The Most Reverend Timothy C. Senior was appointed Bishop of Harrisburg by His Holiness, Pope Francis, on April 25, 2023. He was installed as the Bishop of Harrisburg on June 21, 2023, by Archbishop Nelson Perez, metropolitan archbishop of Philadelphia.
Most Reverend Timothy C. Senior
“I know him in whom I have believed” (2 Timothy 1:12)
Most Reverend Timothy C. Senior
Twelfth Bishop of Harrisburg
Bishop Senior was ordained an Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia in July, 2009. He was the Regional Bishop of Montgomery County and Philadelphia-South, as well as Chancellor of Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Prior to these responsibilities with the Archdiocese, Bishop Senior served as Rector of Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary from 2012 to 2022, after having been the Moderator of the Curia of the Archdiocese from 2009 to 2012. He served as Vicar for Clergy from 2004 to 2009. From 1992 to 2004, Bishop Senior served in the Archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Human Services, both as Deputy Secretary and then Secretary.
A 1977 graduate of Lansdale Catholic High School, Lansdale, Pa., Bishop Senior is a classically trained pianist and the youngest of the three children of the late James H. and Elise Rothwell Senior. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1985. He earned a Masters of Divinity and Master of Arts in Theology from Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, served as an assistant pastor at a parish in Bucks County and taught religion in an Archdiocesan high school. He was then assigned to graduate studies at Boston College, earning his Masters in Social Work and Masters in Business Administration in 1992.
In 1998, he was named Honorary Chaplain to His Holiness, and in 2005, he was named a Prelate of Honor. In 2009, Bishop Senior was appointed Titular Bishop of Floriana and Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia, and was ordained a Bishop on July 31, 2009 by Cardinal Justin Rigali.
The Bishop’s coat of arms is composed of a shield with its symbols, a motto, scroll, and the external ornaments. In the United States, Roman Catholic residential bishops traditionally join their arms, in a heraldic practice known as impalement, with the existing arms of their new diocese. Keeping with this custom, the arms of Bishop Senior are now joined to those of Harrisburg.
The heraldic device of the See of Harrisburg, seen on the left, is a compilation of the arms of William Penn’s family, the founders of Pennsylvania, and the family of John Harris of Yorkshire, England, who, in 1712, first settled the area on the Susquehanna River, called Harris Ferry, which later took the name Harrisburg.
The shield appears in silver and is divided by a Latin Cross in red. Upon this cross appears a silver shamrock in honor of the titular cathedral of Harrisburg: Saint Patrick of Ireland.
In a chief sable (a black field in the shape of a bar that appears at the top of the Harrisburg arms) are two plates, or silver balls, known as roundels, assumed from the Penn family arms. Between them appears a silver crescent from the Harris family, which in Catholic heraldry also represents the image of the Blessed Virgin under the title of the Immaculate Conception, a title for Our Lady entrusted to the Church in America.
The personal arms of Bishop Senior, seen on the right side of the shield, reflect his life and his heritage. The colors—called tinctures—that Bishop Senior has chosen for his coat of arms allude to the arms of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where the primary tinctures are also white (argent) and blue (azure). The star in the top center of the shield (in chief) represents the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Bishop Senior has long had a love for music, and acknowledges that he began to hear and understand the Lord calling him to the priesthood while studying piano and organ. The roots of Bishop Senior’s vocation are symbolized in a divided border (bordure compony) around the shield, painted alternately white and black (sable), reminiscent of piano keys.
The central charges on the shield are placed saltirewise; that is, they cross each other diagonally in the form of an “X.” Each is a type of staff, and each refers to a passage in the New Testament Letters which begins (in the Latin Vulgate version of the Scriptures) with the word senior, which is translated “elder.” As such, they are an example of “canting arms”- a design which incorporates a pun on the bearer’s name.
