Bishop Cantu installed as ordinary of Las Cruces, New Mexico

March 12, 2013

HOUSTON — With several family members, brother clergy and friends making the trek west to share in this historical moment, Bishop Oscar Cantu was installed as the new bishop of Las Cruces, N.M., on Feb. 28. The 46-year-old Houston native had previously served as auxiliary bishop of San Antonio.

Bishop Cantu succeeds retiring Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, 76, who headed the 10-county diocese since its formation in 1982. 

The Las Cruces Diocese stretches from the Texas border to Arizona and “is filled with people of deep faith and love for the Holy Spirit,” said Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza, who attended the Installation Mass. “Bishop Cantu is an extremely bright and articulate young bishop. He has a great deal of energy and a zealous heart for the proclamation of the Gospel. I am confident he will be a wonderful and worthy successor to the great Bishop Ramirez, who is also a native to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.”

Bishop Ramirez, a member of the Congregation of St. Basil, is from Bay City and attended the University of St. Thomas in Houston.

Father Trung Nguyen was ordained to the priesthood with Bishop Cantu in 1994 and remembers his friend being a model student and seminarian.

“I knew Oscar would go far,” said Father Nguyen, who now is rector of St. Mary Seminary. “He is very friendly, and we always enjoyed our time together. He comes from a large, humble family that placed a great emphasis on education. And I know education and vocations remain important to him as a bishop.”

Father James Burkart also attended St. Mary’s with Bishop Cantu. As seminarians, the St. Luke the Evangelist pastor recalled Bishop Cantu being thoughtful and fraternal while possessing a “very healthy sense of humor.”

“Certainly the faith of his family had a great deal to do with and influenced his sense of service,” Father Burkart said.

In turn, Bishop Cantu’s example also had a great impact on his family. His nephew, Nicolas Ramirez, is a St. Mary’s seminarian studying in his second year of theology. A product of Prince of Peace Church in Houston, Ramirez was recently elected student body president at the seminary.
Ramirez said his uncle has been a role model for him as he studies to become a priest. He texts “Bishop Oscar” ( or “just Oscar,” as he calls his uncle among family and friends) frequently for sage advice.

“I admire and love my uncle very much,” Ramirez said. “He has been a credible witness of the joy of priesthood for me. From the way he carries himself, I have been able to observe the love, devotion and zeal he has for God and the people of God, which has been instrumental in my journey.”

Bishop Cantu’s journey started at Holy Name Church in Houston. He attended Catholic schools his whole life, including Holy Name Catholic School, St. Thomas High School, the University of Dallas and the University of St. Thomas.

As a priest in Galveston-Houston, Bishop Cantu served as parochial vicar at St. Christopher Church, St. Cecilia Church and St. Frances Cabrini — all in Houston. He was serving as pastor at Holy Name Church, his home parish, when he was named auxiliary bishop of San Antonio in April 2008.

Now, Bishop Cantu “brings his best gifts to the people of Las Cruces,” Father Burkart said. “He brings with him his sincere passion of serving the people of God and wanting them to come to know the Lord our Savior.”