The Bishops of the Diocese of Baker  


Bishop Liam Cary

Early Life and Family

Liam Cary was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1947, the first of John and Patricia Cary's four children.  In 1950 the family moved to Prineville, where John Cary took up the practice of dentistry and Liam attended Ochoco Grade School and Prineville Junior High School. 


He entered Mount Angel Seminary in 1961, graduating from high school there in 1965 and from college in 1969.  After a year of theology at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, California, in 1970 he took a leave of absence that lasted eighteen years.  In that time he spent three years in a Chicago legal aid office as a VISTA volunteer, studied Spanish for a summer in Mexico, worked at a farm-worker medical clinic in California, and painted houses in Portland and Eugene.  Involvement in parish ministry at St. Mary's in Eugene led him back to the seminary in 1988. 

Priestly Life

He was sent to the North American College in Rome, where he received a Licentiate in Moral Theology from the Gregorian University in 1992, the year he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon on September 5.  He served at St. Joseph's in Salem from 1992 to 1994, when he was named Vocations Director for the Archdiocese of Portland and chaplain to the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon in Beaverton.  He was sent to Medford in 1998 and served as pastor of
Sacred Heart Parish until July 2011, when he was appointed pastor of St. Mary's in Eugene.  Throughout his priesthood Bishop Cary has been involved in Hispanic ministry. 


Pope Benedict XVI named Father Cary, pastor of St. Mary Church in Eugene, Oregon, as Bishop of the Diocese of Baker on May 18, 2012

The Baker Diocese includes almost 67,000 square miles in Oregon and has a population of 526,760 people, of whom 34,375, or seven percent, are Catholic. There are 36 parishes and 23 missions in the Diocese of Baker.

El Papa Benedicto XVI ha nombrado al padre Cary de 64 años de edad, párroco de la Iglesia de Santa María en Eugene, Oregon, como obispo de la Diócesis de Baker. Padre Liam Cary nació en Portland, Oregon, en 1947, el primero de los cuatro hijos de Juan y Patricia Cary. En 1950 la familia se trasladó a Prineville, donde John Cary ejerció como dentista y Liam asistió a Ochoco escuela primaria y Prineville Junior High School. Entró en el Seminario Monte Ángel en 1961, donde termino la preparatoria en 1965 y se graduó de la universidad en 1969. Tras un año de teología en el Seminario de San Patricio en Menlo Park, California, en 1970 dejo el seminario por un lapso de dieciocho años. Durante ese tiempo pasó tres años en una oficina de ayuda legal de Chicago como voluntario de VISTA, estudió español durante un verano en México, trabajó en una clínica médica para los trabajadores agrícolas en California, y pintó casas en Portland y Eugene.
La participación en el ministerio en la  parroquial de Santa María, en Eugene le llevó de vuelta al seminario en 1988. Fue enviado al Colegio Norteamericano en Roma, donde recibió una Licenciatura en Teología Moral de la Universidad Gregoriana en 1992, año en que fue ordenado sacerdote, justo después de su cumpleaños número 45. Fue vicario en la parroquia de San José en Salem desde 1992 a 1994, cuando fue nombrado Director de Vocaciones de la Arquidiócesis de Portland y capellán de las religiosas Hermanas de María de Oregon, en Beaverton. Fue enviado a Medford en 1998 donde sirvió como párroco de la parroquia del Sagrado Corazón  hasta julio de 2011, cuando fue nombrado párroco de Santa María en Eugene. A través de su sacerdocio el Padre Cary ha estado involucrado en el ministerio hispano.

Most Reverend William S. Skylstad
Appointed Apostolic Administrator
of the Diocese of Baker
effective January 24, 2011 to May 18, 2012


Place of Birth:   Omak, Washington
Date of Birth:    March 2, 1934
Father:              Stephen Martin Skylstad
Mother:             Reneldes Elizabeth Danzl

Pontifical College Josephinum, Worthington, Ohio:  1948-1960
Washington State University, Pullman, Washington:  1960-1961
Gonzaga University, Spokane, Washington:  1962-1966

