By Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON – Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, and named Auxiliary Bishop Myron J. Cotta of Sacramento, California, as his successor.
Bishop Blaire, a native of Los Angeles, has headed the Stockton Diocese since his 1999 appointment by Saint John Paul II. He submitted his resignation a year ago at 75, the age at which canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation to the pope.
Bishop Cotta, who will turn 65 March 21, was named an Auxiliary Bishop of the Sacramento Diocese by Pope Francis in 2014. A native of Dos Palos, California, the bishop speaks English, Portuguese and Spanish. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Fresno, California, in 1987.
The changes were announced in Washington January 23 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Bishop Cotta’s installation as the sixth bishop of Stockton will take place March 15 in the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Stockton. Until then Bishop Blaire will serve as apostolic administrator of the diocese.
“The Holy Father has made my life a little more difficult,” Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto said in a statement, but he was “still delighted” to announce the pope’s appointment of Bishop Cotta to succeed Bishop Blaire.
“The people of God in the Diocese of Stockton will receive a son of the Central Valley who has a pastor’s heart. He will be a blessing for the church of Stockton. We will miss him in Sacramento,” he added.
Bishop Soto also thanked Bishop Blaire “for being an exemplary pastor of souls during his many years of shepherding the people of God in Stockton. The whole state of California has benefited from his leadership. The Catholic bishops of California have enjoyed his fraternal support. I wish him well in his much-deserved retirement.”
Bishop Cotta said it was “humbling and an honor to be called by God to this ministry of service to the church, in particular to the Diocese of Stockton.”
“As I prepare to leave the Diocese of Sacramento, I thank God for the call to the episcopacy and for the many blessings that I have experienced over 30 years of ordained priesthood among God’s people within the Central Valley of California,” he said at a news conference in Stockton.
“I thank God for the opportunity to have served and shared the ministry of auxiliary bishop under Bishop Jaime Soto, along with the clergy, religious and laity of the Diocese of Sacramento,” he added.
Born March 21, 1953, Bishop Cotta attended Saint John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California, from 1980 to 1987, receiving a bachelor’s degree and master of divinity degree. His assignments after his September 12, 1987, ordination for Fresno, included as parochial vicar at Saint Anthony in Atwater (1987-1989); administrator of Our Lady of Fatima Shrine in Laton (1989-1992); and pastor of Our Lady of Miracles in Gustine (1994) as well as administrator at Holy Rosary Parish in Hilmar that same year.
Since 1996, he has served on the Fresno Diocese’s board of trustees, the priests’ retirement board and personnel board. Since 1999, he has been vicar general and moderator of the curia, and served in other capacities for the diocese including as vicar of clergy, director of continuing formation of the clergy, director of the Propagation of the Faith and supervisor of the safe environment program.
After the death of Fresno Bishop John T. Steinbock December 5, 2010, then-Monsignor Cotta was elected by the diocesan college of consultors to be administrator of the diocese. He served as administrator until February 1, 2012, when Bishop Armando X. Ochoa was named the head of the diocese.
On January 24, 2014, Pope Francis appointed Monsignor Cotta as an Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Sacramento.