Bishop Robert Vasa said Monday that his nomination as future head of Santa Rosa's Roman Catholic diocese came "out of the blue."
"It was an absolute shock to me," said Vasa, 59, a Nebraska native who has served as bishop of the Baker diocese in eastern Oregon since 2000.
Vasa, whose name is pronounced "Vasha," was introduced Monday as the successor to Bishop Daniel Walsh, 73, who said he will retire later this year.
Bishop Robert Vasa
Pope Benedict XVI made the appointment, placing Vasa in line to become the sixth bishop of Santa Rosa since the North Coast diocese was established in 1962.
"I am really delighted with the appointment," Walsh said at a press conference at the Santa Rosa chancery.
Walsh, who has headed the 160,000-member diocese since 2000, said he looks forward to a months-long transition period working with Vasa, who officially holds the title of coadjutor bishop.
Vasa will take up residence in the bishop's house in Santa Rosa on March 4 and will serve, as Walsh does, at St. Eugene Cathedral.
The joint tenure of a bishop and his replacement is intended to create a "continuum," Walsh said, "not a dramatic break."
Walsh and Vasa said they had seen one another at conferences but were not well acquainted.
"When you were born I was already into the seminary," Walsh remarked as the two bishops sat side-by-side in a conference room at the chancery.