Assistant Pastor, Pullman, Washington 1960-1961
Teacher, Mater Cleri Seminary, Colbert, Washington 1960-1968
Rector, Mater Cleri Seminary, Colbert, Washington 1968-1974
Pastor, St. Joseph Parish, Colbert, Washington 1968-1974
Pastor, Assumption Parish, Spokane, Washington 1974-1976
Chancellor, Diocese of Spokane 1976-1977
Bishop, Diocese of Yakima 1977-1990
Bishop, Diocese of Spokane 1990-2010
Apostolic Administrator Diocese of Baker 2011
Former Episcopal Liaison for Worldwide Marriage Encounter

Priesthood:       May 21, 1960
     May 12, 1977

Vice President:  2001-2004
Former Chair:     USCCB Committee on the Permanent Diaconate
                               USCCB Committee on Social Development & World Peace - Domestic Policy
                           USCCB Ad Hoc Committee Bishops' Life & Ministry
                           Co-Chair Catholic-Methodist National Dialogue
Member:            Justice, Peace & Human Development - International Committee USCCB

Board member:  National Partnership for Religion and the Environment
Board member:  Catholic Relief Services Foundation

Most Reverend Robert Francis Vasa, D.D.

Bishop Robert F. Vasa
who served as Bishop of Baker
from January 26, 2000, to January 24, 2011

Robert F. Vasa was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, to Joe and Leona Vasa.  From 1972 to 1976, he studied at Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas, Texas, from where he obtained a Master of Divinity degree.  He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Glennon Patrick Flavin on May 22, 1976.  He then served as Assistant Pastor at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ and a Teacher at Pius X High School in Lincoln until 1977, when he became an advocate on the Diocesan Marriage Tribunal.  On August 1, 1979, he was sent to further his studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, earning a Licentiate of Canon Law in 1981.

Following his return to Nebraska, Reverend Vasa was named Assistant Chancellor for the Diocese of Lincoln, and a member of panel of judges of the Diocesan Tribunal.  On November 10, 1981, he was appointed Father Prior of Columbian Squires Circle in Lincoln.  In 1985 he became Judicial Vicar of the Diocesan Tribunal on May 20 and Pastor of St. James Church at Cortland on June 12.  On June 17, 1987, Reverend Vasa was appointed Vice-Chancellor, retaining his position as Judicial Vicar.  At this time, he was in residence at Good Counsel Retreat House in Waverly, Nebraska.  In addition to his duties as Judicial Vicar, he became Director of the Remodeling and Fund Drive for St. Stephen Church in Exter on September 20, 1988, and was in charge of St. Stephen Church from May 16, 1989 until June 14, 1989 due to the retirement of Msgr. Ingenborst.  On March 1, 1990, Reverend Vasa was made Temporary Administrator of St. Mary Church in David City and of Mission Assumption Church in Appleton.  He was then appointed Pastor of St. Peter Church at Lincoln in 1990, while continuing as Judicial Vicar for the Diocese.  On May 14, 1992, he was appointed Judicial Vicar of the Diocese for six more years, continuing as pastor of St. Peter Church.  On September 29, 1994, Reverend Vasa was named Chairman of the Central Committee for the 1996 Diocesan Synod for the Diocese of Lincoln and on November 28, 1995, he was raised to the rank of Honorary Prelate of His Holiness with the title of Monsignor from Pope John Paul II, this being conferred in liturgical rite on January 14, 1996.  On June 17, 1996, Msgr. Vasa was named Vicar General of the Diocese of Lincoln, and Moderator of the Curia, as well as Finance Officer for a term of five years continuing all other appointments.  He was in residence in Villa Regina Motherhouse.  On October 15, 1996, he was appointed Chairman of the Diocesan Building Commission and on and served as Administrator of St. Michael Church in Cheney with residence in Kealy Hall in Lincoln, again continuing previous assignments until June 14, 1999, when he was relived of Pastorate of St Michael Parish in Cheney.

On November 19, 1999, Msgr. Robert F. Vasa was named the fifth Bishop of Baker, Oregon, by Pope John Paul II.  He received his episcopal consecration on January 26, 2000, from Archbishop John George Vlazny, with Bishops Thomas Joseph Connolly and Fabian Bruskewitz serving as co-consecrators.  On January 24, 2011, Bishop Vasa was appointed Co-Adjutor of the diocese of Santa Rosa, California, and Bishop of the Diocese of Santa Rosa on June 30, 2011.

