Just Too Cool: New bishop makes his own crosier as a new Jedi makes his light saber

Sometimes a blending of Catholicity and pop-culture can produce cringe-worthy results.

I have to admit that when I saw the headline for this I winced.  But as I read on, I thought it was pretty darn good.


‘This is my light saber‘ – Tulsa’s new bishop makes his own staff

Washington D.C., Jun 8, 2016 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Deep in the heart of Texas, a campus chaplain is busy making his final spiritual and practical preparations for becoming a bishop.

However, unlike many of his soon-to-be brother-bishops, Fr. David Konderla is carving his very own staff – or crosier – to signify his new position and duty as a teacher and head of a diocese.

Every Jedi has not completed his training until he’s made his own light saber that he uses to fight evil with – so this is my light saber,” Bishop-elect David Konderla told CNA in an interview.  [One of the things I like about that is that it isn’t weak or mealy-mouthed.  Light sabers kill things.  They are weapons.  The bishop’s staff, a shepherd’s tool is used to whack sheep back into place and fight predators.]

On June 29, Fr. David Konderla will be ordained and installed as the Bishop of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Currently, the Bishop-elect serves as the Director of Campus Ministry for St. Mary’s Catholic Center, the campus chaplaincy for Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

A crosier is a hooked staff – based on the shape of a shepherd’s staff – carried by bishops in the Catholic Church to symbolize their pastoral function in the Church. Other important symbols of a bishop’s position are the pectoral cross worn on a bishop’s chest, the mitre- or hat, and the episcopal ring.

“Of course it was natural when I found out I was going to be made a bishop that I would want to make my own myself,” Fr. Konderla said.  [I hope he also gets some big, shiny gold stuff, too, for when he celebrates Pontifical Masses at the Throne.]

He noted that he’s already made four crosiers in the past for his soon-to-be brother bishops: Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico; Bishop George Sheltz, Auxiliary Bishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas; Bishop Michael Sis of San Angelo; and Bishop Daniel Garcia, Auxiliary Bishop of Austin, Texas.

Bishop-elect Konderla’s own crosier will be the fifth he’ll construct.

Previously, Fr. Konderla has used wood that bears special significance to the bishop-elect in constructing the crosier. For instance, when making the crosier for Bishop Sis, Fr. Konderla used the wood from the front yard of the rectory at St. Mary’s Catholic Center, where they were both serving as priests at the time.

For his own crosier, the bishop-elect will be able to take a bit of the campus’s Catholic Center with him as well: he said he was able to use trees which were taken down to build the campus’s new student center in his own staff. “I was able to incorporate some of that wood into this crosier so it will have that special meaning.”


[… description of how he is making it is pretty interesting, and you can read it there…]

Bishop-elect Konderla’s episcopal ring will also have a special meaning, and the soon-to-be bishop will also have a hand in making it. His youngest brother is a jeweler, Konderla and together the pair designed a ring based on St. Pope John Paul II’s fisherman’s ring. The ring will also incorporate elements from Konderla’s devotions to the Sacred Heart, Divine Mercy and Mary, as well as gold from their mother’s wedding ring.

The bishop-elect’s brother has made a model of the ring, and next will make a mold that will be filled with the gold. Then, Fr. Konderla explained, his brother will add final touches such as adding the heart-shaped stone and carving elements into the ring.

Fr. Konderla said that he sees this project of creating his own crosier fitting and reflective of the beauty God creates in the world.

Art is expressive of the divine,” and woodwork in particular is an art form that must respect God’s own beautiful creations, he said.

“The nice thing about working in wood is that even a dead tree, in a way is a living medium. The wood does simply do whatever you want, but you have to cooperate with the kind of medium that it is.”

While the creation of the crosier might be one of the last woodworking projects he creates before his ordination, Bishop-elect Konderla looks forward to taking his love of woodworking with him to his new residence in Tulsa.

He said he’s already visited his new residence, and was happy to see that it has a two-car garage – just large enough to fit his woodworking workshop.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. TheDude05 says:

    My wife went to St. Mary’s while at A&M and loved it. That’s two Bishops coming out of there too.

  2. benedetta says:

    That’s amazing!

  3. Clemens Romanus says:

    The shortest homily he gave that I can remember was when the AC was broken. He said:
    “Gosh, it’s hot in here. It’s hotter in hell, so straighten up!”

  4. FrAnt says:

    I worked with Sisters of Charity of Halifax. The sisters would share what it was like preparing for final vows in the old days. At the end of different periods of formation a piece of their habit would be sown and just before their final everything was sewn together. Two of the sisters I knew lost their habits in a fire the night before they were to take their vows.
    Isn’t tradition wonderful. It’s not just that somethings are done over and over again, but that there is meaning and history.

  5. JabbaPapa says:

    As a Lay Staff-using foot pilgrim, I am extremely happy to hear this beautiful story.

    Mine’s Ash, as Gandalf’s is in The Lord of the Rings, but the Bishop is quite right that different woods are used for different needs and purposes.

  6. JabbaPapa says:

    BTW, the actors who play the actual Jedi in the Star Wars films train with wooden combat staves. Doubt that any so far have made their own, though the Darth Maul actor insisted on a custom-made one hehe

  7. majuscule says:

    In my meanderings on the web last night I happened to make my first visit to the Diocese of Tulsa website and I saw his picture and read about his appointment. This morning when I saw the photo with this article I thought…”No, it can’t be! It’s too much of a coincidence!”

    I note there is a FSSP presence in the diocese. Plus another church that offers the TLM. And there are other good things not noted on the website. I hope the good things continue and increase under his leadership.

