Bishop David J. Malloy: Rockford Diocese Marks a Decade of Change

After 10 years of dedicated service, Bishop Malloy looks to the future with faith and devotion to his diocese.

Bishop David J. Malloy (right) meets parishoners across the wide territory of the Rockford Diocese. Here, he performs a special Mass for the elderly at Ascension Living St. Joseph Village in Freeport on World Day of the Sick, Feb. 11, 2014. (Observer/Rockford Diocese photo)

The Most Rev. David J. Malloy recently celebrated his 10th anniversary as Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Rockford.

A native of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Bishop Malloy was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI on March 20, 2012, to be the ninth bishop of the Rockford Diocese, which was established in 1908.

His predecessors, then-Bishop Thomas G. Doran and Bishop Emeritus Arthur J. O’Neill, were present during the press conference to announce the news and welcome Malloy to his new role.

With the realization and impact of so many people who desired to be present at this memorable occasion, the event warranted an alternative location to the bishop’s church, Cathedral of St. Peter in Rockford. Instead, the ordination and installation ceremony was held at the large BMO Harris Bank Center in downtown Rockford.

The late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago officiated at the ceremony where Malloy was ordained and installed as the ninth bishop of the diocese on May 14, 2012.

He was joined by more than 4,000 people including numerous archbishops, bishops, priests, deacons, religious leaders, public officials, lay Catholics, family and friends.

To honor his decade of serving the Rockford Diocese and more than 400,000 Catholics, Malloy marked his 10th anniversary publicly with the celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Rockford and with the Hispanic community at St. Joseph Parish in Aurora. He also celebrated with his brother priests with evening prayers and dinner, a Mass for permanent deacons and the Knights of Columbus, and Mass and lunch with diocesan employees, all who assist in the ministry of the bishop.

“In looking back at these 10 years, I have much gratitude to God, to the diocese, and to all of you, and also to this Cathedral, which is my church,” Malloy told worshippers at the Cathedral of St. Peter. He acknowledged the presence of his mother, Mary; brother Reverend Frank Malloy of Tampa, Fla.; and his other brother Dick with daughters Charlotte and Grace.

There have been many challenges and celebrations endured during Malloy’s tenure.

“We have seen the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he says. “But, I have also seen the joys of confirming many young people throughout the diocese and imparting the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Over the past decade, Malloy has touched the hearts of Catholics at all 105 parishes located within the 11 counties of northern Illinois that make up the Rockford Diocese. He is the leader of 144 active priests, plus retired priests, deacons, other religious men and women, and 11 seminarians seeking to enter the priesthood; over 80 staff members work at the Diocesan Administration Center in Rockford.

Malloy’s prayers and homilies are given with a direct, personal message pertaining to the purpose at hand, whether it’s a hallmark 150th anniversary of a church, the dedication of a newly designed prayer garden at a cemetery, or a school rally, retreat or graduation inspiring students.

Malloy has personally driven to celebrate Mass and attend hundreds of milestone events from the far northwest and southwest Chicago suburbs all the way to the Mississippi River; from the Wisconsin state line on the north to the southern borders of DeKalb, Kane, Lee and Whiteside counties.

How does one prepare to serve the people as a bishop? While there is no guidebook, only the personal experiences and journey of priesthood can chart the course.

He served as associate general secretary and then general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for 10 years and then became pastor of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Lake Geneva. His priestly assignments had also included several years of service with the Vatican Diplomatic Service including in Pakistan and Syria, and as secretary to the Permanent Observer Mission to the Holy See. He also served for 2.5 years in the Vatican’s prefecture of the Papal Household helping with the Great Jubilee Year of 2000.

He still is involved in high-profile leadership positions. Nationally, Malloy serves on the Finance Committee and Committee on International Justice and Peace for the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Locally, he serves on the board of the Catholic Conference of Illinois along with Cardinal Blase J. Cupich and the other four bishops in Illinois.

Malloy’s desire to personally serve and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ has led to many new programs and ministries.

He began a tradition of celebrating Mass on Christmas Day and Easter morning at the Winnebago County Jail and has heard confessions at the Dixon and Thomson Correctional Centers. He initiated an annual all-day Lenten sacrament of confession event. He reached out to young people by instituting an annual Youth Summit, and as part of that event took part in a “Carpool Karaoke” video that went viral. He supports marriage and family by celebrating an annual Silver and Gold Mass to honor and bless the 25-, 50- and 65-year marriages in the diocese.

Malloy has also made some tough decisions. He guided the diocese through a financial and legal challenge as the diocese sought to raze the former vacant chancery building and old convent on the campus of the Cathedral of St. Peter Parish to make way for public prayer space.

He oversaw the diocesan strategic plan for schools, which outlined objectives and goals to strengthen the schools and Catholic education throughout the 11-county region the diocese serves. The plan resulted in merging resources and schools to create new Catholic academies in three areas.

Perhaps his biggest challenge has come while guiding the diocese through COVID-19. Following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the Illinois governor, the Illinois Department of Health and 11 county health departments, the diocese’s ministries, parishes and schools found ways to continue to live the Catholic faith through livestreamed Masses and outdoor prayer activities. “Even as we suffer and worry, we are confident,” Malloy says.

An ongoing priority of the bishop is to engage the large ethnic communities within the diocese. Fluent in Spanish, Malloy celebrates the active culture and deep faith of the Hispanic population, which comprises half of all Catholics in this region. Malloy’s 10th Anniversary Mass in Aurora was filled with joyful music, song and a mariachi band.

He also joins the large Filipino community on many occasions, including the traditional Simbang Gabi nine-day Christmas Novena in December. He’s joined the Polish and Italian communities at their festivals within the diocese, too. Prayer, fellowship and food are always highlights.

When he was first appointed as bishop, Malloy’s goal was to get to know the diocese and its people. Now, he’s looking ahead to the next decade.

“The Bishops of the United States are undertaking a Eucharistic renewal over the next few years,” says Malloy. “That effort seeks to strengthen the faith of Catholics in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I would like to see the Diocese of Rockford undertake a renewal as well of the sacraments of confession, confirmation and marriage. The graces of these sacraments fill the daily life of the faithful.”