WASHINGTON (OSV News) — Pope Francis has appointed Father Robert M. Pipta, who is a priest of Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix and a seminary rector in Pittsburgh, as bishop of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, Ohio.
Ordained in 1994, Bishop-designate Pipta, 56, has been rector of the Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Pittsburgh since 2014.
The appointment was publicized in Washington Aug. 31 by Msgr. Séamus P. Horgan, chargé d’affaires (ad interim) at the apostolic nunciature in Washington, in the temporary absence of Cardinal-designate Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Bishop-designate Pipta will be consecrated as the eparchy’s sixth bishop Nov. 8, which in the Eastern Catholic Church is the feast of St. Michael and all the Holy Incorporeal Powers.
As apostolic administrator of the Eparchy of Parma, Bishop Kurt R. Burnette of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, New Jersey, said it was “with the greatest joy” he announced the appointment of Parma’s new bishop to “the good people of the Eparchy of Parma, and to everyone in the Catholic Church.”
“During the past seven months (as apostolic administrator), I have come to know and admire and love the good people of the Eparchy of Parma, including clergy, religious, and lay people,” he said in a statement, adding that he feels affection for the eparchy and so is “very consoled to know that the Holy Father has chosen Father Pipta,” who he has known since 1990 “when he entered our seminary in Pittsburgh.”
“Father Pipta was born and raised in our Ruthenian Byzantine Church and has given his entire life to service for the Body of Christ in our Church since his priestly ordination on April 21, 1994. He is a man of humility, integrity, good humor, and absolute dedication to Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ,” Bishop Burnette said in a statement..
“I look forward to handing over the governance of the Eparchy to the new bishop, with confidence and peace of mind, knowing that he will be a good shepherd to his flock,” he said.
“May the Lord God grant to his high priestly servant Robert peace, health, and happiness for many blessed and fruitful years!” He closed his statement with “Mnohaja i blahaja l’ita.,” wishing the new bishop “many years of life.”
Ready to serve
“Giving thanks to God and in obedience to His will,” Bishop-designate Pipta said he accepted the pope’s appointment.
“Our Lord Jesus Christ called the apostles to be guiding shepherds by sharing His gospel of love, peace, healing, true freedom, and eternal life,” he said in a statement. “I ask for prayerful petitions that my response to this apostolic calling be faithful, fruitful, and steadfast. I open myself for the grace of episcopal ordination thus enabling my ministerial work alongside the clergy of the Parma Eparchy, my prayer, fasting, and repentance with its religious, and my God-loving service to its lay faithful.”
He said that as “the heartland of our Metropolitan Church,” the Parma Eparchy “exhibits its cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit in countless ways.” He noted that since it was established 50 years ago, the eparchy “has shown itself a leader in (a) return to authentic liturgical practice and has enhanced its parishes in the liturgical arts.”
He praised the eparchy for its evangelization efforts and outreach, “including guidance to assist college students in remaining connected to their Byzantine Catholic upbringing.”
“I’m eager to do my part for the increase of these and many other Spirit-guided endeavors,” the bishop-designate said, adding that he looks “forward to a fraternal and willing association with the Council of Hierarchs of the Byzantine-Ruthenian Metropolitan Church in the United States and its strong sense of unity with our mother Church in Europe and its cooperation with other American jurisdictions.”
He called it “a joy” to have served the Seminary of Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Pittsburgh for so many years, “with the support of its Board of Directors, the gifts and friendships of its staff, the talents and sacrifices of its faculty, the fervor and hope of its students, and the generosity of its benefactors.”
“It’s with a heavy heart that I take leave of the priestly duties I’ve been blessed to fulfill over these past years,” he added, but said that with the prayerful support of all those he has come to know during his presley service — along with “the love, goodness, and encouragement” of his parents, family and friends — “I move on to my new ministry with peace and in the name of the Lord,” Bishop-designate Pipta said.
Robert Mark Pipta was born April 7, 1967, in Anaheim, California. He attended public schools and then went to the University of California at Irvine, earning a bachelor’s degree in music in 1990. He was a member of Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church in Anaheim from shortly after its founding in 1969. He was an altar server at the church starting at age 6 and was a weekday cantor there during his college years.
He attended the Seminary of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Pittsburgh 1990-1994.
He was ordained to the priesthood April 21, 1994, for the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Van Nuys in California. The eparchy was moved to Arizona and canonically founded as the Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix Dec. 18, 2009, according to the eparchy’s website. The eparchy serves Byzantine Catholics living in the Western United States.
After his priestly ordination, then-Father Pipta served St. Stephen Byzantine Catholic ProCathedral (now Cathedral) in Phoenix as parochial vicar from May 1994 until August 1997. He then served as administrator of St. Gabriel the Archangel Byzantine Catholic Church in Las Vegas until February 2004. He was the pastor of Holy Angels Byzantine Catholic Church in San Diego until April 2014.
Since May 2014, he has been rector of the Byzantine Catholic seminary in Pittsburgh. He has served on the Intereparchial Liturgy and Music Commissions and was eparchial vocations director for over 19 years. Regarding his hobbies, he enjoys listening to, playing and singing various types of music, as well as studying up on the history and physics of manned space travel.
The Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma encompasses the geographical area of Ohio (except the eastern border counties), Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.