Most Reverend Thomas J. Connolly, D.D., JCD

Bishop Thomas Joseph Connolly
Fourth Bishop of Baker
originally from Nevada, moved the Chancery Offices from
Baker City to Bend in the mid-80s.
Unifier 1971 - 1999

Born 18 July 1922 in Tonopah, Nevada, to John and Katherine Connolly, Thomas Joseph Connolly studied for the priesthood in California, at St. Joseph College Seminary in Mountain View, and then at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park.  He was ordained for the Diocese of Reno by Bishop Thomas Kiley Gorman on 8 April 1947 at his home parish of St. Patrick's in Tonopah, Nevada. 

Father Connolly's first assignments were as assistant priest at the Cathedral of St. Thomas Aquinas and at Little Flower Church, as teacher at Bishop Manogue High School, and as chaplain to the Serra Club. 
He served as private secretary to Bishop Gorman in 1948 and 1949, when he was sent to study canon law at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.  There in 1951 he earned a Licentiate in Canon Law; the following year he was awarded a Doctorate from the Pontifical Lateran University of Rome.  Upon his return to the Diocese of Reno, Father Connolly served once again at the Cathedral of St. Thomas Aquinas, then at St. Joseph Church in Elko and at St. Albert the Great Church in Reno.  From 1968 to 1971 he was pastor of St. Teresa of Avila Church in Carson City.

Father Connolly was known as a good administrator, and when new buildings were erected by the labor of the parishioners, he worked as hard as all the rest of the men on construction projects.  Like the rugged pioneers that his parents were, Father Connolly enjoyed owning, riding and using horses for work and leisure throughout his life.  He was a man thoroughly at home out of doors.

On 4 May 1971 Pope Paul VI appointed Father Connolly the fourth Bishop of Baker.  He was ordained and installed as bishop at St. Frances De Sales Cathedral in Baker on 30 June 1971 by Archbishop Robert Dwyer, Archbishop of Portland, with Bishops Thomas Gorman and Michael Joseph Green as co-consecrators. Included in the overflow congregation were the Governors of Nevada and Oregon, 4 Archbishops, 18 Bishops, 135 priests, and more than 600 lay people and nuns.

Compared with Bishop Leipzig's era, the 70s were not to see extensive church construction in the Diocese.  Major building was replaced by renovation projects to bring the churches into compliance with the requisites of the liturgy and other renewal initiated by the Council.  Altars were turned around to make the Eucharist as a meal as well as a sacrifice more recognizable.  Confessionals were remodeled to allow face-to-face Reconciliation.  Interfaith Centers were created in a new spirit of openness to other Christian denominations.  Under his direction and that of Fr. Richard Groves, the DeSales Catholic Adult Education Video Program was produced and used in over 7,000 parishes in the country and internationally.  The program was rated the best Catholic Adult Program for 5 years.

In 1972, the Bishop established the Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) as an instrument through which the laity, religious and clergy on its seven committees exercised their ministry against the backdrop of his belief in the need for shared responsibility among all the Diocese.  After strengthening the education of parents requesting the Baptism of their children, mandating a three month preparation for marriage, encouraging evangelization and suggesting that every parish establish a Parish Council, the DPC focused its energies on the development of lay ministry.

From 1981 to 1993, church construction resumed, initiated by an extensive refurbishing of the Cathedral to bring it into accord with the liturgical directives of Vatican Council II.  Rededication ceremonies took place on 28 April 1981.  Seven new churches and halls were built within the Diocese. 

Deeply devoted to the promotion of family life and acutely conscious of youth as the future of the Church, Bishop Connolly began regular conferences and camps for young people from all parts of the diocese.  He welcomed his newly emerging Spanish-speaking flock by scheduling regular Masses in Spanish and initiating a program to assist undocumented immigrants to apply for citizenship.  He also testified on behalf of all the poor at the Legislature.

