Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza
Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza
Archbishop Emeritus of Galveston-Houston
Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Anthony Fiorenza was born Jan. 25, 1931 in Beaumont, Texas. The son of immigrant Italian parents, he was the second of four children born to Anthony and Grace Fiorenza.
Archbishop Fiorenza graduated from St. Anthony High School in Beaumont on May 29, 1947. He began studies for the priesthood in 1947 and was ordained a priest for the then-Diocese of Galveston-Houston on May 29, 1954.
Following ordination, he served as an assistant pastor in Houston for three years, and then became the professor of medical ethics at Dominican College and chaplain of St. Joseph Hospital in Houston. From 1959 to 1967 he was the administrator of Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral. He was pastor of several churches from 1967 to 1973, when he was named chancellor of Galveston-Houston.
St. Pope John Paul II named him the Bishop of San Angelo on Sept. 4, 1979 and he served in that West Texas diocese until 1985, when he was named the Bishop of Galveston-Houston, an archdiocese which now has more than 1.7 million Catholics and is the fifth largest diocese in the United States. He became Galveston-Houston's first Archbishop on Dec. 29, 2004.
Ever committed to serving the people of Galveston-Houston, Archbishop Fiorenza has remained an advocate for social justice issues and a supporter of interfaith collaboration for positive social change across all social and economic borders.
With eye to the future and the growth of the Church during his time as ordinary of the Archdiocese, Archbishop Fiorenza became acutely aware of the need for the burgeoning local Church to expand its spiritual home in response to the vastness of the faithful.
Archbishop Fiorenza dedicated himself to building the new Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, a sacred space in the heart of downtown Houston where all were welcome to worship. Through his commitment and support of the campaign, the Co-Cathedral opened its doors to the people of Galveston-Houston on April 2, 2008.
Throughout his tenure as shepherd of Galveston-Houston, Archbishop Fiorenza also served the Church on a national level as the president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (1998-2001). In this responsibility, he served as the chief spokesman for 300 active Catholic bishops in the United States.
His memberships have included the Bishops' Committees for: Black Catholics; Science and Human Values; Foreign Missions; and Social Development and World Peace.
He also served on the Board of Trustees of: the Catholic Near East Welfare Association; Catholic Relief Services; the University of St. Thomas, Houston; and the Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C. On a daily basis, Archbishop Fiorenza had continued his commitment to the Church in Galveston-Houston and to all our brothers and sisters in the community.
Archbishop Fiorenza passed away on September 19, 2022. He was 91.
Gules, a fleur-de-lis forenceé Argent; on a chief Vert, per chevron a carpenter's square between to chief two stars and to base a lily all of the second.
The Archepiscopal heraldic achievement or Archbishop's coat of arms is composed of a shield with its charges (symbols), a motto scroll and the external ornamentation. The shield, which is the central and most important feature of any heraldic device, is described (blazoned) in 12th century terms, that are archaic to our modern language, and this description is presented as if given by the bearer with the shield being worn on the arm. Thus, where it applies, the terms dexter and sinister are reversed as the device is viewed from the front.
For his personal arms, His Excellency, Archbishop Fiorenza continues to use the design that was adopted upon his selection to receive the fullness of Christ's Priesthood as a bishop, when he was appointed, ordained and installed as Bishop of San Angelo and which he used as Bishop of Galveston-Houston until 2005, when he and the diocese were raised to Archiepiscopal status.
The Archbishop's design is represented in three colors; red, green and silver (white). These are the colors of the national flag of Italy – to honor the Archbishop's Italian heritage. In the lower portion of the design is an ornate fleur-de-lis, called a "Florentine fleur-de-lis," as it is the symbol of the City of Florence. This charge is used to honor the heritage that came to the Archbishop from his parents, Anthony and Grace (Galiano) Fiorenza and it is employed for the spelling of the Italian city is the same as the Archbishop's surname.
The upper portion of the design, known as a "chief," is green and is dominated by a carpenter's square, for St. Joseph, and a lily, for St. Anthony, the Archbishop's Baptismal patrons. Above the carpenter's square are two stars, one for the Virgin Mary, in her title of "Star of the Sea," patroness of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and the other is the Texas,"Lone Star."
For his motto, Archbishop Fiorenza continues to use the phrase, "Thy Kingdom Come." By the use of these words from the Lord's Prayer, Archbishop Fiorenza prays that all may share in the reign of God that comes through Jesus, the Christ, and in all that He teaches.
The achievement is completed with the external ornaments which are a gold Archiepiscopal processional cross, that has two cross-members, that is placed in back of and which extends above and below the shield, and the pontifical hat, called a "gallero," with its ten tassels, in four rows, on either side of the shield, all in green. These are the heraldic insignia of a prelate of the rank of archbishop by instruction of the Holy See of March 31, 1969.