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NEW YORK — The Rev. Steven Avella, a Roman Catholic priest in Milwaukee, said his counterparts in the Archdiocese of New York should soon expect a phone call from their new boss — Archbishop Timothy Dolan.
“He’ll start phoning guys right away,” said Avella, 57, a historian at Marquette University who served under Dolan during the archbishop’s seven years atop the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. “He’ll find out when their ordination anniversaries are, look after the older guys, go visit them. He’s a guy who’s close to his co-workers, who makes them feel they’re worth something.”
When Pope Benedict appointed Dolan, 59, as the new Archbishop of New York on Monday (Feb. 23), he placed a friendly face in the nation’s most prestigious Catholic pulpit, elevating a Midwesterner known for his pastoral touch to the upper echelons of the church hierarchy.
With 2.5 million Catholics stretching from Manhattan to the Catskill Mountains, the Archdiocese of New York is the second largest in the U.S., and its leader becomes, as the late Pope John Paul II once said, “archbishop of the capital of the world.”
Dolan will officially be installed April 15 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, according to the archdiocese.
“He will soon engender a lot of good will just by being who he is,” said Avella, recalling Friday fish fries and friendly embraces with the gregarious hands-on archbishop. “He’s a pastoral man who knows the teachings of the church, knows the rules, but his use of power is persuasive rather than coercive.”
In some ways, Dolan is a study in contrasts from his predecessor, Cardinal Edward Egan. Egan, who submitted his resignation upon turning 75 in April 2007, was known as an aloof administrator, more skilled at balancing budgets than boosting morale among his priests, a keen concern for a church in which ordinations are swiftly falling.
At a news conference on Monday in Manhattan, Dolan pledged “my love, my life, my heart” to “brother bishops, priests, religious women and men, seminarians, (and) committed Catholics of this wonderful Church.”
“I need so much your prayers and support,” Dolan said. “I am so honored, humbled, and happy to serve as your pastor.”
The Very Rev. David O’Connell, president of Catholic University in Washington, where Dolan earned a doctorate in church history, praised the archbishop’s “personal warmth, hearty laugh, and great sense of humor.”
“If the appointment of the archbishop of New York could ever be scripted, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan would truly be cast in the role,” O’Connell said.
But not all Catholics had such high praise for Dolan. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) says he did not do enough to remove abusive priests from ministry during his seven years in Milwaukee. Dolan entered office after it was revealed that his predecessor, Archbishop Rembert Weakland, paid $450,000 to a seminarian who accused him of sexual abuse.
As Dolan leaves Milwaukee, “the clergy sex abuse cover up crisis is not behind the Milwaukee church, but looms in front of it,” SNAP said in a statement.
Prior to his stint in Milwaukee, Dolan was an auxiliary bishop for one year in his native St. Louis, where he dreamed of the priesthood from a young age. As a seminarian, Dolan attended Rome’s prestigious Pontifical North American College, where he later served as rector from 1994 to 2001.
As rector, Dolan met and befriended both up-and-comers and the cream of the American Catholic hierarchy, said the Rev. John P. Wauck, professor of social communications at Rome’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.
“He’s a solid, orthodox, John Paul II bishop, extremely affable and engaging,” said Wauck. “Everybody seems to love him.”
Religion News Service
By Daniel Burke and Chris Herlinger
(Francis X. Rocca contributed reporting from Rome.)
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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