The College of Consultors of the Catholic Diocese of Marquette has elected Father Francis Dobrzenski of Lake Linden to serve as diocesan administrator until Pope Francis appoints a new bishop or apostolic administrator to the diocese.
In a press release from Loreene Zeno Koskey, Director of Communications for the Diocese, the College of Consultors was required by Canon (Church) Law to meet within eight days of the diocesan see being vacant, which occurred when Archbishop Alexander Sample was installed as Archbishop of Portland in Oregon on April 2.
The members of the College of Consultors, who met on April 8, are Fr. Corey Litzner of Stephenson, Fr. Larry Van Damme of Marquette, Msgr. Ronald Browne of Marquette, Msgr.Michael Steber of Marquette, Fr. Michael Woempner of Kingsford and Fr. Dobrzenski.
When a diocesan bishop dies, retires or is transferred, the college is responsible for governing the diocese, if there is no auxiliary bishop, and elects a diocesan administrator from among the priests in that diocese.
In addition to serving as diocesan administrator, Fr. Dobrzenski will continue in his ministry as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Lake Linden.
Shortly after being elected to the diocesan post, Fr. Dobrzenski said, “I’m a little bit overwhelmed but grateful that it will be of short duration. I would trust that the diocesan offices will operate as they usually do, and I would do most of the checking in by phone. We have a superlative presbyterate (body of priests) and a competent diocesan staff, and that’s going to make the job easy.”
According to Canon Law, a diocesan administrator has the obligations and power of a diocesan bishop, except for those that are excluded by their nature or by the law itself. Some of the administrator’s acts require the consent of the College of Consultors.
Canon Law further states that the diocesan administrator’s function is to maintain the status quo until the new bishop takes possession of the diocese. No innovations are to be implemented.
The qualifications for a diocesan administrator include being a priest who has completed 35 years of age and is outstanding in doctrine and prudence. As administrator, the priest must reside in the diocese.
Father Dobrzenski, 63, was born in Stambaugh and ordained a priest on June 4, 1977 at St. Agnes Parish in Iron River by Bishop Charles Salatka. In the past, he has served in the following capacities: assistant pastor at St. Patrick, Escanaba; St. George, Bark River, for the Hannahville chapel; and St. Mary & St. Joseph, Iron Mountain; pastoral care at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Palmer; pastor of Sacred Heart, Ewen and St. Francis Xavier, Sidnaw; administrator of Holy Family, Ontonagon (briefly); pastor of Immaculate Conception, Watersmeet; St. Joseph & St. Patrick, Escanaba; and St. Cecilia, Hubbell.
Fr. Dobrzenski has studied Canon Law and has served as adjutant judicial vicar in the Diocesan Marriage Tribunal and as Dean of the Ironwood Deanery. In addition, he spent three years as the undergraduate spiritual director of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.
In pondering why he was selected to undertake this new responsibility, Fr. Dobrzenski recalled a passage from C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra, in which the character, Ransom, opines: “Don’t imagine I’ve been selected . . . because I’m anyone in particular. One never can see, or not till long afterwards, why any one was selected for any job. And when one does, it is usually some reason that leaves no room for vanity.”