Pope Francis on Jan. 23 appointed Auxiliary Bishop Myron J. Cotta of the Diocese of Sacramento as Bishop of the Diocese of Stockton, succeeding Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, who has served the Stockton Diocese since March 16, 1999. Bishop Blaire submitted his resignation to the Holy Father when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 on Dec. 22, 2016.
The appointment was made public Jan. 23 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. Bishop Cotta’s installation will take place on Thursday, March 15. Until that date, Bishop Blaire will serve as Apostolic Administrator of the diocese. Bishop Cotta will be the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Stockton.
Bishop Cotta was introduced this morning at a news conference at 11 a.m. with Bishop Blaire at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Stockton. View a short video of today's news conference in Stockton from The Modesto Bee at http://www.modbee.com/living/article196142004.html
In a statement at the news conference, Bishop Cotta thanked Pope Francis for his appointment and Archbishop Pierre for conveying to him Pope Francis’ decision. “It is humbling and an honor to be called by God to this ministry of service to the church, in particular to the Diocese of Stockton. As I prepare to leave the Diocese of Sacramento, I thank God for the call to the episcopacy and for the many blessings that I have experienced over 30 years of ordained priesthood among God’s people within the Central Valley of California.
“I thank God for the opportunity to have served and shared the ministry of auxiliary bishop under Bishop Jaime Soto, along with the clergy, religious and laity of the Diocese of Sacramento. This experience has significantly contributed to my ongoing pastoral formation.
“I now look forward to this transition and to work with the Pastoral Center team and staff in Stockton. As I anticipate my installation on March 15, I look forward to meeting with the clergy, religious and laity as we share the ministry that lays before us within the diocese.
“Let us keep each other in prayer as we continue to seek God’s will in all that we do. Together, let us move forward in building up the kingdom of God within the heart of the Central Valley here in the Diocese of Stockton.”
Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento said in a statement issued Jan. 23: “The Holy Father has made my life a little more difficult. I am still delighted to announce that our brother, Bishop Myron Cotta, has been appointed by Pope Francis as the Bishop of Stockton, to succeed Bishop Stephen Blaire. The People of God in the Diocese of Stockton will receive a son of the Central Valley who has a pastor’s heart. He will be a blessing for the church of Stockton. We will miss him in Sacramento.
“Let me take this opportunity to thank Bishop Stephen Blaire for being an exemplary pastor of souls during his many years of shepherding the people of God in Stockton. The whole state of California has benefited from his leadership. The Catholic bishops of California have enjoyed his fraternal support. I wish him well in his much-deserved retirement.
“Join me in expressing our gratitude for the generous and kind service given to us by Bishop Cotta. We assure him of our abiding esteem and prayers as he begins this new chapter of ministry. May the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary, Our Lady of Fatima, bring to our brother the wisdom and charity of her Son, Jesus.”
Bishop Cotta, 64, who has served in the Sacramento Diocese since March 25, 2014, also currently serves the diocese as Vicar General and director of ecumenical and inter-religious affairs. He has been instrumental in overseeing prison and jail ministry in the diocese. Bishop Cotta speaks English, Portuguese and Spanish.
Prior to his appointment as auxiliary bishop, as a priest of the Diocese of Fresno, he served as Moderator of the Curia for the diocese for 15 years. He also served as diocesan administrator following the death of Bishop John Steinbock in December 2010 and prior to the appointment of Bishop Armando Ochoa of Fresno.
Born on March 21, 1953, he grew up on a dairy farm in the Merced County community of Dos Palos and is the son of Daniel and Mary Cotta and the grandson of Portuguese immigrants from the Azores Island of Terceira. He attended both public and Catholic elementary schools, including West Hills Community College in Coalinga, before entering St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, Calif., for studies. He was ordained to the priesthood on Sept. 12, 1987. He holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s of divinity degree from St. John’s Seminary.
His pastoral assignments in the Fresno Diocese included serving as parochial vicar of St. Anthony Parish in Atwater (1987-1989); administrator of Our Lady of Fatima Shrine in Laton (1989-1992); and pastor of Our Lady of Miracles Parish in Gustine (1992-1999).
The Diocese of Stockton comprises the counties of San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Alpine and Mono, covering 10,023 square miles with a diverse Catholic population of more than 300,000 people of many races and cultures. There are 105 priests who serve 35 parishes and 14 missions. It is estimated that 60 percent of the diocese’s Catholic population is Hispanic. The Stockton Diocese has two diocesan high schools, 11 elementary schools and nine preschools.