In his First Letter, Saint Peter addresses the leaders of the Church: “To the elders (seniores) among you, I, a fellow elder . . . make this appeal: God’s flock is in your midst. Give it a shepherd’s care” (1 Peter 5:1–2). The responsibility of the bishop to tend Christ’s sheep is aptly represented by the crosier, or pastoral staff, which is derived from a shepherd’s crook, and is depicted here in gold (Or). When he receives the crosier, a newly-ordained bishop is exhorted to “keep watch over the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit has placed you as Bishop to govern the Church of God.”
Saint Paul wrote two letters to his disciple and companion Saint Timothy, the baptismal patron for Bishop Senior. He appointed Timothy the first Bishop of Ephesus, and in the first of his letters Saint Paul advises him regarding his care of the faithful. “Do not rebuke an older man (seniorem),” he writes, “but appeal to him as a father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters with complete purity” (1 Timothy 5:1–2). The bishop’s role to provide support and encouragement for all the members of the community, especially those who are vulnerable and weak in body or spirit, is symbolized by the pilgrim’s staff or walking stick. Depicted here in silver (argent), the staff represents not only Saint Timothy, but also the years of leadership and service that Bishop Senior has given to Catholic Human Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, as well as numerous other Catholic healthcare and social service ministries in this region.
Taken together, the two staves may be seen to signify the necessary connection between the spiritual and corporal works of mercy—the responsibility of the bishop to tend to all of the needs of the people he is called to serve. The painting of the crossed staves in gold and silver alludes to the crossed keys of Saint Peter, long recognized as a symbol of the Holy Father, and speaks of the bishop’s fidelity to the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
The motto, placed on a scroll below the shield, is a phrase from the Second Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy. The apostle writes now from Rome, where he has been imprisoned by Imperial officials because of his preaching of the Gospel. But he has not lost hope even in these dire circumstances, he insists, for “scio cui credidi” – “I know him in whom I have believed” (2 Timothy 1:12). Reading the motto in the light of the charges on the shield, it becomes clear that the Christian comes to know the Lord through acts of faith, hope and love of God, which are in turn made concrete in acts of charity to the poor and the weak, whom the Lord himself calls his brothers and sisters (cf. Matthew 25:40).
The shield is ensigned with external elements that identify the bearer as a bishop. A gold processional cross appears behind the shield. The galero or “pilgrim’s hat” is used heraldically in various colors and with specific numbers of tassels to indicate the rank of a bearer of a coat of arms. A bishop uses a green galero with three rows of green tassels.
Praised be Jesus Christ!
Archbishop Pérez, Archbishop Pierre, our Apostolic Nuncio and the representative of Pope Francis with us; Archbishop Chaput; Archbishops, brother bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated religious, seminarians, lay men and women; dear family and friends who have come to Harrisburg to celebrate this occasion and those who join us via live stream; ecumenical and interfaith representatives who have joined us today, as well as elected and other government officials who serve in the Diocese of Harrisburg and throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Welcome and thank you so much for your presence here!
I would be remiss if I did also again thank Bishop Ronald Gainer, the 11th Bishop of Harrisburg. Bishop Gainer and I have known each other for quite a few years. I could never have imagined that I would one day be in this position, but I do say that he has left a wonderful example and a great legacy in his leadership here in the Diocese. Bishop Gainer, you have served the Church so very generously throughout your life as a priest and bishop. As Archbishop Pierre mentioned, you recently marked the fiftieth anniversary of your Ordination to the Priesthood! You have guided this local Church in Harrisburg for over nine years, through some challenging times, with great effectiveness, pastoral charity, wisdom and great love for those entrusted to your care. We are all blessed that you will be continuing to be active in ministry in the Diocese in your retirement. God has more work for you to do among us! Thank you, Bishop Gainer! Ad Multos Annos!
