About 1,600 people gathered at the Cathedral of Christ the King on Tuesday afternoon to celebrate the ordination and installation of the Rev. John Stowe as bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lexington.
"First thing I have to say to the people of Lexington is, y'all do welcomes real good," Stowe told the audience.
The diocese was formed in 1988 and serves 50 counties in Central and Eastern Kentucky. Stowe is the diocese's third bishop. He succeeds Bishop Ronald Gainer, who was installed as bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa., in March 2014 after serving for about 11 years in Lexington.
Stowe said that he is "deeply touched" by the prayers and welcomes of the faithful. "It's real easy to feel at home among you," he said.
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Stowe said he had received hundreds of cards from Lexington schoolchildren. He quoted from a card that he said reflected Lexington's anticipation of having a new bishop. The card, from a boy, said, 'It's about time. What took them so long to find you?"
Among those in attendance Tuesday was Chiquita Reddoch, who said that the ordination means so much: "We've been without a bishop here for quite a while, and everyone's been praying. It's huge."
Leah O'Meara, another of the attendees, said: "My initial reaction is hope because (Pope Francis) waited to appoint someone for so long. I feel like (Stowe) was truly sent to shepherd us, so I'm excited."
Also in the audience were 172 clergy members, most of whom were from Kentucky and Tennessee, said Tom Shaughnessy, spokesman for the diocese.
At the beginning of the 2½ -hour ceremony, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò read a letter from Pope Francis appointing Stowe as bishop.
Archbishop of the Diocese of Louisville Joseph Kurtz gave the sermon. "You're young, at least in my mind," he said to the 49-year-old Stowe. Nevertheless, Kurtz said he is confident that Stowe is well-prepared. "You have that great capacity to become a bishop at heart," Kurtz said to Stowe.
Stowe grew up in Lorain, Ohio, to John and Lucy Stowe. Many of his relatives, including his parents and siblings, were in attendance. Stowe's sister Sheri Roberge cried in the front row as she watched her brother become bishop.
During his closing remarks, Stowe choked up as he thanked his family. He also blessed his parents, who will be celebrating their 50th anniversary this week.
"I was baptized on their first wedding anniversary. Now I get to bless them as bishop on their 50th," Stowe said.