Father Anthony B. Taylor, a priest in the Archdiocese of
Oklahoma City, was named seventh bishop of the Diocese of Little Rock the
morning of April 10.
The word came at 5 a.m. CDT from Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic
nuncio to the United States, that Pope Benedict XVI had made the
A press conference will be held at 2 p.m. today in Morris Hall
Chapel on the grounds of St. John Catholic Center at 2500 North Tyler Street.
Archbishop Eusebius J. Beltran of Oklahoma City will introduce Bishop-elect
Taylor who succeeds Bishop J. Peter Sartain, the Diocese of Little Rock's sixth
bishop, who was installed as the bishop of Joliet on June 27, 2006.
During the past 21 months while the Diocese of Little Rock has been
without a bishop, Msgr. J. Gaston Hebert has served as the diocesan
administrator. He also will be present for this afternoon's press
Anthony Basil Taylor was born April 24, 1954, in Fort Worth, Texas. He is
the oldest of seven children born to Basil and Rachel (Roth) Taylor who moved
their family to Ponca City, Okla., in 1960. Bishop-elect Taylor's parents and
two of his siblings and their families still live in Ponca City, which is on the
Arkansas River in northern Oklahoma.
As a seminarian Bishop-elect Taylor studied at St. Meinrad Seminary
College in Indiana and the North American College in Rome where he took classes
at the Gregorian University. He was ordained a priest on Aug. 2, 1980 in his
home parish, St. Mary in Ponca City. Serving among Catholics who are Hispanic
has been an emphasis of Bishop-elect Taylor's ministry since his ordination. His
first assignment was to Sacred Heart Parish in Oklahoma City where he began
Spanish Masses at Clinton and Hinton, Okla. From 1982-1986 he served in Queen of
All Saints mission in Sayre, which included ministering to the Hispanic
population in a five-county area. In 1989 Bishop-elect Taylor earned a doctorate
in biblical theology from Fordham University in New York City.
Bishop-elect Taylor also has served in various archdiocesan positions,
including vicar for ministries; minister to priests; director of the permanent
diaconate Program; chairman of the Presbyteral Council, Clergy Personnel Board
and Clergy Retirement Board; and as a member of the Archdiocesan Finance
Council. He is also a member of the board of trustees for Mount Saint Mary High
School in Oklahoma City, a sister school to Mount Saint Mary Academy in Little
Bishop-elect Taylor was the founding pastor of St. Monica Parish in
Edmond, Okla., in 1993, a total stewardship parish, where he served for 10
years. In 2003 he returned to his first assignment as a priest, Sacred Heart
Parish, where he oversaw the final phase of its transition from being a
predominately Anglo to a predominately Hispanic Catholic community. Seven of its
nine weekend Masses are in Spanish, one is bilingual and one is in English.
The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City sponsored and staffed a parish in
Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, from 1963 to 2001. In 1981 Father Stanley Rother,
an Oklahoma priest, was martyred there. After the local diocese of Solola took
over the care of the parish in 2001, Oklahoma Catholics continued to provide
assistance to the parish, its school, a local hospital and a new planned alcohol
abuse treatment center, since 2005 under the direction of Bishop-elect Taylor.
In September 2007 the cause of canonization for Father Rother was formally
opened with Bishop-elect Taylor serving as the episcopal delegate for this
The Diocese of Little Rock was established Nov. 28, 1843. It covers the
entire state of Arkansas whose 75 counties encompass 52,068 square miles.
Registered Catholics comprise 116,605 of the state's total population of
Anthony Basil Taylor was born April 24, 1954, in Fort Worth,
Texas. His parents and grandparents on both sides were long-time residents of
Fort Worth. Two of his grandparents are converts (his mother's father from
Judaism and his father's mother from Protestantism) and both of his parents, as
well as the Taylor children themselves, were raised in a solid traditional
Bishop Taylor is the oldest of the seven children of Basil and
Rachel (Roth) Taylor -- the 5 Taylor boys and 2 Taylor girls were born in a
little over 9 years and are as close personally as they are in age.
Taylor family moved to Ponca City, Okla., in 1960, where Bishop Taylor's parents
and two of his siblings and their families still live today -- the other 4 live
in Fort Worth and Dallas. Ponca City is on the Arkansas River in northern
Bishop Taylor attended parochial and public schools, graduating
from Ponca City High School in 1972. He attended the University of Oklahoma for
two years, after which he was accepted as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of
Earlier today, a friend of Bishop-elect Tony Taylor's said he had a hard time
thinking of the Little Rock appointee in a cassock.Well, Taylor started getting
used to it a bit earlier than usual at today's presser -- house garb, zucchetto
and all.And when the Oklahoma priest started flashing his famed social-justice
cred, linking the witness of MLK to his call to priesthood, jaws were seen
dropping in the room.Statement; snips:
The Pope apparently needs a clearer response than: Oh my gosh! so Archbishop Sambi pressed a little further, asking: How do you feel about this? And all I could
think of was: humbled. Humbled by the trust the Lord is placing in me, humbled
by the confidence everyone who has had a hand in choosing me to be the next
bishop of Little Rock, humbled by the scope of this new calling which is far
greater than anything I have ever done before, humbled by my own inner
conviction that when the Lord calls the only answer that a faithful servant can
give is: "Yes Lord, I will do whatever you ask."
Every bishop traditionally comes up with a coat of arms and a motto, and I have taken my motto from Psalm 37:11 which Jesus quotes in Matthew 5:5 as one of the Beatitudes: "The Humble Shall Inherit the Earth." But there is a problem in that the word translated as humble is different from humble as we usually think of it -- a humble or timid attitude.
In Psalm 37:11 the underlying Hebrew word is Anawim, meaning those
of humble circumstances: the poor, the oppressed. Those of humble circumstances
will inherit the earth. Jesus' preferential love of the poor and marginalized
was courageous, not timid, and so also must we be if we are to be his faithful
servants. Not to the exclusion of anyone else but in recognition that those with
the greatest need have the greatest claim on us.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated 40 years ago this month and on the day of his death God gave me an insight that helped me eventually hear his call to the priesthood. I was 14 at the time.
The insight was this: being a faithful Christian requires more
than just saying prayers, obeying the Commandments and trying to get your own
soul into heaven. If you're only interested in your own spiritual welfare in the
next life, you don't really believe in the redemptive power of the cross of
Martin Luther King taught me that being a faithful Christian
required that I do whatever I could to help build the Kingdom of God here and
now, and that to do so would require courage not timidity, fear of God not fear
of man. If you don't align yourself with the Kingdom of God in this life, how do
you expect to be admitted into the Kingdom of God in the next?
And who are the people of humble circumstances of the Diocese of Little Rock?
Probably the same people whom I have served for over 27 years as a priest in Oklahoma, the same people whom my inspiring predecessors have served here in Arkansas in the past....And I pray to God that the Lord will make me as good a shepherd for the Church and people of Arkansas as those on whose shoulders I now stand.