Alumni Spotlight—Bishop Sartain

Alumni Spotlight—Bishop Sartain May 25

On Tuesday, May 16, 2006, the Apostolic Nuncio announced the appointment of Bishop J. Peter Sartain (pronounced Sar’-tin) as the Fourth Bishop of Joliet, Illinois. The new Bishop, who was installed on June 27, 2006, joins a growing cadre of Sant’ Anselmo alumni who have taken leadership positions within the Church.

“I thorougly enjoyed the time I spent at Sant’ Anselmo,” Bishop Sartain said. “I found the academic programs were very fine, and the professors that I had encouraged us to study, not by their words but by their expectations.”

The Bishop added that he was “fortunate to attend Sant’ Anselmo when several giants of sacramental and liturgical theology” were on the faculty, including Cyprian Vagaggini, Adrian Nocent, and Basil Studer.

The academic programs were extraordinary, he added. “I worked very hard and I enjoyed the work a lot. I felt that I was treated as a colleague by the professors, who encouraged me to research and delve deeply into theology or other things that I found to be interesting.”
Because the academic programs were so good, and because research and learning were encouraged, he continued, “I came away with a desire to continue learning, which has remained to this day.”

Bishop Sartain added that he believes that Sant’ Anselmo plays a very important role in the life of the church. “Because Sant’ Anselmo has both the Liturgical Institute and the School of Theology, I think students who go there have a full sense of what the liturgy and theology is all about.”

He added that he learned how important it is to truly study the liturgical rites. “It is crucial to an understanding of Catholic Sacred Theology. Studying the rites and learning how to study the rites affects how I celebrate the rites and how I teach them, even now, as a bishop.”
“A good part of my education has been with Benedictines,” Bishop Sartain said. “And Benedictines have been a part of my ministry as well.”

While serving as bishop of Little Rock, Subiaco Abbey was nearby, the Bishop said. “And here in Joliet, we have both Marmion Abbey and Saint Bede Abbey nearby.

“The Benedictine background has been very influential in my life,” the Bishop added.
Bishop Sartain stops in to visit Sant’ Anselmo when he is in Rome, slipping unobtrusively into the chapel to pray before continuing with the tasks that brought him to Rome.

“Overall, Sant’ Anselmo was a good experience for me,” Bishop Sartain concluded. “I enjoyed every minute of it.”

Bishop Sartain was born on June 6, 1952 in Memphis, Tennessee. On July 15, 1978 he was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Memphis. He was appointed as Bishop of the Diocese of Little Rock on January 4, 2000 and was ordained on March 6, 2000.

In addition to his pastoral experience as a parochial vicar and as a pastor, Bishop Sartain also has considerable administrative experience, having served as Director of Vocations, Chancellor, Moderator of the Curia, Vicar for Clergy, and Vicar General. He has also been a chaplain, academic dean for the permanent diaconate formation program, and a member of the Advisory Council for the Institute for Priestly Formation.

He currently is a member of the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as the Chair of the USCCB Committee on the Home Missions.
Bishop Sartain attended St. Meinrad College in Indiana, studied at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas in Rome, and earned a licentiate of sacred theology from the Pontifical Athenaeum San Anselmo in Rome in 1979.