Bishop Ochoa, one year later

February 20, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
It was a year ago this month that Bishop Armando Ochoa became the fifth bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fresno.

With a diocese spanning eight counties and 36-thousand square miles, Bishop Ochoa has had little down time.

When the bishop took over the Diocese of Fresno last year, he was prepared to embrace one of the richest agricultural areas in the world. And the diocese of more than one-million Catholics wasted no time in welcoming him to their turf.

Bishop Ochoa said, "I'll never forget my first confirmation the kids presented me with a case of sweet potatoes, you know (laugh)."

The bishop came to Fresno from the Diocese of El Paso in West Texas. But because his replacement still hasn't been named, he is wearing two hats, or mitres, these days, traveling back and forth to Texas every six weeks.

News of Pope Benedict the 16th's resignation came as a bombshell, he says. Not only because he never expected the pope to resign so quickly. But if Bishop Ochoa's successor in El Paso isn't named before the pope leaves, it could be months before a new bishop is installed there.

On the topic of a new pope, Bishop Ochoa believes a younger man would be a good choice.

Bishop Ochoa explained, "Maybe a younger cardinal and maybe someone who will be open to the idea of being able to go and make these pastoral visits worldwide."

When Action News interviewed the bishop before he arrived in Fresno he said of his main objectives was to build up the priesthood. But he acknowledges the sex abuse scandal has driven many young men in other directions.

The bishop laments, " I'm sure it has colored mothers and fathers thinking in terms of 'well if maybe this were a married priesthood...' maybe we're going to discourage our kids - our boys - going into the priesthood."

The bishop says there are just 16 candidates on track for the priesthood in the diocese right now. But with 86 parishes and most priests on the other side of fifty, the diocese will be looking more and more to lay leadership in the years to come.


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