SEATTLE – Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, and Coadjutor Archbishop Paul D. Etienne has automatically succeeded him as head of the Archdiocese of Seattle.
The changes were announced September 3 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Archbishop Sartain, 67, had led the archdiocese since 2010. Bishops are required to submit their resignation to the pope at age 75, but health issues led Archbishop Sartain to write to Pope Francis in September 2018 requesting the appointment of a coadjutor archbishop.
Archbishop Sartain cited a loss of “energy and stamina” after a series of spinal surgeries, as he explained in a letter to the people of the archdiocese on April 29, the day Archbishop Etienne’s appointment was announced.
“I’m very much at peace, because the Lord has helped me to see that this is the right thing,” Archbishop Sartain told Northwest Catholic in an interview last week, adding that he was “delighted” by Archbishop Etienne’s appointment.
“I think Archbishop Etienne is the perfect choice to be the archbishop of Seattle,” he said. “He’s got all the requisite experience, but most of all, he’s got the heart to be a wonderful shepherd.”
Archbishop Etienne (pronounced AY-chin), 60, was archbishop of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska, when he was appointed coadjutor. He previously served as bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and as a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
“My life is at the service of the church,” he told Northwest Catholic in April. “I’m a pastor at heart.”
“My dear people, this is one of our highest priorities in the church today — to help people encounter Christ, to know him on an intimate and personal level, to hear his Gospel, to come to discover in Christ God’s intimate, personal love, and to come to faith in Jesus Christ,” he said. “Everything else follows that central priority.”
Archbishop Paul D. Etienne
Archbishop Etienne was born June 15, 1959, in Tell City, Indiana, to a large Catholic family. Two of his brothers, Bernard and Zachary, are priests of the Diocese of Evansville, Indiana. His sister Nicolette is a Benedictine nun at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, Indiana.
As a young adult, he spent years “fighting a call to the priesthood,” he told Northwest Catholic.
After graduating from Tell City High School in 1977, he spent five years managing a local clothing store.
“I had my own plan for what my future was going to look like,” he said. “I just wanted to be a self-made businessman. I wanted to be married and have a big family and raise horses and beagles.”
But, he said, “God eventually started stripping away, piece by piece, my dream to replace it with his. And his dream is far better than anything I could have come up with on my own.”
He attended Bellarmine College in Louisville, Kentucky (1983–84); then the University of St. Thomas/St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota (1984–86), graduating with a B.A. in business administration.
He worked for the U.S. bishops’ conference as an assistant coordinator for Pope John Paul II’s 10-day visit to the United States in September 1987.
From 1988 to 1992, he was a seminarian at the Pontifical North American College; he earned a Bachelor of Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis on June 27, 1992. He returned to Rome in 1994, and in 1995 he received a Licentiate of Spiritual Theology from the Gregorian.
In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, he served as pastor of several parishes, vocation director, vice rector of Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary and spiritual director of St. Meinrad School of Theology.
He was appointed bishop of Cheyenne by Pope Benedict XVI on October 19, 2009, and consecrated December 9, 2009. Pope Francis appointed him archbishop of Anchorage on October 24, 2016, and he was installed November 9, 2016.
Archbishop J. Peter Sartain
Archbishop Sartain was born June 6, 1952, in Memphis, Tennessee.
He attended Memphis State University (1970–71) and earned a bachelor’s degree in English from St. Meinrad College in Indiana in 1974. He earned a Bachelor of Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome in 1977 and earned a Licentiate of Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm in Rome in 1979.
He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Memphis on July 15, 1978. In Memphis, he served as pastor, vocation director, chancellor, moderator of the curia, vicar for clergy, vicar general and diocesan administrator.
He was appointed bishop of Little Rock, Arkansas, by Pope John Paul II on January 4, 2000, and consecrated March 6, 2000. Pope Benedict XVI appointed him bishop of Joliet, Illinois, on May 16, 2006, and he was installed on June 27, 2006.
He was appointed archbishop of Seattle by Pope Benedict on September 16, 2010, and installed on December 1, 2010.
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