Pope Francis recently accepted the resignation of Bishop Edward K. Braxton after 15 years of service as the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Belleville, Illinois. Braxton, who had headed the Belleville Diocese since 2005, turned 75 last June, the age at which bishops are required to turn in their resignation to the pope.
Braxton, who had been one of the nation’s 10 Black Catholic bishops, welcomed his successor in the name of the faithful of the diocese and in his own name, “assuring him of our fervent prayer.”
“I pray the Holy Spirit will empower him with the grace and gifts he will need” to spread the Gospel in the small mostly rural diocese with limited pastoral resources diocese, Braxton said in a video announcement necessitated by public health guidances relative to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Belleville Diocese covers 11,678 square miles and has a Catholic population of about 91,000 out of a total population of about 842,000.
Braxton was born in Chicago and he was ordained a priest for the Chicago Archdiocese. He is a former auxiliary bishop of St. Louis and former bishop of the Diocese of Lake Charles, Louisiana.
“He has been a strong advocate for greater church openness to African Americans, including ways of better expressing the faith to a Black culture,” the Catholic News Service reported.
“In 2015, he wrote a pastoral letter on the racial divide in the United States. In 2017, in a presentation at The Catholic University of America in Washington he said every person ‘must do something,’ whether big or small, to address racism in this country.
“In 2019, a year that saw many multiple shootings, Braxton decried the ‘crisis of gun violence’ in the United States and asked Catholics in his diocese to come together and think of ideas to stop these tragedies from recurring.”
The pope named Father Michael G. McGovern, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, as the new Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Belleville, Illinois. Bishop McGovern was installed on July 22.
McGovern brings to his new post many “natural talents and his pastoral experiences,” Braxton said.
“Since receiving news of this appointment, I have been praying each day for Bishop Edward Braxton and I thank him for his 15 years of dedicated service to the Diocese of Belleville.” McGovern said. “I have been praying as well each day for the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the diocese.”
Bishop McGovern, a native of Evergreen Park, Illinois attended Christ the King Grammar School and St. Ignatius College Prep, both in Chicago. He graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 1986, and from St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Ill., earning an S.T.B in 1993 and a M.Div. in 1994.
He was ordained to the priesthood on May 21, 1994 at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. Bishop-elect McGovern has had several parish assignments including as Resident at Immaculate Conception Parish, Highland Park, and at St. Clement Parish and Holy Name Cathedral, both in Chicago.
“I thank Bishop Edward Braxton for his warm welcome as his successor and for the conversations we have had,” McGovern said.