To my brother priests of Harrisburg; as I mentioned in my remarks on the day of the announcement of my appointment, I am fortunate to know some of you already, both from our time together in formation in the Seminary many years ago, and others, ordained in the last ten years, who had me as your Rector at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary. I have to say that I hope you are as happy about my becoming your bishop as I am! I very much look forward to getting to know ALL of you. You are my principal collaborators in the mission of our Diocese. As priests serving the Church so faithfully, you have been through some difficult times in recent years. It hasn’t been easy to be on the front lines as priests during those times. Thank you for your ministry dear brothers and for giving your lives so generously. I have much to learn from you, and will work hard with you and for you in the mission that is entrusted to us.
Though these have been difficult years for those who serve in the Church, and in some ways for all Catholics, it is imperative that we also call to mind the painful experience of those who are survivors of sexual abuse. I stand ready to do my part in accompanying and assisting survivors, and I want to reaffirm the commitment of the Church in Harrisburg to do all that we can to provide care and support for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy, to ensure that the policies and procedures that are in place to protect children and to work with law enforcement to respond to allegations of sexual abuse, will remain in force, and will continue to be reviewed and strengthen as needed.
Our Church is also blessed with the ministry of our permanent deacons, consecrated religious women and men, and so many lay faithful who are dedicated to the Church’s mission. While I still have so much to learn about my new home and new Church community, I already know that we are blessed in so many ways and I am blessed to be among you.
While many in our Diocese have responded generously to the call of God in their lives, I ask you to join me in a renewed commitment to prayer for vocations in all forms in the Church, but especially at this time for vocations to the Priesthood. Please encourage young men whom you may believe could have a vocation to the Priesthood to think about it – to be open to it. If you know such a young man, tell him why you think God might be calling him. Your encouragement can make a great difference in a young man’s discernment of a call. Today, the Church observes the Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, the young Jesuit seminarian from the 16th century, who is the patron of youth and young people. It is with this in mind that, even as we continue to pray for our seminarians who are already in formation for the Priesthood, I asked that a prayer for vocations be on the holy card to mark this occasion, and to serve as a reminder to all of us to keep this intention in our prayers. As Jesus said to His disciples: “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” (Matthew 9, 37-38).
También quiero extender un saludo especial a la creciente comunidad hispana de la Diócesis. Como tantos otros de diversas culturas que son parte de nuestra diócesis, ustedes aportan mucho a nuestra Iglesia local. ¡Nuestra diversidad cultural es una gran bendición! Espero conocerlos, apoyarlos y alentarlos en la vida de fe.
¡Pero, por favor, tengan paciencia conmigo cuando hable en español! ¡Muchas gracias!
As I begin my service as bishop in Harrisburg, my primary desire is to be a good pastor; to be a leader who is servant first and so to announce the Gospel of Jesus Christ with integrity and fidelity. I will endeavor each day to give myself completely to this service. Please do not hesitate to let me know when I fall short of that goal. So, I ask you again to pray for me, that I may be the bishop that the Church in Harrisburg needs me to be.
I hear the words of Saint Paul to my patron, Timothy, in the second reading today very personally in my heart. Paul was writing to Timothy and encouraging him in his leadership of the Church in Ephesus; “for this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands….do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord…(and) bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.” In the Gospel for this Mass, we heard again the names of the twelve Apostles, who were given authority and sent on mission by Jesus. Like them, a bishop is given authority and sent to serve the Church entrusted to his care. Archbishop Pierre reminded me of this mission when he informed me that Pope Francis had appointed me Bishop of Harrisburg. He said quite simply: “you are being sent!” The mission is to proclaim Jesus Christ – the timeless power of His Gospel, and the amazing and transforming love and mercy that flows from His death and resurrection. The model for this ministry is Jesus Himself, who, as the Son of God, the Word made flesh, fulfills the promise God made through the Prophet Ezekiel, and heard in our first reading: “I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep. I will rescue them out from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark…. In good pastures will I pasture them…The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal.”
