Vatican City, May 15, 2019 / 04:03 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Wednesday appointed Bishop Peter Baldacchino to head the Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico – making him the first diocesan bishop associated with the Neocatechumenal Way to serve in a mainland U.S. diocese.
Baldacchino, 58, has been an auxiliary bishop of Miami, Florida, since 2014. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Newark in 1996.
As a seminarian in Newark, Baldacchino studied at the Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University but lived at the Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary.
Baldacchino’s formation was in part guided by the Neocatechumenal Way, a post-baptismal itinerary of Christian formation first approved by Pope Paul VI and supported by each of the subsequent popes.
Seminarians who discern their vocation while involved with the Neocatechumenal Way are encouraged to place special emphasis on the universal missionary character of the priesthood and offer themselves, at the discretion of their local bishop, in service to the New Evangelization anywhere in the world.
Baldacchino is the first graduate of a Redemptoris Mater seminary to serve as a diocesan bishop in a mainland U.S. diocese.
He was born on the European island country of Malta, to a family of four children. His family joined the Neocatechumenal Way while he was a child, but he was not initially drawn to the priesthood.
After studying science and chemistry at the University of Malta, he began working as a technical manager at a bottling plant. At age 28 he attended the 1989 World Youth Day in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, after which he became more involved in the Neocatechumenal Way.
Through the movement he was sent on mission, during which he started to feel called to the priesthood, eventually being matched with the Redemptoris Mater seminary in Newark. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Newark on May 25, 1996.
Baldacchino served for over a decade as a missionary in the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean, and speaks Maltese, English, Italian, Creole, and Spanish.
The Diocese of Las Cruces was established in 1982. According to 2015 estimates, it has more than 236,600 Catholics, accounting for just over 42% of the area’s population.