Bishop Connolly's warmth, humor, and sincerity made people throughout the Diocese feel close to him.  He went regularly to all the parishes, visiting the priests and people to encourage them in the faith.  He spent more time in his car than in his office tending his far-flung diocese.  His homilies were peppered with stories from the lives of people he met as well as from his own rich experience of life - from bucking hay for his horses to meeting with the Pope.  On 7 October 1987 he moved his horses, himself, and the diocesan Offices to Bend.  Upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75, the Bishop submitted his letter of resignation to Pope John Paul II in July 1997, but it was not accepted until 19 November 1999.

In retirement Bishop Connolly continued his priestly ministry by helping out in parishes as needed, giving retreats, and promoting religious education camps for children and adults.  In October 2007, in his last major celebration in the Baker Cathedral, he celebrated his 60th anniversary as a priest.  In 2011 Bishop Connolly moved to the memory care unit of Maryville Nursing Home in Beaverton where he received the devoted care of the Sisters of Saint Mary of Oregon until his death on 24 April 2015.

A man of prayer with great love for the Church, Bishop Connolly truly lived out his Episcopal motto throughout his tenure as Bishop of Baker:  "I am spent and will be spent for you." 



Most Reverend Francis P. Leipzig

Bishop Francis P. Leipzig
who served during the transitional
years of Vatican Council II.
Builder 1950 - 1971

Francis Peter Leipzig was born in Chilton, Wisconsin, the fourth child of Francis and Mary (née Cordy) Leipzig.  He enrolled at St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee, but later moved with his family to Portland, Oregon. He attended Mount Angel Seminary and then studied theology at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, California. He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Alexander Christie on April 17, 1920.  He served as a curate at St. James Church in McMinnville and afterwards at Good Shepherd Church in Sheridan. He was transferred to the Cathedral of Portland in 1921. He was pastor of St. Mary Church in Corvallis for seven years before being transferred to St. Mary Church in Eugene.

On July 18, 1950, Leipzig was appointed the third Bishop of Baker by Pope Pius XII. He received his episcopal consecration on the following September 12 from Archbishop Edward Daniel Howard, with Archbishop Edwin Vincent O'Hara and Bishop Edward Joseph Kelly serving as co-consecrators. Between 1962 and 1965, he attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council. During his 21-year-long tenure, he built over 95 churches, hospitals, schools, and convents. After reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75, he resigned as bishop on April 26, 1971.  Bishop Leipzig later died at age 85.

Within the first 15 years, he added 27 priests to his clerical staff so that in 1965, for a Catholic population of almost 25,000, or 9 percent of the Oregon population, there were 56 priests serving 63 parishes or missions.  By the end of his tenure, Bishop Leipzig had renovated the Cathedral Church and built 30 new churches, 11 rectories, a new chancery and other church-related facilities.  Among the Bishop's highest achievements was the establishment of a "Baker Diocese Edition" of the Catholic Sentinel in 1958.  The four-page supplement was in some cases subsidized for all parishioners by the parish.  Today subscriptions are purchased at the option of individual families.

During his service the Vietnam War was to encourage dissent throughout the nation and throughout the Diocese.  Priests began to resign from the priesthood or to transfer to other jurisdictions.  Men and women religious left their congregations even as new facilities for catechetical ministry were being built.  Gradually certified lay persons were trained and found their place in these positions.  Then came Vatican II with many its many changes which eventually produced divisions.  Those who favored "the fresh air" of the Council were on one side; those who clung to tradition, on the other.  As the building of churches wound down toward the end of his tenure, Bishop Leipzig made serious efforts to remain open to the signs of the times.  He became one of the first American bishops to establish a Priests Senate in his Diocese.  He encouraged the training of laity for various ministries now open to them.  And true to his own inner resolve to serve his people as the Body of Christ, he provided priests and services for the Hispanic Catholics who were settling in increasing numbers in Hood River, The Dalles and Hermiston along the Columbia River and in the parishes of Malheur County.

Bishop Leipzig retired in 1971 and spent his remaining years researching the history of the Church in the Northwest.  He died on January 17, 1981, in Portland.

Most Reverend Leo Fahey

Coadjutor Bishop Leo F. Fahey

who was designated to follow
Bishop McGrath, but died prematurely.


