BLAZON SYMBOLISM AND HISTORIES
In September 2012, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI promoted the auxiliary bishop of Denver, Bishop James Douglas Conley, to the see of Lincoln in Nebraska as her ninth residential bishop, succeeding the illustrious Fabian Wendelin Bruskewitz who reigned there from 1992 until this past September continuing a long tradition of outstanding bishops back to Bishop Thomas Bonacum, the founding bishop who reigned from 1887 until 1911.
Lincoln was erected by the Holy See as an independent diocese on 2 August 1887 and now comprises some 23, 844 square miles in what they locally define as territory south of the Platte River. It is a see within the ecclesial province of Omaha and in the 2011 census cites nearly one hundred thousand Catholic faithful in a population of more than a half million people (approximately 16 per centum of the total population being Catholic). The census lists one hundred fifty priests, eighty five male religious, and nearly one hundred forty female religious serving in one hundred thirty three parishes. In this census, the see also was blessed with three active permanent deacons.
The see grew steadily from its foundation in 1887. After the founding bishop, Thomas Bonacum, eight clerics have been called to lead this vibrant church. After the founding bishop’s tenure, John Henry Tihen reigned from 1911-1917. He was followed at Lincoln by Charles Joseph O’Reilly who served as bishop from 1918 until 1923; he was in turn followed by Francis Joseph Beckman who reigned from 1923 until 1930. Beckman was in turn followed by Louis B. Kucera serving from 1930-1957. The sixth bishop of Lincoln was James Vincent Casey ruling from 1957-1967. Casey was followed by Glennon P. Flavin (1967-1992) serving Lincoln until Bishop Fabian Wendelin Bruskewitz’s arrival in 1992.
Bishop Conley, the ninth and now incoming bishop, was born into a Christian, but not Roman Catholic, home on 19 March 1955 in Overland Park in Kansas. He entered the Catholic Church on 6 December 1975, earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature from the University of Kansas in 1977, and entered the minor seminary in philosophical studies at Pius X Seminary in Erlanger, Kentucky to be followed by theological studies at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary at Emmetsburg. He was ordained to the priesthood on 18 May 1985 for the diocese of Wichita, entered into further studies at Rome’s Accademia Alfonsiana, and served in numerous posts both in Rome as a member of the Congregation for Bishops and including his office as pastor of the Blessed Sacrament parish from whence he came to the office of auxiliary bishop in Denver. It is from Denver that Bishop Conley arrives in Lincoln.