The announcement that Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Myron Cotta to be the new shepherd of the Diocese of Stockton is “exciting” news to Catholics in the area, especially those in the large Portuguese community.
“I am so excited. He has presided at many of our Portuguese festas, and I have spoken to him many times,” was the reaction of Sierra High School teacher Mary del Pino upon hearing the news on Tuesday.
Her enthusiastic reaction was mirrored by parishioners who were at the 9 a.m. Mass Tuesday, and by others who read the official announcement posted by the diocese on its Facebook page.
Cotta, who is currently the Auxiliary Bishop in the Diocese of Sacramento, was born of Portuguese heritage in the Merced County of Dos Palos. He succeeds Bishop Stephen Blaire who is retiring under a church mandate upon reaching the age of 75.
The appointment of the new bishop particularly strikes a positive chord among members of the St. Anthony of Padua Parish. As del Pino pointed out, “We needed some good news, with all that our parish has been through (the last four months) — losing Father Jairo (Ramirez), Father Chad’s dad, then losing (parochial vicar) Father Dante (Dammay) to Stockton,” among others.
Father Jairo, a popular priest among St. Anthony’s Hispanic community, died suddenly in October 2017 when he collapsed while attending a function at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Modesto.
The following month, St. Anthony of Padua parishioners grieved with their pastor, Father Chad Wahl, when his father passed away after a short illness. And just last week, Father Dante, who was also a popular priest especially to the area’s large Filipino community, was transferred to St. George Parish in Stockton after serving St. Anthony for 12 years.
There is another reason del Pino’s family is especially happy to welcome Bishop Cotta to the Stockton Diocese.
“He is also a friend of my brother Frank, who lives in Fresno, as he (the new bishop) is originally from Dos Palos and my brother lived in Firebaugh for many years, nearby,” she said. “You will like Bishop Cotta, a very humble and deserving man..., and a great homily giver.”
She added, “Our prayer that we have prayed every Sunday has been answered.”
Born of Portuguese heritage in the Merced County community of Dos Palos on March 21, 1953, Bishop Cotta is a native son of the Central Valley and knows the area very well. Likewise, he is well known for his pastoral leadership. He served as Vicar General in the Diocese of Fresno where he was a priest and most recently served as Auxiliary Bishop in the Diocese of Sacramento.
According to the official announcement from the Diocese of Stockton, Bishop Blaire “submitted his resignation to the Holy Father when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 on December 2, 2016.”
The diocese also announced that Bishop Cotta will be installed as the sixth bishop of the diocese on Thursday, March 15, 2018. Until that day, Bishop Blaire will serve as the Apostolic Administrator of the diocese.
The Diocese of Stockton covers six counties — San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Calaveras, Tuolumne Mono, and Alpine — an area that covers more than 10,000 square miles. Church members are a diverse group of more than 300,000 people of many races and cultures.