Priest who met three saints named auxiliary bishop of Seattle
Over the course of his life, Msgr. Mueggenborg has met St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta, as well as served Mass for Fr. Stanley Rother, the first recognized martyr to have been born in the United States.
The Vatican announced his appointment April 6. He will join Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, a fellow auxiliary bishop, under Archbishop of Seattle J. Peter Sartain.
Bishop-elect Mueggenborg, 55, was born in Okarche, Okla. on April 15, 1962. Growing up he participated in Boy Scouts of America, eventually receiving the Eagle Scout Award.
One early event in his life, which impacted him greatly, he said, was meeting Fr. Stanley Rother, a native of Oklahoma who was martyred while working as a missionary in Guatemala and will be beatified in Oklahoma City in September.
According to an auto-biography on the website of the parish where he serves, Christ the King in Tulsa, during his first year of college in 1981, Msgr. Mueggenborg was asked to serve at Mass for the anniversary celebration of an aunt and uncle, which he agreed to, but only “reluctantly.”
The priest saying Mass turned out to be Fr. Rother. Though he did not know who he was at the time, “it turned out to be one of the most pivotal decisions of my life,” he said.
“I was captivated by the deep spiritual presence that surrounded” Fr. Rother, Bishop-elect Mueggenborg wrote. “There was a spirit of profound peace and love that filled the room when he entered.”
“He possessed the qualities of character that I desired most yet had not found in my secular pursuits of college life. As a result of that Mass I began allowing myself to once again consider the possibility of becoming a priest.”
After graduating with his Bachelors of Science in Geology from Oklahoma State University in 1984, he entered St. Meinrad Seminary in southern Indiana. After one year, he was appointed by his bishop to continue his studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
Other adventures during his college and seminary years includes two missionary trips, one to Tanzania in Africa, where he had the opportunity to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
After his ordination to the diaconate, Pope John Paul II invited the new transitional deacons from the North American College, with their parents, to an audience with him at the Vatican – a moment he will never forget – Bishop-elect Mueggenborg said.
“The influence of Saint John Paul II on my life as a Catholic and as a priest cannot be overestimated. The Holy Father gave witness of what a courageous priest does when he creatively carries out his ministry in face of obstacles and oppression.”
During his time in Rome, Mueggenborg also became very involved with the Missionaries of Charity, which is how he met St. Teresa of Calcutta. Though it started as just a weekly commitment of one hour at their soup kitchen, his time volunteering with them eventually increased to much more.
After his ordination to the priesthood on June 14, 1989, he was asked to serve as a chaplain for their small convent at San Gregorio in Rome. Mother Teresa was present at three of the Masses that year, he wrote in the biography. After one of the Masses, she came to the sacristy and then joined Bishop-elect Mueggenborg and a classmate for breakfast.
“It was a remarkable experience to be in the presence of a woman who radiated the very presence of Christ,” he said.
Bishop-elect Mueggenborg received a License in Biblical Theology in 1990 and returned to Tulsa. He served as parochial vicar and pastor at various parishes in the diocese, as well as chaplain of Bishop Kelly High School and Saint Philip Neri Newman Center at the University of Tulsa.
In 2005 he returned to Rome to serve as the Assistant Director of Formation at the Pontifical North American College, and then as Vice Rector of the college, from 2006-2011.
Since 2011 he has been pastor of Christ the King Parish in Tulsa, a member of the diocesan priests and financial councils and a member of the Board of Governors of the diocesan chapter of Caritas.
In addition to English, he speaks Spanish and Italian.
He is the second priest from the Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma to be appointed bishop recently, after Oklahoma native Msgr. Peter Wells was made a bishop in 2016, Bishop David A. Konderla of Tulsa wrote in a statement on the diocese’s website.
“These appointments are a great statement of confidence from the Holy Father for the Church in Eastern Oklahoma, and the appointment of Msgr. Mueggenborg will only strengthen our communion with the universal Church,” he said.
“We congratulate Msgr. Mueggenborg on his appointment and knowing we will miss him, we wish him a fruitful ministry in the Archdiocese of Seattle.”