The Most Rev. Michael P. Driscoll, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise from 1999 to 2014, died Tuesday of natural causes in Boise at age 78.
Bishop Peter Christensen, the current Bishop of Boise, succeeded Bishop Driscoll in late 2014. “Upon my first visit to the diocese, I soon realized that Bishop Driscoll was a pastoral and compassionate shepherd to the people and His priests by the manner in which he passed the leadership of the diocese on to me,” Bishop Christensen said. “His love for this diocese was evident not only in His words, but also by his pastoral care for all. He was truly a gentle and kind man.”
Bishop Driscoll was born Aug. 8, 1939, in Long Beach, Calif. He attended Our Lady Queen of Angels Seminary in San Fernando and St. John Seminary College in Camarillo. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 1, 1965.
He served in several pastoral assignments in Los Angeles, until 1975, when he was appointed associate director for Catholic Charities in Orange County. That same year, he earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
The following year, when the Diocese of Orange was created, Father Driscoll was asked by Bishop William Johnson to be his chancellor -- and to help organize the new diocese. He was also named Vicar of Charities. Because of his service to the Diocese of Orange, Father Driscoll was given the title “Monsignor” by Pope John Paul II in 1979. After Bishop Johnson passed away in 1986, his successor, Bishop Norman McFarland, appointed Monsignor Driscoll as his Vicar General and Vicar for Religious Communities.
Pope John Paul II appointed Monsignor Driscoll as an auxiliary bishop on Dec. 19, 1989, and he was ordained a bishop by Bishop McFarland on March 6, 1990, in Orange’s Holy Family Cathedral.
Nine years later, Bishop Driscoll was appointed by Pope John Paul II as the seventh bishop of Boise on Jan. 19, 1999, and installed on March 18, 1999, in St. John’s Cathedral.
Bishop Driscoll presided over the Diocese of Boise during fifteen years of rapid growth and cultural change for the church in Idaho. He implemented the appointment of parish life directors in parishes that did not have priests, and revived a training program for those wanting to serve as deacons.
Bishop Driscoll increased outreach to a growing Hispanic community and recruited priests to Idaho from Mexico and Colombia. He authored a pastoral letter on immigration reform in 2007 and convened a summit of Hispanic leaders in 2014. He had what was termed “a unique relationship” with Native American tribes, continuing a long tradition of celebrating a Mass each year at the Cataldo Mission, the oldest building in Idaho.
A year after being installed as Bishop of Boise, he founded Catholic Charities of Idaho. In its first year, the agency served 101 clients. Today, Catholic Charities serves more than 3,200 annually and operates offices in Boise and Idaho Falls that provide statewide immigration and information and referral services, and adult education and mental health services.
Bishop Driscoll spearheaded a major pastoral plan, calling for renewal in four primary areas: youth and young adults, Christian discipleship, building Christ-centered communities and supporting ordained and consecrated life. One of the outcomes of that plan was the creation of the Office of Religious Education and Catechetical Leadership.
A number of churches were built or renovated during Bishop Driscoll’s tenure including Holy Apostles in Meridian, Good Shepherd, Driggs; Our Lady of the Valley, Caldwell; St. Mark’s and Risen Christ in Boise; St. Jerome’s, Jerome; St. Katherine Drexel, Cascade; Corpus Christi, Fruitland; St. Joseph’s, Sandpoint; and St. Paul’s, Nampa. Bishop Driscoll presided over the expansion of the Nazareth Retreat Center in Boise and contributed to the opening of the Spirit Center at St. Gertrude Monastery in Cottonwood.
In 2014, upon turning 75, Bishop Driscoll submitted his retirement letter to Pope Francis, which the pope accepted.
Bishop Driscoll spent his remaining years in Boise.
He was succeeded by the Most Rev. Peter F. Christensen, who was appointed by Pope Francis as the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Boise on Nov. 4, 2014, and installed on Dec. 17, 2014.
The family requests that memorials in honor of Bishop Driscoll be given to Catholic Charities of Idaho at 7255 W. Franklin Road, Boise, Idaho, 83709.
Funeral and burial arrangements will be announced in the coming days.