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Bishop-designate Gainer ready to lead Harrisburg flock - abc27 WHTM

Bishop-designate Gainer ready to lead Harrisburg flock

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

Bishop Gainer is working the room like a seasoned politician.

He's quick with a smile, handshake and warm comment, and he had an appreciative audience Tuesday morning. Gainer answered questions posed by Catholic School students as their parents looked on with pride.

It's the eve of Gainer's official installation, and Gainer says his top job is learning his new place and its people. The Harrisburg diocese is a quarter-million people in 90 parishes spread over 15 counties.

Gainer promises to see it all, and quickly.

"I will be out there," he said in a sit-down interview Tuesday afternoon, "and I look forward to meeting the people where they are. The parish in the Catholic church is where the rubber meets the road."

In his 11 years as bishop of Lexington, Kentucky, Gainer hosted 60 town hall meetings. He'll bring those to the Midstate.

"Those were great. Just to be present and hear the people express concerns, complaints, observations and their ideas on things."

Gainer said he also listened and implemented some of the better ideas from those town halls.

He comes to Harrisburg via Kentucky via Pennsylvania.

He was born in Pottsville and ordained in Philadelphia. He served as a parish priest in Allentown before being named bishop of Lexington.

He admits he's not too familiar with the Midstate—with one notable exception.

"It was always a big deal as a kid to come to Hershey and see the chocolate factory and the park."

Gainer told the school children that his favorite saint is Mary, the blessed mother. But he's also devoted to his own mother, Anna. She'll be 91 in May, is a stroke survivor and battling Parkinson's Disease. She'll live with her son in the Bishop's Residence.

"It does keep me humble," Gainer said with a smile. "She doesn't hesitate to say, 'Ron, don't do that' or 'you said this' or 'you forgot to say that.' Her memory is tremendous, and she will take me to task."

Gainer intends to be politically active in the state capitol and calls his leadership style collaborative, where he'll seek a wide variety of input and examine the many sides of a particular issue.

"It'll ultimately be my decision. I'll be responsible for it. But I won't be making it unilaterally or from on high."

Despite his Pennsylvania roots, Gainer's not much of a sports fan. He prefers food. Whether it's serving it at a soup kitchen as he did Monday in Harrisburg, or whipping it up for friends at home.

"I think I enjoy cooking because it gathers people together around a table for relaxation and conversation."

Gainer will be Harrisburg's fourth bishop in ten years. The 66-year-old intends to stop what he calls a virtual revolving door.

"I am here for the duration, as far as I know, but I imagine the rest of my years will be happily spent here in Harrisburg."

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