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The other day, I stumbled on yet another video of Cardinal Luis Tagle singing. The youthful, energetic, multi-talented Filipino, who is currently serving in the Vatican as Prefect for the Evangelization of Peoples, is well-known for his talent as a singer. It got me thinking — where are all the other musical bishops? Surely there are other talented Catholic prelates out there who can play guitar, rock a bass, play a mean drum solo, tickle the ivories?
Very few came to mind.
Google and YouTube searches were not much help. Apparently there’s a talented young American Idol contestant named Casey Bishop who is currently tearing up social media. Legendary musician Stephen Bishop (of Tootsie soundtrack fame) makes a dent in search results as well.
Dominating the search results, however, are a number of Black Protestant preachers who quite possibly earned their episcopal rank by winning talent contests. See, for example, Bishop Lester Love sing some Luther Vandross or Bishop Sedgwick Daniels sing “Feast of the Lord.” We Catholics simply cannot compare.
Sure, we have singing priests (and even rapping priests) but it almost seems like powerful pipes are an obstacle to episcopal ordination. Anyway, I reached out to my followers on Twitter looking to see if they could help me find some.
Over the next few posts, I’m going to go through the results of this episcopal “Star Search.” Today, we begin with some honorable mentions.
Bishop Joseph Cistone, USA
I was genuinely moved by this video of the late Bishop Joseph Cistone of Saginaw, Michigan, joyfully playing guitar and singing with schoolchildren of his diocese. I never met him, but I remember the news that he sadly lost his battle with cancer a couple of years ago. And here he is, demonstrating a pastor’s heart with his people. May he rest in peace.
Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle, Ghana
If you ever need a bishop to spice up a party, Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Cape Coast, Ghana, is your your go-to. He can dance, he seems to have a good sense of humor, and he can always be relied upon to bring down the house with Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” on karaoke night. Yes, he’s that guy.
Bishop Donald F. Hanchon, USA
Twitter user TJ Burdick chimed in, touting the “mean ukulele skills” of his uncle, Detroit auxiliary Bishop Donald F. Hanchon. I have to give him props. He’s been playing “This Little Light of Mine” during his homilies at Confirmations for years (I want to assume there‘s some ‘Light of the Holy Spirit’ imagery at work there). After a 2016 incident where he was driven from the pulpit during the song by the organist at Assumption Grotto, described by Church Militant as “Detroit’s most conservative parish,” he has not been deterred from attempting to inspire Michigan‘s soon-to-be-confirmed young people with this lighthearted ditty (including this time in 2019).
Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Nigeria
The last of our honorable mentions is Nigerian Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, who demonstrates a solid singing voice, decent range, and good rhythm at the age of 77. It’s entirely possible that he deserves a higher spot, but given his limited and supporting role in this video, he earns a spot among the honorable mentions.
Stay tuned for my next post, as we begin taking a look at the runners-up. Let me know your nominees in the comments!
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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.