Murphy Gets New Assistant
Pope Names Auxiliary Bishop

By Rita Ciolli
Newsday [Long Island]
April 4, 2003

The pastor of St. Patrick's Church in Smithtown, described by parishioners as humble and deeply spiritual, will become the newest auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, Bishop William Murphy announced yesterday.

Msgr. Paul Walsh, 65, was selected by Pope John Paul II from a list of three candidates Murphy sent to Rome last summer. Murphy said he received word from the Vatican last week that Walsh was chosen. In an unusual move, Murphy also announced that Walsh also will serve as pastor of Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Church in Roosevelt.

"I am nervous, I am somewhat unsure. I know I have limitations but I am confident because I know I am with Jesus," Walsh said at a morning news conference at diocesan headquarters in Rockville Centre. "It is still a big surprise," said the smiling bishop-elect.

Walsh, who will get his miter and staff at his ordination May 29 at St. Agnes Cathedral, will be responsible for 46 parishes in Western Nassau. The two other active auxiliary bishops are John Dunne of Farmingdale and Emil Wcela of Riverhead.

When asked his thoughts on how the diocese could start to repair some of the damage from the priest abuse scandal, Walsh replied that "an important part of healing is compassion" for victims and willingness to listen to priests whose morale has suffered.

Unlike most of those he will be supervising, Walsh did not start out as a diocesan priest. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Bellmore and Patchogue, Walsh graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island in 1959. After college he entered the Dominican Order and was ordained in 1966. He returned to Long Island in 1983 as associate pastor of Our Lady, Queen of Martyrs in Centerport and a year later he became a diocesan priest. He was assigned to St. Patrick's in 1988 and became its pastor in 1990.

Walsh's promotion was met with joy and tears in Smithtown yesterday as word spread among the staff and parishioners. About 300 to 400 people filled St. Patrick's church for the daily 12:10 p.m. Mass that Walsh began 15 years ago and usually celebrates.

"Everyone gave him a huge round of applause at the end of the Mass, it was thunderous," said Lynn Liggan, office manager for St. Patrick's parish. Murphy said he hoped to name a new pastor for St. Patrick's by June.

Liggan and others described Walsh as having a dry sense of humor, enormous personal warmth and excellent skills at building coalitions.

"In general and especially with the crisis right now, this is precisely the kind of sincere, spiritual, balanced and moral man that we need to look to for leadership. He has just been a gift to us," said Paul Ginnetty, a psychologist who is a member of the pastoral councilto Walsh at St. Patrick's.

Ginnetty described Walsh as a great preacher who often talked in his homilies about his brother, Michael, who lives in New Jersey and his three sons.

Murphy's decision to have an auxiliary bishop serve as pastor is a departure from tradition on Long Island and a surprising choice of parish, according to some priests. Walsh, whose past assignments have been in affluent North Shore parishes, is now heading to one of the poorer ones.

Asked about the significance of such an appointment, Murphy replied that naming a bishop as the leader in Roosevelt was "wonderful praise" for the small parish of mostly black and Hispanic Catholics. He has said in the past that problems in Roosevelt's school system and disparities among school districts have troubled him greatly. "I want to say simply to them that they are a welcome and beloved part of this diocese," he said

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