Salina — One day following the 19th anniversary of his ordination as a priest, Msgr. Gerald “Jerry” Vincke was introduced as the newly appointed bishop of the Salina Diocese. “I want to thank the Holy Father for his confidence in me,” Bishop-elect Vincke, 53, said during the June 13 press conference.
Born outside of Saginaw, Mich., Bishop-elect Vincke was the ninth of the 10 children of Fidelis and the late Henry Vincke. “My dad worked for General Motors, Buick and was also a small time farmer,” Bishop-elect Vincke said. “I used to get up and milk the cows early in the morning. We owned about 130 acres, but we farmed about 500, which is really small.”
He compared his family’s farm to that of Father Kevin Weber’s family’s operation. “He was talking about his family farming 4,800 acres. It’s mind-boggling to me how big the scale is here for farmers,” he said, but added, “I’m looking forward to getting on one of these big combine one of these days.”
The most substantial difference between the dioceses is geography. The Diocese of Lansing, Mich, has about 6,200 square miles, compared to the Salina Diocese’s 26,685 square miles. “There’s a big, big difference,” Bishop-elect Vincke said. “It’s going to be a lot of miles they say, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Ordained June 12, 1999, at at St. Mary Cathedral in Lansing, Mich. by Bishop Carl F. Mengeling, Bishop-elect Vincke was pastor at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Ann Arbor, Mich., from 1999-2001, before being asked by his bishop to start a retreat house for youth. “It was very hard in many ways,” he said of beginning Bethany House. “When you go to a parish you love — to rely on the Lord and the Lord’s will for my life.”
Yet the core of his life and philosophy is simple. “I love to pray and I love to work,” he said. “I’m ready to get going, to get started here as soon as possible.” He paused. “Work and pray. It sounds like I should be a Benedictine instead,” he quipped, “but the Lord called me to the diocesan priesthood.”
Following Bethany House retreat center from 2001-04, Bishop-elect Vincke became the Director of Seminarians and Vocation Director in 2003 for the diocese of Lansing, Mich. He then became the Spiritual Director at the Pontifical North American College in Rome from 2010 to 2015. It was during those years in Rome that he completed his License in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.).
The focus of his studies included St. John Vianney and Evangelii Guadium by Pope Francis. “The No. 1 thing for him was his pastoral charity,” Bishop-elect Vincke said of St. John Vianney. “His whole desire to give his life for his people. I think that was really beautiful reading about him. He used to go visit farms and get to know the families. He made himself available to the people. I think that’s a beautiful lesson. He gave everything he had for the people.”
He reflected on three main lessons during his priesthood. “Prayer has to be the number one priority for priests,” he said. “That’s the No. 1 pastoral priority. The second is to listen — listen to the people always. The third thing I think to focus on right now is evangelization, really why does the Church exist? The Church exists to be a missionary Church. To be disciples to make disciples of the people. That’s what I have a heart for — to make disciples of the people.”
He referenced a multi-million dollar expansion project at his current parish, Holy Family Parish in Grand Blanc, Mich., a suburb of Flint. “That’s exciting,” Bishop-elect Vincke said of the project. “But to me, when people come to the faith, that excites me. That’s why we do what we do.”
Another aspect of the Salina Diocese that excited Bishop-elect Vincke is the youth, both the Catholic schools and the vibrant youth ministry. “I’m anxious to go there and play basketball with the kids, go to Friday night games,” he said of the 11 Elementary Schools and five high schools.
The Salina Diocese sends one of the largest contingents to the National Catholic Youth Conference. Bishop-elect Vincke said he hopes to attend, as well as be involved with the youth on an ongoing basis. “I hope can get together with them for questions and answers,” he said. “The youth always seem to enjoy a sit-down. They have lots of questions.”
Bishop Weisenburger, the 11th bishop of the Salina Diocese, said he is “overjoyed” to learn of the new appointment. “Bishop-elect Vincke will soon discover that he has been led to a vibrant diocese with a strong and healthy presbyterate and a Catholic lay faithful strong in their commitment to Christ and his Church,” Weisenburger said. “My prayers are with him today, along with prayerful gratitude to God for sending the good people of Salina a loving and faithful new shepherd.” Bishop Weisenburger was installed on Nov. 29 as the bishop of the Diocese of Tucson, Ariz.
Bishop-elect Vincke was born July 9, 1964. His family includes six brothers and three sisters. He attended New Lothrop High School and Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., where he obtained a degree in public relations and marketing. He considers himself a “later” vocation because he was ordained after he turned 30 years old. While someone suggested he explore the seminary during high school, it was not a priority at the time.
“The first time somebody mentioned the priesthood to me, I was a senior in high school and I was walking out of Church with my girlfriend,” Bishop-elect Vincke said. “A priest said ‘Have you ever thought of being a priest?’ and I said ‘No.’ ” The second time he was nudged about a priestly vocation was when he was the editor-in-chief of his college newspaper. “I ended up interviewing the parish priest at the college campus,” Bishop-elect Vincke said. “I asked him a question and he looked at me and said ‘Have you ever thought about being a priest?’ ”
Because of his sports enthusiasm, he interned for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team in their front office. Even though he was following his passion, there was a slight interior nudge. “It felt like there was something more God wanted me to do,” he said. “I liked sports, but I felt God was calling me to something different.”
He completed his Philosophy studies at St. Thomas More College in Crestview, Ky., and his Theology studies at Athenaeum Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio and Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, Mich.
As he looks to the future, Bishop-elect Vincke said he is excited to get to know the presbyterate. “I know the western part [of Kansas], I’m looking forward to going out there and meeting all the priests,” he said. “Many have more than one parish. To me, making the time to be present to them … that’s what I hope to do.”
Bishop Earl Boyea, Bishop of Diocese of Lansing, Mich., said his diocese is honored one of their priests was selected to be a bishop. “The priests of our diocese as well as myself will deeply miss our brother priest as he moves into this new ministry,” he said. “The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has honored not only Msgr. Vincke but our diocese with this appointment.
“We offer to Pope Francis our love and gratitude. Certainly, the good people of Holy Family Parish in Grand Blanc, Michigan, will also miss their pastor since they recognize in him the very gifts which the Holy See finds will provide loving leadership to the Diocese of Salina. He is a fine priest, a man of deep faith in Jesus Christ, and a gentle soul. Our loss is most sincerely their gain.”
Ordination and installation will take place at 2:00pm on August 22, 2018 at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Seating will be limited and by invitation only.