Bernard T. Espelage

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Bernard Theodore Espelage, O.F.M. (February 16, 1892—February 19, 1971) was an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He was the first Bishop of Gallup, New Mexico (1940-1969).


Bernard Espelage was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Bernard and Clara (née Schottelkotte) Espelage.[1] He received his early education at parochial schools and Franciscan seminaries.[1] He was invested with the Franciscan habit on August 15, 1910, and made his profession as a member of the Franciscan Order on August 15, 1911.[1] He was later ordained to the priesthood in Oldenburg, Indiana, on May 16, 1918.[2]

He then served as a curate in Roswell, New Mexico, for a year before becoming chancellor of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in 1919.[1] In 1926 he earned a Licentiate of Canon Law from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.[1] He served as rector of the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi (1934-1939) and afterwards returned to Oldenburg, where he was pastor of Holy Family Church (1939-1940).[1]

On July 20, 1940, Espelage was reassigned to New Mexico as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Gallup by Pope Pius XII.[2] He received his episcopal consecration on the following October 9 from Archbishop John T. McNicholas, O.P., with Bishop Joseph H. Albers and Archbishop Joseph Ritter serving as co-consecrators.[2] He attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council between 1962 and 1965. During his 29-year-long tenure, he increased the number of Catholics from 30,000 to 79,260; priests from 32 to 108; and parishes from 17 to 53.[3]

Espelage retired as Bishop of Gallup on August 25, 1969; he was named Titular Bishop of Penafiel by Pope Paul VI on the same date.[2] He later died at age 79.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Curtis, Georgina Pell (1961). The American Catholic Who's Who. XIV. Grosse Pointe, Michigan: Walter Romig. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Bishop Bernard Theodore Espelage, O.F.M.". 
  3. ^ "Diocese of Gallup History". Roman Catholic Diocese of Gallup. Archived from the original on 2013-11-12. 
Preceded by
Bishop of Gallup
Succeeded by
Jerome J. Hastrich