Leo Fabiano Fahey was born in Bay St. Louis, MS, on July 21, 1898.  He was ordained a priest May 29, 1926,  consecrated Bishop on May 26, 1948, and appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Baker City March 13, 1948.  Bishop Fahey spent his first year in Oregon touring the Diocese, never feeling completely in charge.  An illness in 1949 led to a premature death on April 1, 1950 at the age of 51.  Bishop McGrath outlived him, dying two weeks later.


Most Reverend Joseph F. McGrath

Bishop Joseph McGrath
who served during the recession and the
turbulent years of World War II

Educator 1918 - 1950

Joseph Francis McGrath was born in Kilmacow, County Kilkenny, in 1871 and made his theological studies at the Grande Seminaire in Montreal in Quebec, Canada.   He was ordained to the priesthood on December 21, 1895.  He served as a curate in the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, before doing missionary work among the Native Americans in Northern Michigan for two years.  He then went to Washington, where he served as a curate at the Cathedral of Seattle and afterwards as rector of St. Patrick's Church in Tacoma.

On December 21, 1918, McGrath was appointed the second Bishop of Baker City, Oregon, by Pope Benedict XV.   He received his episcopal consecration on March 25, 1919, from Bishop Edward John O'Dea, with Bishops Mathias Clement Lenihan and John Patrick Carroll serving as co-consecrators.  Scarcely two years after the Bishop's arrival in the Diocese, he consecrated the New St. Francis of Assisi in Bend, dedicating it to the patron of the Capuchins whom Bishop O'Reilly had invited to tend it.

In 1937 Bishop McGrath mandated the establishment of CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) in every parish and mission and personally visited each parish to formally bless its inauguration.  The program was so successful that other dioceses throughout the U.S. and Canada latched on to the CCD materials developed in Eastern Oregon, and many sought help and guidance from the Diocesan office.

He headed the diocese for thirty-one years, making him the longest-serving bishop in diocesan history.  In 1948 Bishop McGrath, now 77 and ailing, asked for assistance in the administration of the Diocese.  Many were stunned when capable Oregon clergy were by-passed and Fr. Leo Fabian Fahey from Mississippi was named Coadjutor.  Bishop McGrath died at age 79.


Most Reverend Charles O'Reilly

Bishop Charles O'Reilly,
our founding Bishop,
who was also responsible for building
the Cathedral of St Francis de Sales
Founder 1903-1918

Charles Joseph O'Reilly (January 4, 1862—February 4, 1923) was a Canadian-born Roman Catholic clergyman.  He was born in St. John, New Brunswick, and received his education at St. Joseph's College, Memramcook, and the Grand Seminary, Montreal.  He was ordained to the priesthood at Portland, Oregon, on June 29, 1890.   He was then named to the mission of Oswego and Tegardville, and was made rector of the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Portland, in February 1894.   

On June 25, 1903, O'Reilly was appointed the first Bishop of the newly-erected Diocese of Baker City by Pope Leo XIII.   The counties east of the Cascade Range were incorporated into this new Diocese of Baker City.   He received his episcopal consecration on the following August 25 from Archbishop Alexander Christie, with Bishops Alphonse Joseph Glorieux and Edward John O'Dea serving as co-consecrators.  Although by 1906 he had ordained the first priest for the Diocese and ordinations were to continue almost yearly, the Bishop invited Franciscan priests, Capuchins and Dominican sisters to perform needed ministries among his people. 

During the years immediately preceding his transfer in 1918 (for health reasons) to Lincoln, Nebraska, Bishop O'Reilly continued to build schools and hospitals.  He was named the third Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, on March 20, 1918.   Bishop O'Reilly died at age 63.

The History Project, University of California

Catholic Sentinel, 12/12/1997 and 2/25/2000.

A History of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars in the Western United States

Catholicity featuring Diocese of Baker and Bishop Charles O'Reilly


Most information on this page was taken from The Catholic Church of Eastern Oregon by Loretta Pastva, SND, published in 2003.

This beautiful hardcover book has 111 pages covering a 100 year history of the Diocese with colorful pictures of our
Bishops, Priests, Parishioners, Churches, and Missions.  It is truly a wealth of information for young and old.

This book may be purchased at the Diocese of Baker for $10 plus shipping.

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