My brothers and sisters, while a bishop, together with his priests and deacons, has a unique role in this ministry, the responsibly for the proclamation of the Gospel – the Joy of the Gospel as Pope Francis reminds us so often – is shared by all the Baptized. We are all called by God to make the presence of Jesus evident through our lives, in accord with our own vocation. We must not allow the tragic scandals in the Church, or other challenges that we have faced, to impede us in living our faith in Jesus Christ. I already know that so many of you live that faith so vibrantly in this Diocese. We hear Saint Paul to Timothy, “Do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,” Saint Paul says. But rather, allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us and to “stir into flame the gift of God,” that we have all received in our Baptism and Confirmation. Paul goes on to say why he is not ashamed, and is even willing to endure suffering. It is because, as he says, “I know Him in whom I have believed.” Paul is convinced of the power of the Gospel because he knows Jesus Christ. Jesus is the center of His life. His intimate friendship with Jesus sets the direction of His life, and He could not possibly be ashamed of Jesus and the power of the Gospel.
We also are invited to enter ever more deeply into our friendship with Jesus. To come to know and to love Him “in whom we have believed.” In this way, Jesus will be recognized and known in us. Jesus, whom we believe lives in us also works through us. Jesus, whom we believe is so present with us in His precious Body and Blood in the Eucharist. He feeds us with Himself, so that we might be ever more configured to His likeness and to be Christians who radiate the Joy of the Gospel to others; especially those who are lost, on the margins, not connected to the Church, who do not know God – let alone know how much they are loved by God, and that even when it is “cloudy and dark” that the loving gaze of the Father is always upon them – longing for them to turn and be embraced in His mercy.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to concelebrate Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Pentecost Sunday several weeks ago, with Pope Francis presiding and preaching. In his homily, the Holy Father said this: “In our world today, there is so much discord, such great division. We are all “connected,” yet find ourselves disconnected from one another, anesthetized by indifference and overwhelmed by solitude.” Recalling the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Pope Francis continued, saying, “hence, the Lord, at the culmination of his Passover from death to life, at the culmination of salvation, pours out upon the created world his good Spirit: The Holy Spirit, who opposes the spirit of division because he is harmony, the Spirit of unity, the bringer of peace. Let us invoke the Spirit daily upon our whole world, upon our lives and upon any kind of division!”
My sisters and brothers, if we are attentive to the Spirit we can be instruments of the action of the Spirit and, as faithful disciples of Jesus, collaborate in building the “culture of encounter” that Pope Francis envisions for our world. In his Encyclical Letter, Fratelli Tutti – “Brother and Sisters All” – written in 2020 while much of the world remained under restrictions resulting from the COVID 19 pandemic, the Holy Father wrote these words: “it is my desire that, in this our time, by acknowledging the dignity of each human person we can contribute to the rebirth of a universal aspiration to fraternity…..Let us dream, then, as a single human family, as fellow travelers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all.”
Friends, it is with this dream of the Holy Father in mind, that I chose the image on the Holy card for this Installation; the image of the stained glass window here in our Cathedral of Saint Patrick, which depicts Saint Patrick, the patron of our Diocese, preaching and engaging the Druid Irish King and Queen prior to their conversion to Christianity. At great personal cost, and with tremendous humility and an openness to forgiveness, Saint Patrick engaged those who not only disagreed with him, but actually had persecuted him. This window provides an image for how we, Catholics of the Church in Harrisburg, gathered as we are in the shadow of the Capital building of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, need to be looking outward, and to engage the culture with a desire to encounter others, to listen, to discern and to act, always guided by the Holy Spirit, and the positive and redemptive message of the Gospel.
The dream of Pope Francis has found a practical expression in his encouraging the development of “synodality” as the normative manner in which the Church is to function. We need to be open to how the Spirit will speak to us through one another in our encounters, that together, having listened, we might then discern what the Spirit is calling us to do, and so then act accordingly. This is a challenge to each of us to live our faith more actively; to be Christians in whom Jesus is recognized.
