Pope Francis chooses Bishop Hicks to lead Joliet diocese

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Auxiliary Bishop Ronald Hicks, archdiocesan vicar general, meets with high school students Feb. 24, 2020, at St. Barnabas Church, 10134 S. Longwood Drive, to discuss the importance of the environmental stewardship. Pope Francis recently named Bishop Hicks as the new bishop of the Diocese of Joliet. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Auxiliary Bishop Ronald Hicks, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Chicago, was appointed by Pope Francis to be the sixth bishop of the neighboring Diocese of Joliet on July 17.

He is scheduled to be installed at the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus on Sept. 29.

Bishop Hicks said Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, called him early in the morning on July 1, just after Bishop Hicks had finished morning prayer.

“He said, ‘Congratulations, you’ve been appointed to be the new bishop of the Diocese of Joliet,” Bishop Hicks said. After Bishop Hicks said accepted and expressed his gratitude to Pope Francis, the nuncio asked if he knew where the Diocese of Joliet is.

“I laughed and told him yes, I do,” said Bishop Hicks, who will actually be closer to Tinley Park, where his parents live, than he is now.

Bishop Hicks, 52, has been the archdiocese’s vicar general since 2015 and was ordained as an auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese in 2018.

Cardinal Cupich offered his congratulations.

“We congratulate Bishop Hicks on his appointment to the Diocese of Joliet,” Cardinal Cupich said. “I will personally miss him as he has served as my vicar general these past six years with competence and distinction. The people of Joliet are getting a leader who is strong, loving and wise, and we look forward to working with him in the years ahead in the Illinois Catholic Conference.”

Bishop Hicks succeeds Bishop Emeritus R. Daniel Conlon, and Bishop Richard Pates, who has served as apostolic administrator on an interim basis since December 2019.

“The Diocese of Joliet is most grateful to Pope Francis for the appointment of Bishop Ronald Hicks as its sixth bishop,” said Bishop Pates. “The bishop owns a reputation for pastoral leadership and is totally committed to the ongoing renewal of the Catholic Church. He is a worthy successor to Bishop Conlon and his predecessors.”

Bishop Hicks said he accepted the appointment with confidence that the Holy Spirit would lead him.

“I had a sense of peace,” he said. “My heart is open. I’ve come to learn over the years that when we’re asked to do something for the church, it just might be the Holy Spirit whispering in our ears, and we should try to say yes instead of no.”

Bishop Hicks spent the day July 17 visiting various places and people in his new diocese, which covers six counties south and west of Chicago. It has about 655,000 Catholics served by 120 parishes and 55 schools.

“It seems to be a very vibrant diocese,” he said. “It’s diverse in geography and in people and places. There’s a real sense of faith there, and I picked up on a real sense of pride in their diocese and of their church. The people seemed very friendly and open. I’m more and more excited to get to know them and for them to get to know me also.”

At the same time, Bishop Hicks said, he will miss living and ministering in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

He was born in Harvey and grew up in South Holland, attending St. Jude the Apostle School and then Quigley South Preparatory Seminary and Niles College Seminary.

After college, he took a year to further discern his vocation and to learn Spanish, spending that time volunteering at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos orphanage in Mexico.

When he returned, he enrolled at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary to continue studying for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1994.

He served as associate pastor at Our Lady of Mercy and at St. Elizabeth Seton, Orland Hills, before becoming dean of formation at St. Joseph College Seminary.

In 2005, Bishop Hicks received permission to move to El Salvador and return to Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, this time as regional director for the organization’s Central American homes. Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos cares for 3,300 orphans in nine countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

When his five-year term ended, he returned to serve as dean of formation at Mundelein, a post he held until he was appointed vicar general.

Bishop Hicks said he is keeping an open mind and heart as he prepares for his new ministry, and plans to listen and get to know his new diocese before setting any priorities.

“I’ve learned from time in ministry that whatever challenges are there will rise to the surface really quickly,” he said.


  • bishops
  • bishop ronald hicks

Related Articles