Pope Benedict XVI has today appointed a senior Cheshire priest as the eighth Bishop of Portsmouth.
Monsignor Philip Egan, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Shrewsbury, will succeed the Rt. Rev. Crispian Hollis, who is stepping down having reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 years in November 2010.
Bishop-elect Egan, 56, who was born in Altrincham, will be ordained Bishop of Portsmouth at a ceremony in the Cathedral Church of St John the Evangelist in Portsmouth on 24th September 2012.
A philosopher and a theologian, Bishop-elect Egan (pictured on the right of Father Jonathan Mitchell, vocations director) was made Vicar General, the second highest position in his diocese, by the Rt Rev. Mark Davies, the Bishop of Shrewsbury, in 2010.
Since then he has helped Bishop Davies to formulate and implement his policies on the New Evangelisation, in accordance with the wishes of the Holy Father.
As the episcopal vicar for the diocesan Department for the New Evangelisation, Bishop-elect Egan has overseen the relaunch of the Shrewsbury Catholic Voice as a glossy quarterly magazine and also the re-launch of the diocesan website to utilise new media to full effect in the service of the Church.
He has brought together lay people from many cultural sectors of society and has just completed a programme of preaching and catechesis to present the teaching of the four parts of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for the forthcoming Year of Faith.
Bishop-elect Egan said: “It is with trepidation and yet with profound trust in the loving mercy of the Sacred Heart of Christ, that I accept the Holy Father’s appointment as the new Bishop of Portsmouth, in succession to dear Bishop Crispian.
“I look forward with joy to working with my fellow priests and with all who minister in parishes, schools and other contexts, caring for the people of God. May we all together be in the closest communion of heart and mind with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, and faithful to his call to New Evangelisation.
“The ministry of the bishop, as the chief shepherd, priest and teacher of the flock entrusted to him, involves carrying the Lord’s Cross in a particular way. So as I begin this ministry and look to the years ahead, I sincerely ask you for your prayers, together with those of our brothers and sisters in the other Christian communities and indeed of every person of faith and goodwill.
“May Mary, Queen conceived without original sin, and St Edmund of Abingdon, obtain for us a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that all may come to know, serve and love Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Davies welcomed the appointment. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, has called a faithful and gifted priest in Monsignor Philip Egan to become the next Bishop of Portsmouth,” he said.
“In Monsignor Egan the Portsmouth diocese will find a great teacher of the faith and a bishop deeply committed to the New Evangelisation.
“It is with sadness that I say farewell with the Shrewsbury diocese to Monsignor Egan as Vicar General but it is with joy that I look forward to welcoming him as the new Bishop of Portsmouth. ”
Bishop Hollis (pictured) praised Bishop-elect Egan as an “able administrator” and “an excellent parish priest in the bread-and-butter world of parochial ministry”.
“He will be made very welcome by the clergy and people of the diocese and everyone is looking forward to working with him in the proclaiming and living of the Gospel,” Bishop Hollis said.
Educated at St Ambrose College, and a graduate of University of London (King’s College), the Bishop-elect undertook his formation for the priesthood at Allen Hall, London, and the Venerable English College, Rome, and was awarded his Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) from the Pontifical Gregorian University. Subsequently, he gained a doctorate in theology (PhD) from the University of Birmingham.
He was ordained to the sacred priesthood in August 1984 and served as an assistant priest at St Anthony’s, Woodhouse Park (1985-8), Wythenshawe, Manchester, before becoming assistant chaplain at Fisher House to the University of Cambridge (1988-91).
He was appointed chaplain to Arrowe Park Hospital, Wirral (1991-4), before completing further studies at Boston College, Massachusetts.
For 12 years, he was on the formation staff of St Mary’s College, Oscott, the major seminary in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, where he was the College’s Dean of Studies and Professor of Fundamental Theology.
He returned to Boston College as a post-doctoral research fellow of the Lonergan Institute in 2007, before being appointed parish priest of Our Lady and St Christopher’s, Romiley, near Stockport, in 2008. In 2010 he was appointed Vicar General of the Diocese of Shrewsbury and in 2011 a Prelate of Honour to his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and in 2012 a Canon of Shrewsbury Cathedral.
Bishop-elect Egan is frequently asked to speak at theological symposia and at catechetical gatherings and he has regularly contributed to religious journals and magazines.
He is has written about the thought of Blessed John Henry Newman and Father Bernard Lonergan, the Canadian Jesuit theologian giant of the 20th century, and recently published Philosophy and Catholic Theology: A Primer (Collegeville, 2009).
Photos by Philip Chidell (top) and Marcin Mazur