New bishop ’tailor-made’ for Arkansas

Bishop-elect Anthony B. Taylor, who will become the seventh bishop of the statewide Diocese of Little Rock, answers questions from the media during a press conference at St. John Center in Little Rock April 10.
Bishop-elect Anthony B. Taylor, who will become the seventh bishop of the statewide Diocese of Little Rock, answers questions from the media during a press conference at St. John Center in Little Rock April 10.

Father Anthony Basil Taylor, a priest fluent in Spanish from the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, has been named the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Little Rock.
Bishop-elect Taylor, 53, was introduced to the media and diocesan staff during a press conference April 10 in Morris Hall Chapel at St. John Center in Little Rock. Accompanying him were Archbishop Eusebius J. Beltran of Oklahoma City, who introduced the new bishop, and Msgr. J. Gaston Hebert, the diocesan administrator.
Bishop-elect Taylor admitted he was surprised by the call he received during Holy Week, March 18, from Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States, telling him of Pope Benedict XVI’s appointment.
“I was stunned speechless,” he said. “I heard all the words, but they didn’t register at first. Nothing could have been further from my mind and my first words were, ’Oh my gosh!’ It was like one of those near-death experiences, all my life flashed before my eyes.”
Bishop-elect Taylor said he is humbled by his new appointment.
“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.’”
The Diocese of Little Rock has been without a bishop since May 16, 2006, when Bishop J. Peter Sartain was appointed the bishop in Joliet, Ill.
The end of the nearly two-year wait was welcome news to Msgr. Hebert, who has led the diocese since Bishop Sartain left in June 2006.
“Bishop Taylor is tailor-made by God for our diocese,” he said, noting his fluency in Spanish, his experience in clergy issues and diaconate formation and his education in Scripture study.
Bishop-elect Taylor’s visit to Arkansas was brief. He left Oklahoma City the morning of April 10 and returned to his parish in Oklahoma City with Archbishop Beltran shortly after a reception with diocesan staff. He will formally take over the Diocese of Little Rock on June 4 during a vigil service at Christ the King Church in Little Rock and June 5 during an ordination and installation Mass at the Statehouse Convention Center in downtown Little Rock. With seating for 6,000, all Catholics in Arkansas and Oklahoma will be encouraged to attend.
Father Taylor was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and grew up in Ponca City, Okla. He said he was influenced by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in his decision to become a priest. He was in eighth grade when King was assassinated 40 years ago in Memphis.
“Being a faithful Christian requires more than just saying prayers, obeying the Commandments and trying to get your own soul into heaven,” he said. “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 Jesus Christ.”
After attending the University of Oklahoma for two years, he was accepted as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. He earned a degree in history from St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana and was chosen to attend the North American College in Rome in 1976.
He was ordained by Archbishop Charles A. Salatka in Ponca City in 1980. During his first four years of ministry, he worked as an associate pastor in two parishes. One month after ordination he started offering Mass in Spanish.
From 1984 to 1989 he attended Fordham University in New York and earned a doctorate in biblical theology. When he returned to Oklahoma City, he was named vicar for ministries, a position he held until his appointment in Little Rock.
In 1993, he was the founding pastor of St. Monica Church in Edmond, Okla., which is known as a “total stewardship parish.” In 2003 he was transferred to Sacred Heart Church in Oklahoma City, a parish of 1,200 families, 95 percent of whom speak Spanish. The parish currently has nine weekend Masses, with seven of them celebrated in Spanish.
Bishop-elect Taylor has been a vocal opponent of Oklahoma’s new immigration law, which took effect Nov. 1. The law makes it a felony to knowingly harbor or transport undocumented people and creates barriers to hiring them. Bishop-elect Taylor, along with Archbishop Beltran, priests and more than 1,000 laypeople, signed a one-page “pledge of resistance” to the law.
“It is a sin to obey an unjust law,” he said in October. “That applies to anybody.”
Following his ordination, Bishop-elect Taylor said he will be in listening mode and wanting to learn from the Catholics in the state about the needs.
“Little Rock has an outstanding reputation in the Catholic Church,” he said. “It is wonderful to come to a place that has been cared for so well. … I am very grateful to be your bishop.”

For more coverage of Bishop-elect Taylor’s appointment, see the April 19 print or complete online edition of Arkansas Catholic. Subscribe today!


Extensive additional information about Bishop-elect Taylor, including a biography, the full text of his statement and an audio recording of the press conference for anyone to hear, is available on the Diocese of Little Rock Web site’s “New Bishop” page.

Malea Hargett

Malea Hargett has guided the diocesan newspaper as editor since 1994. She finds strength in her faith through attending Walking with Purpose Bible studies at Christ the King Church in Little Rock.

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