Bishop of the Diocese of Orlando (2004 – 2010)
Motto: All Things to All Men (I Corinthians 9:22)
Bishop Thomas G. Wenski, born in West Palm Beach on October 18, 1950 grew up in Lake Worth, Florida where he attended Catholic school at his home parish, Sacred Heart. He studied at St. John Vianney Minor Seminary in Miami and later at St. Vincent de Paul Major Seminary in Boynton Beach and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Miami on May 15, 1976. He earned a B.A. Degree in Philosophy (1972), and Masters of Divinity (1975), from the Boynton Beach Seminary and in 1993 a MA from the School of Sociology of Fordham University in New York. He has also taken summer courses at the Catholic University of Lublin (Poland).
He served three years as associate pastor of Corpus Christi Church, a mainly Hispanic parish in Miami. In 1979, after briefly ministering in Haiti, he was assigned to the newly established Haitian Apostolate of the Archdiocese. He was associate director and then director of the Pierre Toussaint Haitian Catholic Center in Miami from that time to his appointment as a Bishop in 1997. The Pierre Toussaint Haitian Catholic Center in addition to providing for the pastoral and spiritual needs of the Haitian communities of South Florida also provided numerous social, educational and legal services to newly arrived Haitian immigrants. He also served concurrently as pastor of three Haitian mission parishes in the Archdiocese—Notre-Dame d’Haiti in Miami, Divine Mercy in Fort Lauderdale, and St. Joseph in Pompano Beach.
Through the 1980’s he also conducted a circuit-riding ministry that led him to help establish Haitian Catholic communities from Homestead in the south to Fort Pierce to the north, Immokalee to the West and Fort Lauderdale to the east. In the early 1980’s his outreach to Haitians also extended to Wachula, Winter Haven, and Ruskin on Florida’s west coast.
He celebrated the weekly Mass in English for shut-ins at the Miami’s local ABC affiliate from 1992-1997.
He directed the Archdiocese of Miami Ministry to Non-Hispanic Ethnic Groups.
In January 1996, the then Father Wenski was appointed the Archdiocese Director of Catholic Charities, one of the largest Catholic social service agencies in the United States. In this capacity he helped forge a collaborative relationship with Caritas Cuba, the social service arm of the Catholic Church in Cuba. Since early 1996 he has traveled to Cuba on many occasions on behalf of the Church.
In late 1996, he spearheaded a relief operation that delivered over 150,000 pounds of food to Caritas Cuba for distribution to people left homeless by hurricane Lily. This was the first time that Cubans in Miami participated in a humanitarian relief effort directed to Cuba. In subsequent years, similar relief efforts were also directed to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the countries of Central America and Colombia.
Appointed auxiliary Bishop of Miami on June 24, 1997, he was ordained to the episcopacy on September 3, 1997 along with Bishop Gilberto Fernandez in the Miami Arena.
Besides his duties in the Archdiocese of Miami, where he served on numerous boards including Catholic Hospice, Catholic Charities, Catholic Charities Legal Services, and St. Thomas University, and later as Coadjutor Bishop and Ordinary of Orlando, he also served as chair of CLINIC (Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.) (1998-2001), chair of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops’ Committee on Migration (2001-2004); and chair of the conference’s Committee on International Policy (2004-2008) and currently he continues as a consultant to the Committee on Migration, and a member of the Conference’s Secretariat for the Church in Latin America , the committee for International Justice and Peace, and CLINIC (Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.). On behalf of his work on these committees, he has traveled to the Congo and the Great Lakes region of Africa, the Caribbean, and Central and South America as well as to Israel and the West Bank (Palestinian Authority).
He also served on a number of community and civic organizations, including Miami-Dade County’s Homeless Trust, the Coordinating Council of Broward and in 2001, Governor Bush appointed him to the Florida Council on Homelessness as well as the Governor’s Task Force on Haiti in 2004.
Pope John Paul II appointed Bishop Wenski as coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Orlando on July 1, 2003.
Bishop Wenski assumed the role of the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Orlando on November 13, 2004.
In March, 2005, he convoked the first-ever Diocesan Synod, ‘Starting Afresh from Christ.’
He established seven parishes and four missions in the Diocese of Orlando from 2004 – 2010. These include:
Corpus Christi Catholic Church, Celebration
Most Precious Blood Catholic Church, Oviedo
St. Faustina Catholic Church, Clermont
St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, Summerfield
St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church, Orlando
St. Philip Phan Van Minh Catholic Church, Orlando
St. Vincent de Paul, Wildwood (formerly a mission)
Centro Católico La Guadalupana Mission, Wildwood
Santo Toribio Romo Mission, Mascotte
San Pedro de Jesus Maldonado, Leesburg
San Juan Diego, Mulberry
During his episcopate in Orlando, two minor basilicas were designated: the Basilica of St. Paul, Daytona Beach in January, 2006 and the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, Orlando in August, 2009.
He established El Clarín and Buena Nueva FM, two communication ministries for the Hispanic people.
He emphasizes vocations to the priesthood and religious life and established a full-time director of vocations. Currently, there are twenty-five seminarians in the Diocese of Orlando.
In October 2007, Bishop Wenski was selected to serve on the Board of Directors of The Florida Specialty Crop Foundation, a non-profit public charity that responds to challenges that confront specialty crop producers and their stakeholders.
In March 2009, Bishop Wenski joined the Catholic Leadership Institute’s national advisory board for their “Good Leaders, Good Shepherds” program.
In June 2009, Bishop Wenski was elected to a four-year term on the Board of Trustees of The Catholic University of America.
On April 20th, 2010 Pope Benedict XVI appointed him the fourth Archbishop of Miami and Metropolitan of the Province of Miami (which includes the seven dioceses of the State of Florida).
He was installed as Archbishop in Miami on June 1, 2010.
In addition to English, Bishop Wenski speaks Haitian Creole and Spanish fluently and preaches and celebrates Mass regularly in both languages. He learned Spanish while still a seminarian and worked with various Spanish speaking groups including Cubans, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans during his seminary training and early years as a priest. He also has a limited knowledge of Polish, the language of his immigrant father and Polish American mother. His parents moved to Florida from Detroit, Michigan shortly after their wedding in 1947. They are both deceased. His sister and niece live in Lake Worth. He is the only Florida native serving as a bishop in the state.