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SPRINGFIELDPope Benedict XVI has named Bishop George J. Lucas of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois to succeed Archbishop Elden F. Curtiss as the Catholic Archbishop of Omaha, Neb. The appointment was announced Wednesday, June 3, in Washington, D.C., by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

In Omaha, the announcement was made June 3 during a 10 a.m. news conference at the St. Cecilia Cathedral Center.

“It is humbling to be given such responsibility by the Vicar of Christ, and I thank the Holy Father for this privilege,” Archbishop-elect Lucas said during the news conference. “I look forward to learning about all of the ways in which the Gospel is preached and lived in the Archdiocese of Omaha. I have a great deal to learn, and you all have much to teach me.”

Archbishop-elect Lucas said he looked forward to collaboration and asked for the help of the lay faithful, those in consecrated life, deacons, and especially the diocesan and religious priests serving in the diocese.

Archbishop-elect Lucas was ordained bishop of the Springfield Catholic diocese on Dec. 14, 1999 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield.

In a communication June 3 to priests and curia employees of the Springfield diocese, Archbishop-elect Lucas said, “Of course, accepting this new appointment means that I will be leaving the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, which has been my home for nearly 10 years. The joy of being able to say yes to the pope without hesitation is tempered by the sadness I feel at the prospect of leaving this diocese and all of you. It has been a blessing and an honor for me to serve as your bishop.”
Archbishop-elect Lucas will be installed as 10th bishop and fifth archbishop of Omaha on Wednesday, July 22. Until then, he will act as administrator of the Springfield diocese.

After the installation in Omaha, the college of consultors for the Springfield diocese will meet to name an administrator to handle the day-to-day operations of the diocese until a new bishop is ordained or installed.

A native of St. Louis, Archbishop-elect Lucas is the first of four children born to the late George J. and Mary Catherine Kelly Lucas. He graduated from St. Louis Preparatory Seminary South in 1967; Cardinal Glennon College in St. Louis in 1971, with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy; and Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis in 1975. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis on May 24, 1975, and named Honorary Prelate of His Holiness (Monsignor) on Sept. 5, 1994..
In the St. Louis archdiocese, he served as associate pastor at St. Justin, Martyr Parish in Sunset Hills from 1975 to 1980; St. Dismas Parish in Florissant from 1980 to 1981; Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in St. Louis from 1981 to 1984; Ascension Parish in Normandy from 1984 to 1986; St. Ann Parish in Normandy from 1986 to1989; and St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood from 1989 to 1990. He completed his graduate studies at St Louis University and received a master’s degree in history in 1986.

In 1981, he was appointed to the faculty of St. Louis Preparatory Seminary-North, and then served on the faculty of St. Louis Preparatory Seminary from 1987 to 1990. He served as chancellor of the Archdiocese of St. Louis from 1990 to 1994 and was vicar general in 1994/1995. He was appointed rector of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in 1995 and served there until appointed by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 19, 1999, to succeed Bishop Daniel L. Ryan as bishop of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.

As bishop of the Springfield diocese for almost 10 years, Archbishop-elect Lucas guided the diocese through the Jubilee Year 2000 and also Jubilee 2003, the yearlong celebration of the 150th anniversary of the diocese’s founding. A highlight of Jubilee 2003 was the daylong Jubilee Celebration June 28, 2003, at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, where then-Bishop Lucas presided at a Mass at the Grandstand for more than 15,000 Catholics from throughout the 28 counties of the diocese.

During his tenure, the diocese conducted the Harvest of Thanks, Springtime of Hope campaign in conjunction with the diocesan sesquicentennial celebration. The campaign raised over $22.1 million in pledges, which was used to establish endowments supporting Catholic education and educators, the works of Catholic Charities, formation for seminarians and deacon candidates and care for retired priests of the diocese.

In 2002 then-Bishop Lucas implemented the first permanent diaconate formation process in the history of the diocese. The first class of 17 deacons was ordained in June 2007 and the second class of 11 candidates will be ordained for the diocese on June 20.

In February 2008, then-Bishop Lucas announced an $11 million restoration/renewal program called Built on Faith, Renewed in Hope for the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Built in 1928, the mother church of the diocese had no substantial improvements in its 80-year history. After more than a year of extensive labor, the restored Cathedral is scheduled to re-open in late 2009.

As the new leader of the Archdiocese of Omaha, Archbishop-elect Lucas becomes chief shepherd for the church in 23 northeast Nebraska counties with an area of 14,051 square miles. The general population of the area is over 880,000 people and Catholics number about 221,000. There are 148 parishes and missions in the archdiocese.

Serving in the archdiocese are 287 priests, 250 deacons 297 religious sisters and 23 brothers. Nearly 23,000 students attend two Catholic universities, 58 elementary schools and 18 high schools in the archdiocese.

Archbishop Curtiss, who has led the archdiocese for 16 years, was ordained a bishop and installed as Bishop of Helena (Montana) on April 28, 1976. He served the Diocese of Helena 17 years. On May 4, 1993, he was appointed Archbishop of Omaha. On June 16, 2007, Archbishop Curtiss turned 75 years old and submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI. Before his resignation was accepted by the pope, he was the oldest active diocesan bishop in the United States.

Archbishop-elect Lucas said he will do his best to fulfill commitments in the Springfield diocese until he leaves for his installation. “I will also look for the opportunity to thank you more properly for your prayers and support,” he said. “Keep the prayers coming and be assured of my prayers for you during this time of transition for all of us.”