Bishop David P. Talley is greeted by members of the Missionaries of Charity following his installation Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Memphis, Tenn., April 2, 2019. Bishop Talley became the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Memphis. (CNS photo/Karen Pulfer)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (CNS) — Before presenting the papal letter of Bishop David P. Talley’s appointment to Memphis, Archbishop Christophe Pierre told him, “You are man of prayer who never ceases to intercede for his flock.”

“You will have your work cut out for you. We’re confident you will get things done,” the apostolic nuncio to the United States said during bishop’s installation April 2 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception as the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Memphis.


“The Holy Father has appointed you to shepherd this portion of the people of God, to be a true father and pastor, and bring them healing, unity and hope amid the storms of this world,” Archbishop Pierre said.

Over 1,000 people attended the invitation-only installation Mass. Besides Archbishop Pierre, other prelates in attendance included Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky; retired Bishop J. Terry Steib of Memphis, who headed the diocese from 1993 to 2016; and Cardinal Justin Rigali, retired archbishop of Philadelphia, who now resides in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The installation was broadcast live on the diocese’s website, Facebook page and YouTube channel.

During his homily, Bishop Talley referenced the first reading, from the Book of Ezekiel, Chapter 26, verses 24-28, from which he receives his episcopal motto, “He will give you a new heart.” He offered words of gratitude and encouraged the faithful in West Tennessee to be transformed by a new spirit and a new heart.

“He has claimed us as living branches, and we bear the fruits of his spirit,” Bishop Talley said. “When things seem difficult to face, let us remember the prophesy of Ezekiel, ‘I will bring about a new spirit, and I will wash you clean.’ The Lord has given us a new heart, the heart of his son, which implores us to be transformed into a body for one purpose: to love the Lord with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our strength, all of our mind and to love our neighbor, every neighbor, as we love ourselves.”

Pope Francis appointed Bishop Talley to Memphis March 5. He succeeds Bishop Martin D. Holley, who was directed by the pope to step down as bishop of Memphis. Archbishop Kurtz was serving as apostolic administrator until the new bishop’s installation.


At the time of his appointment, Bishop Talley, 68, was the head of the Diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana. He was named coadjutor of that diocese in 2016 and automatically succeeded Bishop Ronald P. Herzog when he retired in 2017.

Ordained a priest of the Atlanta Archdiocese in 1989, he served in various roles for the archdiocese over a 23-year period. He was ordained to the episcopacy as an auxiliary bishop for Atlanta in 2013.

During his April 2 installation, Archbishop Pierre referenced Memphis’ connection to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who is a personal hero of Bishop Talley.

Rev. King was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis April 4, 1968.

“Help the church in Memphis dream again,” Archbishop Pierre said. “Dr. King’s dream continues to inspire us all. The Holy Father has dreams of a bright future for Memphis.”

Bishop Talley visited the National Civil Rights Museum, which is located at the site of the Lorraine Motel, with friends and family April 3, the day following his installation.

“I wanted friends and family to be here with me today because these events changed my heart many years ago,” Bishop Talley said, referencing his entering the Catholic Church when he was 24. “The words of Jesus manifested through Dr. King. At the time when I was a young man I didn’t know how to react, but I know how now.”

The bishop was raised a Southern Baptist and decided to become a Catholic while he was a student at Auburn University in Alabama.

Bishop Talley will visit over 25 parishes over the next two months to visit the faithful throughout the Memphis Diocese, which encompasses 21 counties and over 61,000 Catholics.

“I’m overwhelmed with love and feel welcomed, and that leaves me with a full heart,” Bishop Talley said.


Simkanin writes for Faith West Tennessee, the magazine of the Diocese of Memphis.