WASHINGTON. Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop J. Terry Steib of Memphis, Tennessee, and has appointed as his successor Auxiliary Bishop Martin D. Holley of Washington.
Bishop Steib has headed the Memphis Diocese since 1993. He is 76. Canon law requires all bishops to turn in their resignation at age 75. Bishop Holley, 61, has been a Washington auxiliary since 2004.
The changes were announced Aug. 23 in Washington by Msgr. Walter Erbi, charge d’affaires of the Vatican nunciature.
Bishop Holley will be installed as the fifth bishop of Memphis Oct. 19 at the Cook Convention Center.
He said in a statement he was “deeply humbled” by the appointment and grateful to the pope for expressing confidence “through this new assignment at this time in my life.”
Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl said the appointment was “a blessing for that diocesan church” and “also a joy for all of us in Washington.”
“Bishop Holley has demonstrated both pastoral sensitivity and administrative ability that should serve him well as he now undertakes his new ministry in western Tennessee,” he said in a statement. “We rejoice that the Church of Memphis is receiving such a talented and caring pastor of souls.”
Bishops Steib and Holley are two of the nation’s 15 black Catholic bishops. With Bishop Steib’s retirement, eight of them remain active, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.
Washington Auxiliary Bishop Martin D. Holley processes into the World Youth Day opening Mass in Krakow, Poland in July. Pope Francis appointed him the new bishop of Memphis, Tenn., Aug. 23. CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard
Bishop Holley was appointed auxiliary bishop of Washington May 18, 2004, and was ordained a bishop July 2, 2004. He is vicar general for the Archdiocese of Washington and is a member of the archdiocesan college of consultors, priests’ council, seminarian review board, administrative board and chairman of the College of Deans.
He is former moderator of the archdiocese’s ethnic ministries. In an interview last year with the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the archdiocese, Bishop Holley spoke of the blessings of that work, saying, “You get a glimpse of the face of God, the beauty of God, a glimpse of what it must be like to be in heaven.”
Bishop Holley joined pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Washington at World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, in 2005; in Madrid in 2011; and this summer in Krakow, Poland. In an interview before joining pilgrims from the archdiocese in Krakow, the bishop described how inspiring it is to see young people from different cultures and countries united in their faith.
“The one, holy, catholic, apostolic faith. ... We say those words in the Creed, and we see it at Mass; we see it at our local events ... but when you magnify that hundreds and thousands of times, wow!” Bishop Holley told the Catholic Standard. “That is just incredible.”
As a bishop, he has made visits to other countries, including a 2010 trip to Ghana and Nigeria, where he said he witnessed firsthand the work of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency. “It reminds me of Jesus’ offering of the loaves and fishes, blessed, broken and shared,” said Bishop Holley, who has served on the CRS board of directors. “That’s what CRS reminds me of, how they’re able to take whatever resources (they have) to bless and share it with others.”
Martin D. Holley was born in Florida. While his mother was pregnant with the future bishop, she, along with her husband and their seven older children, joined the Catholic Church. When Martin was born Dec. 31, 1954, he was named after the pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Cantonment, Florida, the family’s new parish priest.
Bishop Holley is the eighth of 14 children of Sylvester and Mary Holley, both of whom are deceased.
Young Martin attended Catholic elementary schools and was captain of the basketball team at Tate High School, where he is a member of the school’s Hall of Fame, and then attended Faulkner State Junior College in Bay Minette, Alabama. He played basketball and earned a degree in management at Alabama State University in Montgomery, where he was named the university’s outstanding collegian.
After working from 1977 to 1982 in the Pensacola-Tallahassee diocesan chancery, he studied theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington and at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida.
He was ordained a priest of the Pensacola-Tallahassee Diocese May 8, 1987.
In addition to parish assignments after his ordination, he was spiritual director of the Serra Club of West Florida, director of the diocesan Department of Ethnic Concerns, a member of the diocesan education commission and spiritual director and instructor of the permanent diaconate formation program. He also was adjunct director of vocations and president of the priests’ council.
When he was named a bishop, then-Father Holley had been pastor of Little Flower Parish in Pensacola for two years. Before that, he was administrator there for two years.
James Terry Steib was born May 17, 1940, the eldest of five children of a sugar cane worker. He grew up on a farm in Vacherie, Louisiana. He entered the Society of the Divine Word order at a high school seminary in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
After studies at three Divine Word collegiate seminaries, he was ordained a priest Jan. 6, 1967. Then-Father Steib served his order first at seminaries and then as provincial of the Divine Word’s Southern province until he was appointed an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis Dec. 6, 1983. He was ordained a bishop Feb. 10, 1984. He also served as vicar general of the St. Louis Archdiocese.
He was appointed fourth bishop of Memphis in March 23, 1993, and when he was ordained a bishop and installed to head the diocese in May of that year, he was one of only two black bishops heading the U.S. dioceses at that time. The other was the now-retired Bishop Joseph L. Howze of Biloxi, Mississippi.
On the national level, he is a former executive director of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus and a former vice president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men Congregation.
Bishop Steib is a former chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Missions and its Committee on Black Catholics and has been a member of a number of other committees, including the Administrative Committee.
The Diocese of Memphis comprises 10,682 square miles in the state of Tennessee. It has a total population of 1.57 million; just over 65,000, or about 4 percent, are Catholic.
Mark Zimmermann contributed to this story.