HARRISBURG -- A new bishop took over the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg on Wednesday.
It's a big day today for many Catholics in central Pennsylvania. Bishop Ronald Gainer is now officially the 11th Bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg. The Diocese of Harrisburg is made up of 15 counties including Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union Counties.
Bishop Gainer was born and raised in Pottsville and previously told Newswatch 16 he is proud to be a "coal cracker."
There were a lot of smiles as Bishop Ronald Gainer was installed at St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg becoming the 11th Bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg.
"My dear brothers and sisters in Christ," said Bishop Gainer to applause. "It feels very good to drop the title of bishop designate."
Bob Sullivan and his wife grew up with the new bishop in Pottsville.
"We went to grade school and high school with him. We've been friends for a long time," Bob Sullivan said.
It is a homecoming for Bishop Gainer who served as the Bishop of Lexington, Kentucky for the last 11 years and served the Diocese of Allentown for almost 30 years.
"While the song in my heart will once again be the Pennsylvania Polka," Bishop Gainer joked, "there will always be an echo of My Old Kentucky Home in my heart."
He will now oversee parishioners in 15 counties including Snyder, Union, Northumberland, Columbia and Montour. He was named by Pope Francis to take over the Diocese of Harrisburg following the death last May of Bishop Joseph McFadden.
Clergy from all over the country came to the installation, including Bishop Emeritus James Timlin and current Bishop Joseph Bambera of the Diocese of Scranton as well as local priests.
"I think he's going to be a bishop with a real shepherd's heart and someone who has a real zeal with the Holy Spirit," said Fr. Tim Marcoe of Benton.
Officials with the Diocese of Harrisburg say close to 1,000 people attended the installation, including many people from our area."
"I actually got chosen as being part of the diocese to be here to represent the Catholic campus ministry. All of us are really excited for this to happen," said Mike Walker of Bloomsburg.
"He brings a breath of beautiful air in terms of outreach, which we all have to do, so I'm looking forward to that," said Sabatini Monatesti of Berwick.
As Bishop Gainer left mass, he had a message for everyone outside.
"While this is a very special day for the catholic community, I welcome and I want to be a part of this whole local community and the 15 counties of our diocese. My heart is open to everyone."
Bishop Ronald Gainer said he is happy to be back in Pennsylvania and he looks forward to serving the people of the Diocese of Harrisburg.