.

Isern, 51, a former parish priest and head of a Catholic elementary school and high school in Miami, was ordained Dec. 10 in Pueblo. He was born in Havana, Cuba, and was ordained a priest in 1993.

Isern said Wednesday he was impressed by the Grand Valley’s commitment to Catholic teachings as evidenced in the Marillac Clinic, which he visited earlier that day. Marillac Clinic serves the health care needs of the uninsured and underinsured in Mesa County with the help of local hospitals and community donations.

“This is a very active community,” he said while greeting parishioners outside Immaculate Heart of Mary Church.

Isern said he is interested in bringing Catholics who have left the church back into the fold. Holy Family Catholic School principal Ann Ashwood said Immaculate Heart of Mary Church has a program specially geared toward that aim.

Isern said he doesn’t see his role as being political, but “the rights of the unborn are critical.”

Isern said the parish where he was a pastor, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Miami, comprised people representing more than 40 nationalities. The parish was one of the largest in the Archdiocese of Miami.

Of his travels so far around the Western Slope, Isern said he has been pleased to see broad diversity.

Wednesday was Isern’s third visit to Grand Junction. He appeared previously for a dedication of St. Mary’s Hospital remodel and addition. He is expected to stay in town until Friday.

Isern said he aims to be a leader who is open and reaches out to people.

“I want to let people know that I love them and that I pray for them every day,” he said.


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