By Elise Harris
On Wednesday, it was announced that Pope Francis has named two local priests as auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese of Detroit, and has chosen a priest from Orange County to become an auxiliary bishop for that diocese.
Fr. Gerard W. Battersby and Fr. Robert J. Fisher are the priests who will be stepping up as the newest auxiliary bishops in Detroit, while Fr. Timothy E. Freyer will become an auxiliary bishop of Orange.
“All of us in the Archdiocese of Detroit are deeply grateful that Pope Francis has named Father Battersby and Father Fisher, two well-loved and respected priests in our archdiocese, to be auxiliary bishops in our local church,” Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit said in a Nov. 23 press release announcing their appointment.
“Both of these new bishops bring a rich set of gifts and talents to the roles they will play in leading our community in our mission to share the Good News of Jesus,” he said.
The two bishops-elect will be introduced by Archbishop Vigneron at a 10:30 a.m. news conference in the archdiocese’s chancery. They will be ordained Jan. 25, 2017, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit.
Fr. Battersby, 56, was born in Detroit as the youngest of nine children, along with his twin brother, and attended St. Benedict Parish and School in Highland Park.
He got a bachelor’s degree in biology from Wayne State and worked in the pharmaceutical and appraisal industries before entering the Sacred Heart Minor Seminary in 1993, earning his Masters of Divinity degree.
After his1998 priestly ordination, he served in various pastoral roles around the archdiocese, including at St. Thecla Parish in Clinton Township and at St. Gerard, Immaculate Heart of Mary, and Presentation-Our Lady of Victory parishes in Detroit.
The priest was then named director of graduate seminarians at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in 2007, and was later assigned to graduate studies at the University of St. Thomas in Rome.
Since 2011, Fr. Battersby has served as the vice-rector and dean of seminarian formation at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, and since 2015 has also served as pastor of St. Mary of Redford Parish in Detroit.
In the Nov. 23 press release, the bishop-elect thanked God and the Pope “for this inestimable blessing,” saying he accepted the task of being “a co-worker” in the ministry of Jesus Christ with joy and confidence. He also thanked Archbishop Vigneron, “who has been truly a good shepherd and a sterling exemplar to me.”
Fr. Fisher, 57, was also born in Detroit, but was the oldest of four children. He attended Epiphany and St. Bede elementary schools and University of Detroit Jesuit High School, earning a bachelor’s degree in management science from University of Detroit.
After graduation, Fisher took charge of the camping services department of the Catholic Youth Organization camps near Port Sanilac before entering Sacred Heart Major Seminary in 1986, where he earned his Masters of Divinity degree.
He was ordained a priest for Detroit in 1992, after which he went on to serve at Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Grosse Pointe Woods, St. Angela Parish in Roseville, and St. Lawrence Parish in Utica, as well as becoming director of priestly vocations for the archdiocese.
Since March 2014, the bishop-elect has served as rector of the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak.
In the press release, Fr. Fisher said he was “humbled” by the Pope’s decision to name him bishop, and expressed his gratitude for the guidance and support shown him by Archbishop Vigneron. “With the prayers of the community, I will direct all my energy toward sharing Christ in and through the Church,” he said.
Bishops-elect Battersby and Fisher will join fellow Auxiliary Bishops Donald Hanchon and Arturo Cepeda in helping Archbishop Vigneron to serve the 1.3 million Catholics who currently live in the Michigan counties of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, Lapeer and St. Clair.
As for the Diocese of Orange, Fr. Freyer, 53, will be stepping up to help Bishop Kevin Vann as the diocese’s new auxiliary bishop.
Born in Los Angeles Oct. 13, 1963, the bishop-elect attended Huntington Beach High School before entering the Saint John Seminary in Camarillo, where he studied from 1981-1989. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Orange June 10, 1989.
After his ordination, Fr. Freyer served the diocese in various capacities, including as Parochial Vicar of Saint Hedwig Parish in Los Alamitos, of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in San Clemente and of Saint Catherine of Siena Parish in Laguna Beach.
He also served as pastor of Saint Mary Parish in Fullerton and of Saint Boniface Parish in Anaheim before being named as the diocese’s Vicar for Clergy in 2012. He speaks both Spanish and English.