WASHINGTON, D.C. — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Felipe J. Estévez of St. Augustine, Florida, and named as his successor Father Erik T. Pohlmeier, a pastor in the Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas, and director of the diocesan Office of Faith Formation and Office of Deacon Formation.
Havana-born Estévez is 76, one year past the age at which canon law requires bishops to submit their resignation. He was installed as the 10th bishop of St. Augustine in 2011.
Pohlmeier, who turns 51 July 20, is a native of Colorado who was raised in Arkansas. He was ordained a priest for the Little Rock Diocese in 1998.
The changes were announced in Washington May 24 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the U.S.
The bishop-designate’s episcopal ordination and his installation as the 11th bishop of St. Augustine will be July 22. Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami will preside at the Mass, with Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock and Estevez as co-consecrators. The time and location of the Mass have not been announced.
“I am grateful for every way I have been called to serve the church and am humbled by this opportunity to serve in the place where Mass was first celebrated in the United States,” Pohlmeier said in a statement. “May God be praised for any good work I am able to do.”
Bishop Taylor called the newly named bishop “one of the most capable, beloved and admired priests of the Diocese of Little Rock, and he will be sorely missed.”
“He is fluent in Spanish and brings to the Diocese of St. Augustine a personal experience of the full spectrum of Catholic life acquired over the course of 24 years of priestly ministry in every apostolate imaginable: urban, rural and suburban,” Taylor said in a statement.
“He has served people of every ethnicity, income level and culture, both in parish life and in diocesan apostolates, most recently as the director of faith formation,” he said.
“We are all one church,” Taylor added. The Catholic faithful in Arkansas are proud of Pohlmeier and while “sending him to Florida will be a great sacrifice for us,” he said, “we rejoice in the good fortune of the Diocese of St. Augustine and know that the Lord must love them very much to give them such a fine man to be their next bishop.”
Pohlmeier is currently the pastor of the largest parish in Little Rock, Christ the King Church, and also director of continuing education of the clergy. He has been the theological consultant for the Arkansas Catholic diocesan newspaper, for 19 years and director of continuing education of clergy since 2019.
One of five children of Deacon Tom and Sharon Pohlmeier of Paris, Arkansas, the future priest and bishop studied mechanical engineering for two years at the University of Arkansas, from 1989 to 1991. He went to St. Meinrad College in Indiana from 1992 to 1994 and earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.
He attended the Pontifical North American College, the U.S. seminary in Rome, and has a bachelor of sacred theology from Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University. In 1998, he earned a master of arts degree in spirituality from St. Thomas Aquinas University, which also is in Rome.
He was ordained to the priesthood July 25, 1998, by the late Bishop Andrew J. McDonald of Little Rock.
After his ordination, Pohlmeier’s first assignment was as associate pastor of Christ the King from 1998 to 2001. He was named pastor there in 2020. In the intervening years, he served as pastor at a number of other parishes, including Holy Spirit in Hamburg, Arkansas, which is a Spanish-speaking parish.
He currently serves on the priests’ council, the clergy personnel board and the clergy welfare advisory board.
Estévez, who is fluent in English, Spanish, French and Italian, was appointed to head the St. Augustine Diocese by Pope Benedict XVI April 27, 2011, and he was installed June 2 of that year at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jacksonville, Florida.
Before that, he was an auxiliary bishop of Miami for about seven years, overseeing the archdiocese’s Ministry of Pastoral Services including family life, youth, campus, prison and respect life ministries, as well as all church movements and new communities. In 2010, he was appointed vicar general of the archdiocese.
From 2001 to 2003, Estévez served as spiritual director of St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida, where he served as rector from 1980 to 1986. He was the pastor of St. Agatha Parish in Miami for 14 years, while also directing campus ministry at Florida International University.
The second of three children born to the late Adriano and Estrella Estévez, he arrived in the United States on an Operation Pedro Pan flight from Cuba as a teenager.
One of seven Catholic dioceses in Florida, St. Augustine has a Catholic population of more than 149,000 in 17 counties in the northeastern part of the state.