Saying "one of my weaknesses is that I don't speak Spanish," Archbishop Charles J. Chaput on Tuesday announced the appointment of Monsignor Edward M. Deliman as the newest auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia, with a mission to serve its large Hispanic community.
Deliman, who is of Slovakian ancestry, committed himself to learning Spanish as a young priest and has devoted much of his 43-year career to urban and Hispanic ministry.
He will be formally consecrated a bishop Aug. 18 at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. Deliman will continue to serve as pastor of St. Charles Borromeo parish in Bensalem until his installation.
"To say I'm humbled does not truly express my feelings," Deliman, 69, told a news conference at archdiocesan offices. He said news of his appointment last week came as "a complete surprise."
"I don't know what you were thinking," Deliman joked to Chaput, but he thanked him for his "confidence and support."
Chaput said afterward that Deliman's name was one of three he had submitted to Rome as candidates for auxiliary bishop, and that he had "hoped to get someone focused on the Latino community."
The Congregation for Bishops at the Vatican chose Deliman from among Chaput's candidates. The appointment was officially made by Pope Francis at 6 a.m. Tuesday in Rome.
Deliman will become the fourth auxiliary bishop serving the approximately 1.4 million-member archdiocese, joining Bishops Timothy Senior, Michael Fitzgerald, and John McIntyre as senior advisers to the archbishop.
Auxiliary bishops typically also administer offices within a diocese, such as social services and the seminary.
Church officials estimate that there are 220,000 Hispanic Catholics in the five-county archdiocese, although many do not register with parishes. In 2013, the number of registered Hispanic Catholics was only 56,271. The estimated number of unregistered Hispanic Catholics in 2013 was 163,750.
Chaput said he was giving Deliman a fair amount of latitude "and about a year" to develop the duties of his new office, and said it was not even certain whether he would work out of the chancery in Center City.
He said that all seminarians at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary are now required to learn Spanish, and that many are also now introduced to Latin American culture during six- to eight-week programs in Peru.
Chaput said that he had been seeking the appointment of a Spanish-speaking auxiliary for some time, but that Francis' election to the papacy in 2013 "slowed that process down" administratively.
As for why he proposed a priest of European rather than Hispanic ancestry for the job, Chaput replied: "The church is color-blind about these things." He said he also "looked everywhere in the world" for suitable candidates before submitting names to the Vatican.
A native of Lorain, Ohio, Deliman is the son of the late Edward Deliman and 93-year-old Margaret R. Deliman, whom he described as "still gloriously reigning." His brothers, Michael and Francis Deliman, are married with four children between them. "They keep me grounded," he said.
Deliman's interest in serving the Latino community came soon after his ordination in 1973, he said, when the archdiocese invited clergy to study Spanish.
In his public remarks Tuesday, he apologized for what he said was his still imperfect Spanish and thanked members of the Hispanic community for their patience when he misspeaks.
"When I stumbled, you've smiled," he said.
Several women attending the news conference rose to congratulate Deliman on his appointment and said they had long prayed that he might one day become a bishop.
"God does answer prayers," said Ramona Vega, a member of St. Bartholomew's parish in the Northeast who often attends Spanish-language Mass at St. Charles. "I am overjoyed because it is very well-deserved," she told him.
Deliman admitted to feeling nervous from all the attention. "I look forward to working in the weeks and months ahead," he said, "while I figure out what all of this means."