WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed Father James P. Powers, a priest of the Diocese of Superior, Wisconsin, and currently its administrator, to be bishop of the diocese.
A native of Baldwin, Wis., Bishop-designate Powers, 62, was ordained a priest of the Superior diocese May 20, 1990. He has served as administrator of the diocese since December 2014, a month after Bishop Peter F. Christensen was named to head the Diocese of Boise, Idaho.
Bishop designate-Powers’ episcopal ordination and installation is scheduled for Feb. 18 at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Superior.
He said he learned of his appointment while traveling through the diocese Dec. 7. He had no hint of what was coming.
“It was about three miles east of Phillips, heading for Father Mike McLain’s funeral, and I think I almost ran off the road,” Bishop-designate Powers said at a news conference the day of his appointment.
“Thanks for your support,” he said to fellow priests and diocesan officials at the news conference. “I just hope and pray … it is the right choice for the diocese at this time.”
The bishop-designate said he has been praying for nearly a year for the diocese’s next bishop. “This isn’t the answer to my prayer, but hopefully it turns out to be a good one,” he said.
Born Feb. 6, 1953, he grew up on his family’s farm in Baldwin. He worked on the farm and sold insurance before entering the seminary.
Bishop-designate Powers holds a bachelor’s in theology and a master’s of divinity from St. John Vianney Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, and at St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul. He pursued graduate studies in canon law at St. Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario.
After his ordination, his pastoral assignments included serving for three years as associate pastor at St. Joseph Church in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. From 1993 to 1994, he was parochial administrator of four parishes in Wisconsin.
For the next four years, he was pastor of St. Bridget Church in River Falls, Wisconsin. In 1995, he was elected to the diocesan priest personnel board and in 1999 was re-elected to the board. In 1998, he served as adjunct vicar general for the diocese.
From 1998 to 2003, he was pastor of three Wisconsin parishes: St. Pius X in Solon Falls, St. Mary in Minong and St. Anthony of Padua in Gordon. From 2003 to 2014, he was administrator of those parishes as well as pastor of St. Joseph Church in Rice Lake.
He was appointed vicar general for the diocese in 2010.
Contributing to this story was Anita Draper in Superior. Draper is on the staff of the Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Superior.