YAKIMA – An auxiliary bishop of the Seattle Archdiocese has been named the new bishop of the Yakima Diocese, the Catholic Church announced Tuesday.
The move marks a return to the region for the Most Rev. Joseph J. Tyson, who was born in Moses Lake and baptized at St. Paul Cathedral in Yakima. He grew up in Seattle but visited the Yakima area often to spend time with his grandparents.
“It’s just a real, real pleasure – a real blessing – to receive this naming,” Tyson said. “I’m just thrilled to be coming back to central Washington.”
Founded in 1951, the Yakima diocese serves more than 80,000 Catholics across a sprawling seven-county area in central Washington, stretching from the Cascade mountains east to rolling fruit orchards, wine grape vineyards and fields of hops, potatoes and wheat. Parishioners include long-standing farm families and recent immigrants who’ve moved to the area for farm work.
The diocese also has been a training ground for well-respected leaders in the church, though it has not escaped the clergy sex abuse scandal of the past decade.
Tyson, 53, was ordained in 1989 and served parishes in Bellevue, Monroe and Seattle. He has been auxiliary bishop in Seattle since 2005. In that role, he oversees about 23,000 students as superintendent of Archdiocesan Catholic Schools.
Tyson said at a news conference at Holy Family Parish that he plans to spend his first year getting to know the priests and understanding the challenges in a region that has changed since he spent time there as a child.
Today, about 75 percent of Catholics in the diocese are Hispanic.
In addition to his native English, Tyson speaks Spanish and German, as well as some Serbo-Croatian and Vietnamese. In south Seattle, he spent nine years as pastor of three culturally diverse parishes where 37 languages were spoken.
Tyson said he traveled to places such as the Philippines and Vietnam to better understand the roots of his parishioners and priests. He also has visited various parts of Mexico and hopes to continue those travels.