  8. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Reading that he’s making his crozier out of wood – at first – raised a concern. Wouldn’t wood break easily.

    Then I read the last sentence: he’s hoping to move his woodworking workshop into the Bishop’s residence. All I can think of is St. Joseph the Workman. May St. Joseph pray for him, and make him a good bishop.

  9. jz says:

    Father David is an amazing man. He had a profound impact on my life during my time at A&M. Best homilist of all time. He could give a 2min homily that would make you ponder something for a week, and then turn around and give a 30min homily and leave you begging for more. One of my distinct memories of him was that he almost always used Eucharistic prayer #1 (the one that lists all the saints), even at daily Mass. He would prayfully and deliberately seek each saint’s intercession, and yet, the Mass rarely went long.

    Here’s another interesting story about the hermitage he built for himself. This gives you a little bit of an idea of the type of man he really is.


  10. dirtycopper says:

    A manly man doing manly things as only men would have them done. Prayerful best wishes that Bishop elect Konderla will enjoy the protection of Saint Joseph the Carpenter.

  11. JabbaPapa says:

    Chris Garton-Zavesky :

    Wouldn’t wood break easily

    My first staff lasted 15 years …

  12. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: croziers and wood – A lot of ancient and medieval croziers were made of wood, or wood with some kind of metal covering. The advantage was that you could do intricate carving. Ivory was also popular for crozier heads., although you also see metal crozier heads; that way you could just keep fitting crozier heads onto staffs whenever you needed a new one.

  13. un-ionized says:

    What’s a lay staff? I tried to look it up but got a bunch of returns about parish staff and staff layoffs.

    I think the crozier of the archabbot where I do my R&R is made of wood. It looks very sturdy like it is made of the kind of hickory they use for tool handles.

  14. Allan S. says:

    Tulsa has another, not-so-well-known gem: The Society of the Most Sorrowful Mother (aka the Doloran Fathers), a diocesan Society of Apostolic Life (the kind that caused the recent new edict from the Holy See, invalidating all new such diocesan organizations created without adequate “consultation”).

    To put it bluntly, the charism of the Dolorans is exorcism – they are a society of Exorcists that run the Auxilium Christianorum website

    From the Dolorans’ website:

    “The priests of the nascent Society of the Most Sorrowful Mother, the ‘Doloran Fathers,’ work in cooperation with our local bishop to provide the assistance of the rites and prayers of our Holy Mother, the Church to some of the most spiritually afflicted suffering souls, many unable to find relief or deliverance from their affliction for years. Because a good deal of prayer is required of the Doloran priests each day to support their challenging mission, their life is semi-contemplative.”

    One of the Dolorans, Fr. Chad Ripperger, Ph.D., is both a licensed Psychologist and an Exorcist, and has many resources and multimedia files on his website.

    Tulsa appears to be ground zero for the ‘New Resistance’ ;)

  15. RichR says:

    Fr David is one of the greatest priests I’ve had the privilege to know. He has a zeal for souls and is a solid Catholic. I remember when the Aggie Bonfire fell and 12 students were trapped in the stack. They all ended up dying. It was tragic. I heard that Fr. (Now Bishop) Mike Sis and Fr. (Now Bishop) David Konderla got the news and immediately dropped their tasks, grabbed their Ritual, and rushed out to Stack to administer Last Rites to the Aggies slowly dying under the collapsed pile.

    This is a big gain for the Episcopacy.

  16. I like a man who co-opts popular culture instead of letting it co-opt him.

  17. JabbaPapa says:

    un-ionized :

    What’s a lay staff?

    LOL :-) — that’s lay “staff-user”, ie a man with a staff but I’m Lay not Clergy nor Religious.

    If you want the details, it’s basically a foot pilgrim’s hiking staff, though I need to use it daily now due to bad knees … I’ve used staves on foot pilgrimages to both Compostela and Rome.

    It’s Ash, which is a good, strong, durable yet somewhat pliable wood, ideal for hiking purposes.

  18. un-ionized says:

    Jabba, Thank you. Lots of my friends use staffs (staves?) but I didn’t know whether there was a specially consecrated staff for special lay people like Third Order people! I am often with a cane or crutch (non-consecrated).

    I wish I could go on pilgrimages but I am beyond that now.

    Ash makes good baseball bats too, cursed be the emerald ash borer. I have never gotten used to bats that go PING!

  19. Skeinster says:

    Texas A&M- the biggest Catholic college in Texas.
    No, seriously, our parish is blessed with a cadre of Aggie Catholics, devout young men and women bringing up faithful families. That’s in addition to the ones entering the priesthood or religious life.

  20. JabbaPapa says:

    Staffs/staves — both are correct, hmmm maybe in American English only “staffs” is (?), but as a mediaeval student & pedant, I prefer the more rarefied and antiquated or poetic plural … ;o)

  21. TxBSonnier says:

    Fr. David Konderla is the priest who officiated my wedding. I’m hoping to get to drive up for his ordination, but it’s a long drive and I have several small kids. Tulsa is very lucky to have him.

  22. Augustine says:

    Bp. David is known not only for his woodworking skills, but also for being a crackshot, hence his “infamous” squirrel stew (v. http://bit.ly/1XxAphb).

    It goes without saying that, under his care, St. Mary provided the diocese of Austin with a steady flow of close to 10 new vocations for the priesthood and religious life every year.

    As a shepherd after Our Lord’s Heart, may he and his new flock be blessed in and by each other.

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