Longtime Charlotte bishop retires after 20 years of leading growing diocese; Father Michael T. Martin to become fifth Bishop of Charlotte

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 18, 2024

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The Diocese of Charlotte has announced that longtime Bishop Peter J. Jugis, 67, is retiring due to health limitations, and that Pope Francis has appointed Father Michael T. Martin, OFM Conv., of Atlanta, as his successor to lead the growing diocese.

Jugis submitted his request for retirement to Rome last June, saying a chronic but non-life-threatening kidney condition made it difficult for him to preside over lengthy liturgies and travel across the 46 counties of the expansive diocese. Jugis recently celebrated his 20th anniversary as bishop and 40th anniversary as a priest. He will serve as administrator of the diocese until May when Bishop-Elect Martin is installed, then will continue to assist the diocese as bishop emeritus.

Martin, 62, is a priest of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual and serves as pastor of St. Philip Benizi Parish in Jonesboro, Georgia. He has deep roots in Catholic education — having served as a teacher, coach and school administrator in Baltimore, New York and Durham — and arrives at a time of record enrollment in the Diocese of Charlotte’s 20 schools. 

He will be ordained and installed as the fifth Bishop of Charlotte on May 29 at St. Mark Catholic Church in Huntersville.

“I am amazed and humbled that the Holy Father has faith in me to call me to serve the people of western North Carolina,” Bishop-Elect Martin said. “I am excited to get to know you and to listen to the ways in which together we can respond to the call of the Holy Spirit to be disciples of Jesus.”

Jugis introduced Martin at a news conference Tuesday morning. Cardinal Christophe Pierre, the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio (ambassador) to the United States, publicized the appointment early Tuesday in Washington, D.C. Martin answered a variety of questions about his new role leading the diocese, from aiding the poor and marginalized, to future goals of continuing to shepherd growth among parishes and schools.

“To the faithful Catholics spread across 92 parishes and missions, I can’t wait to come to be with you, to listen to your story of discipleship, and to know how best I can serve you,” the bishop-elect said. “To the many priests, deacons and religious who walk with their lay brothers and sisters on the journey, I pledge my heart to you.”

Right after the press conference ended, Martin made an impromptu visit to Catholic Charities’ food pantry, which operates each Tuesday and Thursday at the Diocese of Charlotte Pastoral Center. There he greeted volunteers and staff who organize the food distribution to hundreds of people in need each week, and he prayed over a family who had come in for emergency food assistance.

Background of service

Martin was born in Baltimore on Dec. 2, 1961, the only boy of four children in a Catholic family whose faith was an integral part of their lives. He attended Archbishop Curley High School in Baltimore, where he would later return to work. In 1979, when he was 17, he entered the Conventual Franciscan Friars Novitiate in Ellicott City, Maryland. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. Hyacinth College-Seminary (Massachusetts), earned a bachelor of sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Bonaventure (Rome), and received a master’s degree in education from Boston College.

He worked as a religious studies teacher and coach at St. Francis High School in Athol Springs, New York, in 1984-85, then served as a transitional deacon at St. Adalbert Parish in Elmhurst, New York, in 1988-1989.

He was ordained to the priesthood on June 10, 1989, by then Auxiliary Bishop John Ricard of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, during a Mass at St. Casimir Catholic Church in Baltimore.

Following his ordination, he returned to St. Francis High School to serve as admissions director and a teacher and coach, from 1989 to 1994. He then served in several positions at his alma mater Archbishop Curley High School from 1994 to 2010 — including president, principal, admissions director and teacher and basketball coach. 

In 2007, he was the recipient of the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award from then-Pope Benedict XVI for his service to the church.

Martin is no stranger to North Carolina, having served as director of the Duke Catholic Center — the official Catholic community at Duke University in Durham — from 2010 to 2022. The center serves and supports a Catholic student population that is the largest single faith community on campus, about 2,500 students.

He has also held a number of leadership positions in the church, particularly in Catholic education. He has served on multiple Catholic school boards including Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh, and worked with Partners in Mission, a Boston-based consulting firm that partners with Catholic schools and institutions to advance the mission of Catholic education.

In 2022, his order assigned him to ministry in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, where since then he has served as pastor of St. Philip Benizi Parish.

Welcomed news

Atlanta Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., who belongs to the same religious order, said Martin is a devoted priest and will be a wonderful shepherd for the Diocese of Charlotte.

“I believe Pope Francis has made an excellent choice for the Church of Charlotte,” said the archbishop, who also leads the Catholic Church’s three-state province of Georgia and the Carolinas. “Bishop-Elect Martin is man who is deeply in love with Jesus, and he is a faithful son of St. Francis of Assisi. He comes to the Diocese of Charlotte with many gifts and a wealth of experience, and a love for God’s people. I believe he will be a bishop who listens and leads.”

The Conventual Franciscan Friars are a worldwide religious order founded in 1209 by St. Francis of Assisi. They often serve in urban areas for purposes of evangelization, teaching and service to the poor. The religious habit worn by the Conventual Franciscans is gray in color with a tunic, a capuche (or hood) and a white cord around the waist with three knots signifying their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Jugis said it has been a delight to meet and talk with his future successor.

“As difficult as it is for me to leave this position that I love, I am confident that God has a plan in bringing us Bishop-Elect Martin, and I will do everything I can to support his ministry,” he said. “It has truly been the joy of a lifetime to serve as bishop for the people of our diocese, and I believe Bishop-Elect Martin will find that to be true for him as he gets to know the faithful of our diocese and sees firsthand our many ministries that are dedicated to sharing the love of Christ in our communities.”

A lasting legacy

A native of Charlotte, Jugis has served as the fourth Bishop of Charlotte since 2003. Over the past 20 years, he has led the diocese through unprecedented growth, particularly in its vocations program and schools.

  • As bishop, he has called to holy orders 57 new priests and 65 new permanent deacons for ministry, and established six new parishes. In 2016, he founded St. Joseph College Seminary in Mount Holly to form priests for the diocese from among the parishes they will one day serve.
  • He has overseen rapid growth at the diocese’s 20 accredited schools, which this year saw a record enrollment that topped 8,100 students.
  • He established the annual Eucharistic Congress in 2005, one of the largest public worship events of its kind in the United States, drawing more than 10,000 people to Charlotte each fall to celebrate the Catholic faith.

For more information about Bishop Jugis, go to www.charlottediocese.org/about/bishop-peter-jugis.