Catholic Diocese of Baker gets new bishop
The Rev. Liam Cary, who has strong roots in Central Oregon, was named the new bishop of the Bend-based Catholic Diocese of Baker on Thursday.
The 64-year-old Cary, who grew up in Prineville and is currently the parish priest at St. Mary’s Church in Eugene, was appointed to the position by Pope Benedict XVI . He fills the role vacated by Bishop Robert Vasa in January 2011. Vasa now serves as bishop of the Diocese of Santa Rosa in California.
The Diocese of Baker includes 31 parishes in 66,800 square miles that cover all of Central and Eastern Oregon. Cary is expected to be ordained as the sixth bishop of the diocese in early May.
The Rev. James Radloff, the pastor at Bend’s St. Francis of Assisi Church, says every bishop does things a little differently and will require a transition. “All change is hard,” said Radloff.
He wonders if Cary is traditional or more progressive, saying “he’s an unknown.”
Vasa, who served the diocese for more than a decade, was known as a strict conservative. He broke ties with St. Charles Bend in part because the hospital performed procedures such as tubal ligations that did not follow church teachings.
Vasa also required that all Catholics wishing to participate in positions of leadership within the church had to sign documents stating they agreed with the church’s positions on many topics, including opposition to gay relationships, contraceptives and abortions. Such requirements are not common.
St. Francis of Assisi parishioner John Henchman doesn’t know Cary, but says he has a reputation for being “very loving and very pastoral.”
Although Cary is familiar with Central Oregon, he isn’t familiar with all of the issues of the diocese, saying he doesn’t feel prepared to answer questions about the challenges of the diocese “in any real way.” Cary does believe one of his greatest tasks will be getting to “know the people I serve and to get them to know me.”
Jim Parrish, of Crooked River Ranch, who attends St. Thomas Church in Redmond, knew the new bishop about 20 years ago when Cary served as a pastor at Parrish’s church in Salem. Although they did not keep in touch, Parrish says he remembers the man very well. He described Cary as open, friendly and down to earth.
“He was one of those special people,” said Parrish. When Cary listened, he really listened and made you feel “like you were one of the most important people in the world.”