Pope Francis appoints new bishop of Knoxville, Tenn.

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Father James M. Beckman
Pope Francis has appointed Father James M. Beckman, a priest of the Diocese of Nashville, Tenn., to be the bishop of Knoxville. Bishop-designate Beckman is pictured in an undated photo. The appointment was publicized in Washington May 7, 2024, by Cardinal Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. (OSV News photo/courtesy Diocese of Nashville)

WASHINGTON (OSV News) — Pope Francis has appointed Father James Mark Beckman, a priest of the Diocese of Nashville, Tennessee, to be the bishop of the Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee.

Bishop-designate Beckman, 61, is currently pastor of St. Henry Parish in Nashville. A Tennessee native, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1990.

The appointment was publicized in Washington on May 7 by Cardinal Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop-designate Beckman succeeds Bishop Richard F. Stika, who resigned on June 27 at age 65, 10 years earlier than bishops are required to submit their resignation to the pope.

In a statement sent to media when the pope accepted his resignation, Bishop Stika, who was the longest serving bishop in eastern Tennessee, said he has “been dealing with life-threatening health issues most of his adult life” including Type-1 diabetes since 1980.

New bishop for Knoxville

“I am blessed and honored to accept this appointment from the Holy Father,” Bishop-designate Beckman said in a statement released by the diocese. “I am a native Tennessean, and I am grateful that I can continue serving the Church and now the faithful of the Diocese of Knoxville in this region that I know well and love tremendously.”

After Bishop Stika’s resignation, Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre of Louisville, Kentucky, was named apostolic administrator of the Knoxville Diocese and will continue in that role until Bishop-designate Beckman’s episcopal ordination in late July, according to a diocesan news release.

The archbishop said in a statement that he has known the newly named bishop “for a long time. We were seminarians together at the Catholic University in Louvain, Belgium, many years ago. I believe in my heart that he will be a good shepherd for the faithful of the Diocese of Knoxville.”

Nashville Bishop J. Mark Spalding said in a statement, “While our own hearts are saddened by the departure of such a dear friend and collaborator in ministry, we are joyful for our brothers and sisters in our neighboring diocese who are receiving such a kind, faithful, and capable new shepherd.”

Background of Bishop-designate James M. Beckman

James Mark Beckman was born Oct. 19, 1962, in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, which is in the Diocese of Nashville. He attended Sacred Heart School and Lawrenceburg County High School and received a bachelor’s degree in history from St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa, in 1984. He also earned a master’s degree in religious studies from the Catholic University in Louvain, Belgium, in 1988.

He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Nashville by Bishop James D. Niedergeses July 13, 1990. He was associate pastor of Holy Rosary Parish in Nashville (1990-1991); a teacher and associate principal of Father Ryan High School in Nashville (1990-1996); pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Springfield and St. Michael Mission in Cedar Hill (1996-2002); and pastor of St. Matthew Parish in Franklin, (2002-2015). He was named pastor of St. Henry Parish in 2015.

Bishop-designate Beckman also has served as director of priest personnel for the Diocese of Nashville since 2018.

He is an avid hiker and said he plans to continue his passion for the outdoors while serving in the Diocese of Knoxville.

“Over the years, I have made many friends in the Diocese of Nashville, and I have much gratitude for the support they’ve given me. I look forward to nurturing the same meaningful relationships with the Catholic community in East Tennessee,” Bishop-designate Beckman said. “This is a wonderful diocese, and I am thrilled to be part of its future.”

The Diocese of Knoxville covers 14,242 square miles and has a Catholic population of just over 71,000 out of a total population of over 2.5 million.

OSV News

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