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Alexandria native, Raleigh priest chosen as auxiliary bishop of Atlanta

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This article has been updated. 

Pope Francis appointed Father Bernard E. Shlesinger III, a priest of the Diocese of Raleigh, N.C., to be an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Bishop-designate Shlesinger, 56, is currently the director of spiritual formation at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. He grew up in St. Louis Parish in Alexandria and recently gave the Lenten Day of Prayer for priests of the Arlington Diocese.

“I was filled with tremendous joy upon learning of the appointment of Bishop-elect Bernard (Ned) Shlesinger as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta,” Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge said in a statement. "I was privileged to serve as Bishop-elect Ned’s bishop for 10 years in the Diocese of Raleigh. From the very beginning, I came to know him as a holy and joyful priest and pastor filled with missionary zeal and with a deep love for the poor. Recognizing his many gifts, I asked him to serve as Director of Vocations and he offered tremendous priestly example to our seminarians and those in discernment just has he has done most recently in his position as spiritual director at my alma mater, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. Bishop-elect Ned is greatly respected and admired by his brother priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful and he will be a special gift to Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and to all those he will serve in the Archdiocese of Atlanta.”

The appointment was announced in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States May 15, Bishop-elect Shlesinger’s late mother’s birthday. Rita Shlesinger died April 1 and her funeral was held at the family’s longtime parish with several priests in attendance. His father Bill, a retired patent lawyer and member of the U.S. Air Force, is still a parishioner of St. Louis.

“When you’re son becomes a bishop, it’s overwhelming,” he said in a voice tinged with emotion. “It’s an amazing thing. The whole family is honored.”

Bishop-elect Shlesinger was raised in Northern Virginia. He attended St. Michael’s Church in Annandale and then St. Louis when his family moved near the parish in 1970. He earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg in 1983, then served in the U.S. Air Force until 1990. He flew the C130E Hercules planes while stationed at Pope AFB, in Fayetteville, N.C. and retired as a captain. After discerning a vocation to the priesthood, he entered seminary for the Diocese of Raleigh.   

He went on to attend Theological College in Washington (pre-theology/philosophy) before attending Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome where he earned a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology in 1995. He then began licentiate of sacred theology studies at the Angelicum (Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome) that same year.  He was ordained a priest June 22, 1996.

Assignments after ordination included: parochial vicar at St. Mary Church in Wilmington, N.C., 1996-98; pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church as well as assistant vocations director (1998-2007); director of vocations and seminary formation, Diocese of Raleigh (2007-13); administrator ofMaria, Reina de las Americas Church in Mount Olive, N.C. (2010-12); director of spiritual formation, theology division at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa., 2013 to present. 

The Archdiocese of Atlanta comprises 21,445 square miles. It has a total population of 7,048,083 people of which 1,023,594 or 14.5 percent, are Catholic. Archbishop Gregory has been archbishop of Atlanta since 2005.  The archdiocese currently has one active auxiliary bishop, Bishop Luis R. Zarama. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017