WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Sam G. Jacobs of Houma-Thibodaux, La., and appointed as his successor Auxiliary Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of New Orleans.
Bishop Jacobs, who has headed the diocese since 2003, is 75, the age at which bishops are required by canon law to submit their resignations to the pope. Bishop Fabre, 49, has been a New Orleans auxiliary since 2006.
The changes were announced Sept. 23 in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
The installation Mass for Bishop Fabre is scheduled for Oct. 30 at the Cathedral of St. Francis de Sales in Houma.
“I believe that he is the right person at this time of the life of this great diocese,” Bishop Jacobs said at a news conference.
“I am grateful to God for my 10 years as shepherd of this diocese. I have been blessed in many ways by the ministry and cooperation of the priests, deacons, religious and laity.”
He said that at this point in his life, “it is time for me to pass the torch of administration and embrace more fully the priestly ministry I was ordained for. My plans are to live in Houma and continue to serve the church until the Lord calls me to him.”
Bishop Fabre told priests, religious, deacons, diocesan staff and members of the local media at the press conference that he is “humbled and excited by this appointment.”
“I pledge to serve the needs of the church here in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux to the very best of my ability. In all that we do, it is the Lord Jesus Christ whom we praise and serve, and I am confident that together we will grow in faith,” he continued.
He said he looked forward to making the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux his new home. “I rejoice in the opportunity to become a part of this local church and this unique area of our state of Louisiana.”
“At this point in the history of this wonderful diocese, let us renew our trust in the Lord and again pledge to serve him by serving one another,” Bishop Fabre said. “In God we place our hope and our trust, and we can be confident that God will never leave us to endure anything alone. I look forward to this faith journey with all of you. As I pledge my prayers for all in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, I ask your prayers for me as well.”
New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond said in a statement: “Bishop Fabre for me has been a true brother in ministry. He has been a great co-worker in the ministry of this archdiocese, and I have a great deal of respect for him and for the way in which he lives out his ministry as a bishop.”
“I will sincerely miss him and our ministry together,” he said. “At the same time, the people of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux are very blessed to receive a loving and gentle shepherd who will walk with them and lead them in the ways of Christ.”
On the national level, Bishop Fabre is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee on African-American Affairs. He is one of about a dozen active black Catholic bishops in the U.S.
Shelton Fabre was born Oct. 25, 1963, in New Roads, La. He earned a bachelor of arts degree from St. Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict, La., and a master of arts degree from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, La., in 1989, and auxiliary bishop of New Orleans in 2006.
When he was appointed an auxiliary bishop, he was pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Baton Rouge, La. From 1991 to 2004 he was director of the Baton Rouge diocesan Office of Black Catholics.
Before his 10-year tenure as bishop of Houma-Thibodaux, Bishop Jacobs was head of the Diocese of Alexandria, La., from 1989 until 2003.
A native of Greenwood, Miss., he was ordained for the Lafayette Diocese June 6, 1964. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at The Catholic University of America in Washington.
He has been chairman of the U.S. bishops’ ad hoc Committee on Catholic Charismatic Renewal and has been a regular speaker at charismatic renewal conferences worldwide. He also has been a member of the bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations and a consultant to their Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions.
The Houma-Thibodaux Diocese covers 3,440 square miles in the state of Louisiana and has a total population of 202,000 people, with 96,719, or 48 percent of them, Catholic.
Contributing to this story was Janet Marcel, a staff writer at the Bayou Catholic, the monthly publication of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, La.