Bishop-elect Joseph Strickland will be ordained as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Tyler in a ceremony on Wednesday, making him the first East Texas native to serve as Bishop of the 25-year-old diocese.
All bishops are named by the Pope. The announcement was made in Washington Sept. 29 by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Bishop-designate Strickland, 54, succeeds Bishop Álvaro Corrada, SJ, who was named bishop of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, in 2011 after heading the Tyler Diocese for more than a decade.
Many students at St. Gregory Cathedral School in Tyler have grown up with Bishop-elect Joseph Strickland as part of their lives. Strickland, or “Father Joe” as students and community members have come to know him, has served in the Diocese in different capacities since 1985.
Several students shared their memories of “Father Joe.”
“At my confirmation, he talked about how we fight as sisters and he’s sure the apostles did the same thing,” Emily, 14, said.
Other students had similar experiences.
“I remember his last Mass before he became Vicar,” said Savannah, a 5th grader at St. Gregory. “He enjoyed being a priest and I remember how special that was.”
“He’s probably the most humble person,” Monica said. “He’s a good leader and a great example for us.”
Strickland also holds a special place in his heart for the children as well.
“Young people provide a lot of fresh ideas and a vibrant faith that is a blessing for everyone,” Strickland said. “The children and the youth aren’t just the future, they’re important to the church right now … Very often, the family faith has been strengthened by the commitment of the children who are students at our schools. They learn and really soak up everything that’s being taught about the Catholic faith and take it home. I think a lot of times they rekindle that or deepen that in the lives of their parents. They truly are, not just a future idea, but right now having a tremendous impact.”
Strickland was born Oct. 31, 1958, in Fredericksburg, TX, to Raymond and Monica Strickland, but the family moved to Texarkana in 1959 and then to Atlanta in 1963, according to a written release from the diocese. The Stricklands were founding members of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Atlanta, and Strickland was an altar server.
He graduated from Atlanta High School in 1977 and entered Holy Trinity Seminary and the University of Dallas in Irving. He received a bachelor’s in philosophy in 1981 and continued his seminary studies.
He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Dallas in 1985 and was assigned as parochial vicar at what was then the Immaculate Conception Church in Tyler.
In 1992 he entered the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., to study canon law, the law which governs the Catholic Church. He received his licentiate in canon law in May, 1994, and was named rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Tyler. He was appointed judicial vicar for the Tyler Diocese by Bishop Edmond Carmody in 1995.
In 1996, Pope John Paul II named him a prelate of honor with the title of monsignor.
He also has served in parishes in Mount Pleasant and Nacogdoches When Bishop Carmody was transferred to the Diocese of Corpus Christi in 2000, Strickland was elected administrator of the Tyler Diocese by fellow priests serving as consultors. He served in that position until Bishop Corrada was installed as third bishop of the diocese in January 2001.
Bishop Corrada named Strickland vicar general of the diocese, and he served in that post until Bishop Corrada’s transfer to the Diocese of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, in July, 2011. Bishop Corrada was made apostolic administrator of the Tyler Diocese until a successor could be named, and Strickland served as delegate of the apostolic administrator.
At a Sept. 29 press conference in Tyler, Bishop-delegate Strickland called his appointment a “joyful message” and said he was “grateful to God” for the opportunity given him.