My brothers and sisters of the Church in Harrisburg, on this day that I have assumed the responsibility of being your bishop, I invite you to please join me in the work of renewing and strengthening our faith; in opening our hearts anew to the power of the Holy Spirit, who will stir into flame the gift of God that we have received and in centering our lives on our relationship with Jesus Christ. To paraphrase the words of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin many years ago, when the day comes when my name falls from mention in the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass, may we all have come ever more fully to “know Him in whom we have believed.”
- Attended Lansdale Catholic High School, Lansdale, Pa., graduated 1977
- Attended Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia, receiving a B.A. Degree in 1981, and the Masters of Divinity Degree in 1988
- Attended Boston College, Boston, receiving a M.B.A and a M.S.W. in 1992
- Ordained to the Priesthood for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Pa., May 18, 1985
- Assistant Pastor, Assumption B.V.M., Feasterville, 06/1985 – 06/1988
- Faculty, High School, Archbishop Kennedy High School, 06/1988 – 06/1989
- Student Priest, Boston College, 09/1989 – 06/1992
- Deputy Secretary, Secretariat for Catholic Human Services, 06/1992 – 06/1997
- Secretary, Secretariat for Catholic Human Services, 06/1997 – 06/2004
- Secretary for Clergy, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, 06/2004 – 11/2004
- Vicar for Clergy, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, 11/2004 – 07/2009
- Vicar for Administration, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, 07/2009 – 10/2011
- Ordained to the Episcopacy by John Cardinal Krol, July 31, 2009
- Episcopal Vicar (Region, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, 09/2011 – 10/2013
- Moderator of the Curia, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, 10/2011 – 07/2012
- Rector (Seminary), St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Overbrook, 07/2012 – 07/2022
Boards and Commissions
- Saint Joseph’s House – Board President
- Board of Trustees of Saint Charles Seminary
- Nutritional Development Services, Inc. (Board President)
- Katherine Kierman Chateau Trust (Board President)
- Saint Joseph Catholic Home for Children (Board President)
- Saint Gabriel’s System (Board President)
- Saint Edmond’s Home (Board President)
- Don Guanella Village (Board President)
- Divine Providence Village (Board President)
- Saint John Vianney Hospital (Board President)
- Saint Mary’s Manor (Board President)
- Saint Martha Manor (Board President)
- Saint John Neumann Nursing Home (Board President)
- Immaculate Mary Home (Board President)
- Saint Francis Country House (Board President)
- Priest’s Retirement Plan and Trust
- Diocesan Priests Compensation & Benefits Committee
- Saint Francis – St. Joseph Homes for Children (Board President)
- Catholic Social Services (Board President)
- Saint Vincent’s Services for Women & Children (Board President)
- Saint Vincent’s Orphanage, Tacony (Board President)
- Villa Saint Martha (Board President)
- Office for Community Development (Board President)
- Catholic Health Care Services (Board President)
- Council of Priests (Board Executive Secretary)
- Archdiocesan Admissions Board
- Priest Personnel Board (Board Secretary)
- Diocesan Priests Compensation & Benefits Committee (Board Chairman)
- Priest’s Retirement Plan and Trust – Trustee (Board Vice Chairman)
- Priests’ Committee on Wellness (Board Chairman)
- College of Consultors
- Priest’s Retirement Plan and Trust
- Priests’ Committee on Wellness
- Pennsylvania Catholic Conference
- Group Insurance Plan, Trustee
- Saint John Vianney Hospital
- Commission for Peace & Justice – Chairman (Board)
- Board of Trustees of Saint Charles Seminary
- Catholic Health Care Review Committee
- Most Rev. Timothy C. Senior, Bishop of Harrisburg
- Very Rev. William C. Forrey, Ex-Officio
- Very Rev. Mark M. Speitel
- Rev. Leo M. Goodman
- Rev. James E. Lease
- Very Rev. Timothy D. Marcoe, VF
- Rev. Edward J. Quinlan
- Rev. Kyle S. Sahd
- Rev. Neil S. Sullivan
- Very Reverend Allan F. Wolfe, VF