On eve of ordination, Bishop-elect Berg advised to share his gifts to lead his new flock to Christ

By Joan Kurkowski-Gillen


Photos by Donna Ryckaert

Bishop-elect Stephen Berg embraces his uncle, Bishop Emeritus Joseph Charron of Des Moines, at a Solemn Vespers service the eve of his episcopal ordination.

When faced with tough decisions during his years as a pastor and later as diocesan administrator for the Diocese of Fort Worth, Monsignor Stephen Berg knew there was a trusting soul who understood the challenges of ministry.

For advice and encouragement he turned to his uncle, Bishop Emeritus of Des Moines Joseph L. Charron, also known to his many nieces and nephews as “Bishop Uncle Joe.”

The depth of the relationship between nephew and uncle became obvious on the eve of Msgr. Berg’s ordination as the fifth bishop of Diocese of Pueblo. At the end of the Feb. 26 Solemn Vespers service, both men expressed their love with an emotional embrace. The moment was captured on the front page of the local newspaper, The Pueblo Chieftan.

Prior to the poignant hug, Bishop Charron blessed his nephew’s pastoral ring, crosier, and miter, then spoke from the heart about faith, family, and his own ordination to the episcopacy.

“It’s not often that a bishop uncle can give guidance to another bishop,” he said, as a low chuckle rose inside the Diocese of Pueblo’s Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. “As (Fort Worth) Bishop Olson said so beautifully, you’re on a journey rooted in faith, and it’s that living faith that brought you here to Pueblo. The gifts of faith and love you received from your mom and dad can now be shared, through your ministry as a bishop, with the people of your diocese.”

Twenty years ago, the retired prelate was ordained Bishop of Des Moines, and he remembered being overwhelmed by the experience.

“Laying on the floor of the cathedral, I was probably as nervous as you are now, but a calmness and peace of mind came to me like I’m sure it will come to you tomorrow,” he said reassuringly to the then bishop-elect. “The Spirit of God will strengthen you.”

Bishop Charron reminded his nephew that people will pray for him, adding, “rely on those prayers and know the prayers of the faithful will truly support you.”

Bishop Charron blesses the symbols of office for his nephew the evening before his ordination.

The assembly, which included priests and parishioners from North Texas, also heard from Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson who was asked by his longtime friend to give the homily at the Vespers service.

“I was honored and touched (to participate) on behalf of the Diocese of Fort Worth and personally, because he’s a dear friend and brother priest,” the bishop told the North Texas Catholic. “I’m very happy for the Diocese of Pueblo. I have a sense that this is a very good fit for him and the diocese. We will miss him very much, but he can always come back and visit.”

During his homily, Bishop Olson recalled attending World Youth Day in Colorado 21 years ago with fellow seminarian Stephen Berg and 1,500 youth from the Diocese of Fort Worth.

“On that occasion, Blessed John Paul II spoke to each and to all of us that, ‘Christ first invites us, then He reveals Himself more fully, and then He sends,’” he explained.

Speaking to the massive Denver, Colorado audience in 1993, the late pontiff said, “Christ can call you at any stage of your pilgrimage through life and wants you to have the treasure of knowing him more fully.”

Christ, once again, brought Bishop-elect Berg to Colorado, Bishop Olson observed.

“Not to what would more aptly be called World Late Middle Age Day — but to lead and shepherd the People of God in the Diocese of Pueblo,” he continued. “Yet, the marrow of the invitation remains the same — to experience in each other, most especially gathered at the Eucharist, the treasure of knowing Christ more fully.”

The homilist asked the people of Pueblo to accept, love, and receive their new bishop.

“May this time in your life as the Church be a time for clarifying Christ as your treasure and his will as your focus,” Bishop Olson added.

Jeanne and Jim Pagano, who attended the Vespers service, heard their new bishop speak at a Feb. 23 youth rally and were impressed with his ability to engage young people.

“He spoke to them on their level like a real country man,” Jeanne said.

While working at the Serra Club booth, Jim Pagano watched the bishop-elect walk from row to row and shake hands with many of the teens.

“He took his time with them and that was nice to see,” Pagano said. “Fort Worth should be proud of this man of God.”

See also

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Margarita Luna greeted the news with mixed emotions. On Jan. 15, Pope Francis named her friend, Monsignor Stephen Berg, the new bishop of Pueblo, Colorado. “I’m happy for him but sad for me,” said Luna, who assisted the newly appointed bishop-elect when he was pastor of St. Mary Church in Henrietta. “I think he will be a wonderful bishop, but our diocese will miss him.”

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Those who witnessed the priestly ordination of Stephen Berg, May 15, 1999, may recall the tender familial atmosphere that was present in the church. The new priest at that time recalled the ceremony as having been “solemn, elegant, and graceful,” yet, for most observers, the liturgy’s warm spirit surpassed the majestic nature that is a signature quality of ordinations.

Bp-Berg-w-family-BUTTON.jpg‘He’s a keeper’: Bishop Berg’s family reacts to his episcopal appointment

When one of their own accomplishes something noteworthy in life, neighbors in the close-knit town of Miles City, Montana, like to make a fuss. So when Stephen Berg, the son of longtime residents Jeanne and the late Conrad Berg, was named the next bishop of Pueblo, Colorado, the news spread faster than a Texas wildfire.

Bp-Berg-concelebrating-BUTTON.jpgLocal clergy react to Bishop Berg’s appointment

It’s been a banner season for new bishops selected from the Diocese of Fort Worth. The diocese’s own Monsignor Michael Olson was appointed bishop of Fort Worth, Nov. 19, 2013 and ordained and installed Jan. 29; and Diocesan Administrator Monsignor Steven Berg received the papal call to shepherd the Diocese of Pueblo, Colorado Jan 15, and was ordained and installed Feb. 27.

Bishop Stephen Berg, former Fort Worth priest, ordained and installed fifth bishop of Pueblo, Colo.

Bp-Berg---Bp-Charron-laying-hands-BUTTON.jpgAs his mother, nine siblings, and uncle, Bishop Emeritus Joseph L. Charron of Des Moines, looked on, Stephen J. Berg was ordained and installed the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Pueblo, Colorado, during a Feb. 27 Mass that celebrated faith and family. The crowd filling the 1,600-seat Pueblo Memorial Hall included a large contingent from the Diocese of Fort Worth, where the new bishop was ordained a priest in 1999 and served as a pastor and as diocesan administrator until the ordination of Fort Worth’s new bishop, Michael F. Olson Jan. 29. Pope Francis named the Miles City, Montana, native the next bishop of the Diocese of Pueblo on Jan. 15.

Bp-Berg-Vespers-hugs-Bp-Charron-BUTTON.jpgWhen faced with tough decisions during his years as a pastor and later as diocesan administrator for the Diocese of Fort Worth, Monsignor Stephen Berg knew there was a trusting soul who understood the challenges of ministry. For advice and encouragement he turned to his uncle, Bishop Emeritus of Des Moines Joseph L. Charron, also known to his many nieces and nephews as “Bishop Uncle Joe.”