Pope Francis appoints Florida pastor to head Savannah Diocese

Bishop-elect Parkes

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has appointed Father Stephen D. Parkes, a pastor in the Diocese of Orlando, Florida, as bishop of the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia.

Bishop-designate Parkes, 55, a priest of the Orlando Diocese, succeeds now-Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer of Atlanta, who was Savannah’s bishop from 2011 until he was named to head the Archdiocese of Atlanta March 5.

A native of New York state, the bishop-designate is pastor of Annunciation Church in Altamonte Springs, Florida. He was ordained for the Orlando Diocese May 23, 1998. His brother Bishop Gregory L. Parkes heads the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida.

His appointment was announced July 8 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican nuncio to the United States.

Bishop-designate Parkes will be ordained and installed as Savannah’s 15th bishop Sept. 23 at the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist.

“We are deeply grateful to our Holy Father for this gift to our diocese,” Father Daniel F. Firmin, Savannah’s diocesan administrator, said in a statement about the appointment.

“How fortunate we are to welcome a seasoned and gifted pastor! In his 22 years of priestly ministry, he has served in parishes, directed souls and was the campus minister at the University of Central Florida for nearly a decade,” the priest said of Bishop-designate Parkes. “His pastoral zeal and concern are immediately evident when meeting him. He has also served in various capacities and on multiple councils and boards advising the bishops of his diocese.”

St. Petersburg’s Bishop Parkes tweeted: “A day of great joy as my brother, Fr. Stephen Parkes, is appointed Bishop of Savannah by Pope Francis! Blessed be to brothers. Blessed be to brother Bishops!”

Before these bishop-brothers, two other siblings have served the U.S. Catholic Church as bishops — the Irish-born Bolands, one of whom also served as bishop of Savannah.

Bishop J. Kevin Boland headed the Georgia diocese for 16 years, from 1995 to 2011, when he retired. His brother, the late Bishop Raymond J. Boland, who died Feb. 27, 2014, in Cork, Ireland, was bishop of Birmingham, Alabama, from 1988 until 1993, when he was named bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri. He served until his retirement in 2005.

Bishop-designate Parkes has been pastor to 3,700 families at Annunciation Church north of Orlando for nine years and he has a background and education in business and marketing. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration/marketing from the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Stephen Douglas Parkes was born June 2, 1965, to Ronald and Joan Parkes in Mineola, New York, in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York. Bishop Parkes is older by 14 months; he was born April 2, 1964. Their parents and an older brother, Christopher, are deceased.

Stephen Parkes attended Massapequa High School in New York and after earning his bachelor’s in business, he studied philosophy and theology at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida, and holds a master’s of divinity degree.

After his ordination to the priesthood May 23, 1998, Father Parkes was assigned as parochial vicar to Annunciation Church in Altamonte Springs, where he served until 2005 when he was named parochial administrator at Most Precious Blood Church in Oviedo, Florida. Additionally, in 2004 he was named spiritual director for Catholic campus ministry at the University of Central Florida in Orlando where he served until 2011.

Since 2011, Bishop-designate Parkes has been Annunciation’s pastor. His ministry also includes serving spiritual director of the Catholic Foundation of Central Florida. He speaks both English and Spanish.

The Diocese of Savannah covers over 37,000 square miles, and out of a total population of 2.9 million, there are 75,603 Catholic.