History of Bishops


First Bishop of Pueblo

The first bishop of Pueblo, Bishop Joseph C. Willging, formerly the Vicar General of the Diocese of Helena, Montana, was installed at Sacred Heart Cathedral on March 12, 1942.  He served the Diocese for seventeen years and was known as a "gifted organizer."  During his episcopate the number of parishes increased from approximately thirty-nine to sixty and the number of priests increased from eighty-four to one hundred fifty-one.  He insured the parochial education of children by encouraging the establishment of Catholic schools, and by inviting catechetical and missionary Sisters to tend to the catechetical instruction of both children and adults.  Also during this period, the number of Catholic hospitals within the Diocese increased.  His era of administration benefited from the post-war economy and the enthusiasm of the newly organized Diocese.  Bishop Willging died suddenly in March 1959 of a heart attack.

Second Bishop of Pueblo

Installed at Sacred Heart Cathedral on October 6, 1959 was Bishop Charles A. Buswell, from Oklahoma.  Bishop Buswell served the Diocese of Pueblo for twenty years. His epoch of leadership was characterized by the changes he introduced after the Second Vatican Council, which began in 1962.  Present at all sessions of Vatican II, Bishop Buswell was inspired to affect positive liturgical change.  He encouraged personal participation among the laity in the celebration of the mass, and emphasized ecumenism and social justice.  Under his leadership, advisory boards comprised of both laity and clergy were formed.  Also, it was during this time that the Bishop's Diocesan Fund was established to help support diocesan programs (1967).  Perhaps more difficult than implementing the vast changes brought about by Vatican II, was the decision to close Pueblo's twelve parochial schools in 1971.  The action came after years of trying to find a financial solution to support the struggling school system. Although a difficult and controversial move, Bishop Buswell determined that if the Diocese could not provide Catholic education to everyone, it would not provide Catholic education to only the more financially fortunate.

Third Bishop of Pueblo

The third Bishop, Arthur N. Tafoya, from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe was installed on September 10, 1980.  Confronting the Bishop were the challenges of a declining population of registered Catholics, and a nationwide shortage of priests and vocations to religious life. To combat these and other obstacles, and to obtain feedback and participation from individual parishes, Bishop Tafoya initiated a goal setting process called Our Journey Together, 1985-1990, which resulted in the formulation of specific goals at the diocesan and parish level. This was followed by a second diocesan pastoral plan called, Sharing Our Gifts, 1993-1998.

Other accomplishments in Bishop Tafoya's episcopate include the establishment of the Catholic Diocese Foundation, Inc.  Established in 1995, the Foundation functions as a resource to ensure the support of a variety of diocesan parishes, schools and entities in their ministries.  In 1996, the Deaconate program was created providing formal training and support for individuals interested in serving their communities as deacons.  Bishop Tafoya advocated formal Lay Ministry Formation to train leadership among laity.  The Diocese also experienced a revitalization of Catholic education:  St. Therese Catholic School in Pueblo opened its doors to students offering parochial education joining St. Columba in Durango and Holy Family in Grand Junction.

Fourth Bishop of Pueblo

In the fall of 2009, Pope Benedict XVI announced that Fernando Isern, a priest of the Archdiocese of Miami would become the fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Pueblo.  Bishop Isern was ordained and installed on December 10, 2009.  Bishop Isern made significant contributions to the Church of Pueblo during is tenure. He initiated perpetual adoration at the Shrine of St. Therese and provided an outstanding example of faithfulness through his own habit of adoration. He oversaw the gradual expansion of pastoral and administrative services from the chancery staff to the priests and parishes of the diocese. Bishop Isern made pastoral visits to nearly all of the 53 parishes and 44 missions across 48,000 square miles of the diocese. He brought the fruit of his listening to the priests, deacons, staff and people of the parishes back to the Diocesan Pastoral Council. All these initiatives stand as a continuing legacy of his leadership. Pope Francis accepted Bishop Isern's resignation for health reasons on June 13, 2013.

Fifth Bishop of Pueblo

Bishop Stephen J. Berg, a native of Miles City, Montana and priest of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas was ordained and installed as the fifth Bishop of Pueblo on February 27, 2014.