Statement of Bishop Robert J. Baker at press conference

Thank you Bishop Thompson for your warm welcome to Charleston and your gracious hospitality. How blessed have the people of the Diocese been to have had you lead them, and I ask you now to pray for me that I may emulate your devoted and faith-filled leadership in the days and months and years ahead.

I come to the Diocese of Charleston as a parish priest and as a pastor in a large city parish. Thanks to the pastoral zeal and wisdom of a great pastor, my predecessor, Monsignor Mortimer Danaher, this parish has helped inspire me, nourish me and lead me closer to God and the people I had been called to serve. I have been blessed to know from the personal experience of parish life, at Christ the King Parish in Jacksonville, Fla., and other parishes where I have served, that parish life is at the heart of the life of the Church. It is where we are welcomed into the faith community through Baptism, nourished by Sacramental Life and the Word of God, and sent forth into eternity. I am proud to have spent most of my priesthood as a parish priest and pastor.

I was settling back into parish life this past week after my summer vacation when the surprising news came from the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Montalvo, of my appointment as Bishop of Charleston by our Holy Father.

It is with humble gratitude that I accept the trust our Holy Father has placed in me, and I now look forward with anticipation, joy, and confidence in the Lord to serving the dedicated priests, religious, and lay men and women of the historic Diocese of Charleston.

It is from one diocese steeped in history to another that I come. This is not my initial contact with the diocese. Several years ago one of my parishioners from Cathedral Parish in St. Augustine, Fla., organized a relief convoy to help victims of Hurricane Hugo in Charleston. And from my visits to this beautiful city, past and present, I understand the meaning behind stories Charlestonians tell about themselves, such as the one that concerns a wealthy matron who was asked why she never used her money to travel. “But my dear,” the venerable lady was said to reply, “why should I travel when I’m already here?”

How blessed this great State of South Carolina is with beauty, culture, art and tradition!

How much more blessed it is by the faith of thousands who come together to pray, to serve those in need, and to build communities of faith.

I am honored to now be part of your journey of faith as your new Bishop, and it is an honor to be following in the very capable footsteps of Bishop Thompson. On your behalf I thank him for his kind and courageous leadership, which has inspired so many. With God’s grace, I will attempt to build on the great foundations of pastoral service he has left me; and they are many.

And on a personal note, I thank you Bishop, for your kindness, hospitality, and advice. You have been a great help to me since we first met by telephone last week, and I will continue to rely on your wisdom and advice in the coming months.

I extend my warm greetings, my love, and my prayers to all the wonderful people of all faiths in the great state of South Carolina.

Please pray for me as I assume the mantle of leadership among you as Bishop and pastor of the Diocese of Charleston, and as your brother and your friend.