Washington Auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout greets parishioners after a recent Mass at the Church of the Annunciation in Washington, where he is in residence.
Washington Auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout greets parishioners after a recent Mass at the Church of the Annunciation in Washington, where he is in residence. CS PHOTO BY MICHAEL HOYT
Washington Auxiliary Bishop-elect Barry Knestout's appointment had to be inspired by God, said Father Patrick Forman, the future bishop's former roommate at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg.

Father Forman said Bishop-elect Knestout, who currently serves as moderator of the curia and vicar for administration for the archdiocese's central offices, never sought the center of attention, and never expected to become a bishop.

There are "those movers and shakers who have plans and aspirations for big things in the Church, and that wasn't Barry's style," he said.

Father Forman said it made sense when Bishop-elect Knestout was asked to care for the late Washington Cardinal James Hickey before he died in 2004. But being called to work in the archdiocesan offices was a "bit of a surprise," especially because the future bishop would have made such an "excellent parish priest," he said.

"It is something inspired by God," he said. Father Forman told Bishop-elect Knestout, "It is a sign that it is not of your doing."

Father Forman and Bishop Knestout were both ordained priests in 1989. Father Forman now serves as a parish priest in the Diocese of Burlington, Vt.

Over the years, the future bishop served as a parish priest at St. Bartholomew in Bethesda and at St. Peter's in Waldorf, and later as the pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Silver Spring. He served as a priest secretary for 10 years for Cardinal Hickey, and later filled that same role with Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and headed the archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry. Bishop-elect Knestout served as secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns and then as archdiocesan vicar for administration and moderator of the curia.

The Vermont priest said one word that describes Bishop Knestout is "balanced," because he always makes time for prayer, exercise and visiting his family.

Jane Belford, the chancellor of the Archdiocese of Washington, said in a recent interview that Bishop-elect Knestout is well suited for his new responsibility. She said the new bishop is a "very kind, devoted priest," and a "caring" man who is also "unflappable, and a real hard worker. He's really devoted to serving the archdiocese."

Bishop William Lori, a former auxiliary bishop in Washington who is currently the bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport in Connecticut, worked closely with Bishop-elect Knestout for many years. Both served as priest secretaries to Cardinal Hickey and later as the moderator of the curia (chief of staff) for the Archdiocese of Washington. He said Bishop-elect Knestout is a man of "sound judgment, a great priest, and a great (future) bishop."

"There is no school on how to be a bishop," he said. But Bishop Knestout has worked with and seen the good example of many bishops, he added.

"Bishop Knestout knows how to do it, and he will know how to do it better and better on a day to day basis," he said.

Msgr. John Enzler, the pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Washington, said he worked with Bishop-elect Knestout with the youth at St. Bartholomew Parish, where the future bishop was an associate pastor; and later at Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac, where Msgr. Enzler was pastor. Both men led the archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry over the years. The priest said what impressed him most about Bishop-elect Knestout was "his kindness, his love for the priesthood (and) his great service to the Church."

Msgr. Enzler noted that both he and Bishop-elect Knestout are sons of deacons. Msgr. Enzler is one of 13 children and Bishop-elect Knestout is one of nine children. "In many ways, we have the same strong upbringing from our parents," he said.

Msgr. Michael Fisher, the archdiocesan secretary for ministerial life, said he finds Bishop-elect Knestout, "to be a very smart, kind priest." Msgr. Fisher said when he was considering becoming a priest, Bishop-elect Knestout was the first seminarian he met when he visited the seminary. "I just found him to be very kind. He kind of took me under his wing for the day," he said. The priest said he and Bishop-elect Knestout were then at Mount St. Mary's Seminary together in Emmitsburg, and Msgr. Fisher served as the deacon at Bishop-elect Knestout's ordination. "He's a wonderful priestly brother," Msgr. Fisher said.

Cathy Ellis, a parishioner of St. John the Evangelist in Silver Spring, said when Bishop-elect Knestout was a pastor at her parish he was always a "good listener and very thoughtful."

"He is completely centered on the Lord," and he "teaches with his actions as well as with his words," she said.

Chris Knudsen, who was a parishioner at St. Bartholomew Parish in Bethesda when the future bishop served as an associate pastor there from 1989-93, said Bishop-elect Knestout "fit right in" at their parish.

He "was well embraced and became a very important part of the parish," Knudsen said. He called his friend a "very kind and thoughtful person" as well as a "very holy, wonderful man." Knudsen also said Bishop-elect Knestout was fun to be around, and that his family stayed in touch with the Bishop-elect Knestout after he became priest secretary to the Cardinal Hickey. Knudsen's parents, Chuck and Claudia Knudsen, served as previous chairs of the Cardinal's Appeal.

About his friend becoming a bishop, Knudsen said, "He believes his vocation is a grace and a gift and therefore will approach this in a very humble, shepherdly way."

Knudsen said when Bishop-elect Knestout was the pastor at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Silver Spring, he was always trying to help the parish and the people, and he called him a "hardworking man."

Knudsen said once when he had the future bishop over to his house, Bishop-elect Knestout was kind enough to help his daughter with her Spanish.

Chris Knudsen's mother, Claudia Knudsen, has known Bishop-elect Knestout since he was a newly ordained priest at St. Bartholomew Parish. About the future bishop, Knudsen said, "He just loved the Lord and followed Him, (he did whatever) he was asked to do."

Tom Sullivan, a long-time supporter of the Archdiocese of Washington who served on the board of trustees for The Catholic University of America, said he met Bishop-elect Knestout through Cardinal Hickey, a close friend.

During the time he spent with Bishop-elect Knestout, Sullivan said he was impressed by his "love of the Church, and his love for his family." About the priest's appointment to become a bishop, Sullivan said, "it is well deserved. He is truly outstanding in humility, holiness and patience."