After spending the past seven years as bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Marquette, the Most Reverend Alexander K. Sample is heading back west. Today the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI has appointed him archbishop of Portland in Oregon.
Archbishop-Designate Sample, who was born Nov. 7, 1960 in Kalispell, Montana and graduated from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1978, will be installed as Archbishop of Portland on April 2, 2013. He will succeed Archbishop John Vlazny, who turned 75 years old, the canonical age of retirement for bishops, on Feb. 2, 2012.
In a prepared statement to the Church in the Diocese of Marquette, Archbishop-Designate Sample stated, “Even as there is excitement and joy at taking up this new challenge that God has placed before me, I would be less than honest if I did not say that I will leave the Church in the U.P. with a certain heaviness of heart. I will profoundly miss the people, the clergy and religious of the diocese. I will miss my brother priests in a special way, since I was chosen from among them to be their bishop.
“I have always tried to be obedient to the will of God and to accept whatever the Church asks of me to be God’s will. It is in this spirit that I have said ‘yes’ to the Holy Father’s request for me to serve the Church in a new place in western Oregon. I ask the prayers of all the clergy, religious and faithful of the Diocese of Marquette. They will always be in my heart and prayers. Venerable Frederic Baraga, pray for us!” he wrote.
Archbishop-Designate Sample will remain as administrator of the Diocese of Marquette until his installation in Portland. At that time, the Diocesan College of Consultors will select a new diocesan administrator who will serve the Diocese of Marquette until a new bishop or an apostolic administrator is named by the Pope.
After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in metallurgical engineering from Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Archbishop-Designate Sample completed studies in philosophy at the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. in 1986. He then entered the Pontifical College Josephinum Seminary in Columbus, Ohio to study for the priesthood for the Diocese of Marquette. He was ordained a priest on June 1, 1990 at St. Peter Cathedral in Marquette by Bishop Mark F. Schmitt.
His first appointment was as associate pastor of St. Peter Cathedral in Marquette. He then served as pastor of the parishes of St. George in Bark River, Sacred Heart in Schaffer and St. Michael in Perronville before heading to Rome where he earned a licentiate in canon (church) law in 1996.
When he returned to the Diocese of Marquette, Archbishop-Designate Sample spent the next 10 years in the diocesan offices serving in various positions including chancellor, director of ministry and priest personnel, executive director of the Bishop Baraga Association and member of the College of Consultors. During that same time period, he also served as canonical pastor of St. Christopher Parish in Marquette.
He was ordained Bishop of Marquette on January 25, 2006 at St. Peter Cathedral. At 45 years old, he was the youngest bishop in the United States at the time. In addition, his ordination as bishop was the first to take place in the Diocese of Marquette in over 100 years.
The Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon covers the western part of the state from the summit of the Cascades to the Pacific Ocean. It contains 29,717 square miles, which is almost twice as many as the Diocese of Marquette. Numbering 415,725, Catholics in the Archdiocese of Portland comprise 12% of the total population. The archdiocese has 124 parishes, 22 missions, 40 elementary schools, 10 high schools, two colleges and universities, one diocesan seminary, and 10 hospitals. There are also 150 diocesan priests, 144 religious priests, 388 women religious, 78 brothers, and 79 permanent deacons in the archdiocese.