by Anne-Marie Welsh

It is hard to comprehend what unfolds once a priest receives the call from the nuncio — the pope’s representative — telling him the Holy Father has appointed him to become a bishop and asking him if he accepts. Perhaps the word “tsunami” captures it. Suddenly, life for a bishop-elect becomes a jumble of everything from logistics and scheduling to a range of emotions and the rearrangement of priorities. All while he’s trying to wrap his head around the news.

Bishop-elect Edward M. Lohse, ordained a priest for the Diocese of Erie in 1988 and appointed vicar general, moderator of the curia and director of the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth in 2017, received the call on May 6. Looking at his phone and not recognizing the number, he decided it must be spam. Later that evening, he ignored another call from the same number.

“I thought, ‘Who keeps calling me from Washington, D.C., and not leaving a voice message?’” he said in retelling the story upon his return from the Diocese of Kalamazoo, Michigan, where the announcement that he would become their fifth bishop had been made.

The morning after he received the two calls, he offered Mass at St. Julia Parish, Erie, where he serves as pastor. Sure enough, he received a third call during the Mass. Deciding someone must actually be trying to contact him, he headed to the rectory to return the call. Before getting there, however, his phone buzzed with a text message from the same number.

“Monsignor Lohse, this is Archbishop Christophe Pierre, nuncio,” it read. “Please call.”

So when people ask about the call, the bishop-elect said, “Technically, I called the nuncio!”

During the first weekend Mass the bishop-elect offered at his parish once the news had become public, he acknowledged he was leaving with mixed emotions.

“You know how much I have loved being here,” he said, pausing to collect himself. “At the same time, I am excited for the new ministry.”

He then told parishioners about the advice he often gave during his time as vocations director for the diocese as well as in his work as a spiritual director for seminarians at the North American College in Rome, which he took on during his five-year assignment with the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy.

“I always told them, whenever the Lord calls, and whatever he asks, it doesn’t matter what it is, there is only one acceptable answer. It is always, ‘Yes,’” he said. “You might have to wrestle with it for a while. But God is patient. When he calls, it doesn’t matter how much it costs. The answer must always be, ‘Yes.’”

So there was never any question how Bishop-elect Lohse would respond to the assignment from the Holy Father, relayed to him through the apostolic nuncio.

“As a diocese, we rejoice at this honor for one of our fine priests,” Bishop Lawrence Persico said in a statement announcing the appointment. “It is a testament to the clergy of the Diocese of Erie. Although it is difficult to lose one of our priests, who has served with great faith, wisdom and hope, we rejoice with the church of Kalamazoo on their new shepherd.”

At the news conference in Kalamazoo, Bishop Paul Bradley said the diocese would welcome him “with open arms and hearts filled with joy. May he walk with us, teaching us and leading us in the ways of hope-filled disciples of our Risen Lord.