You can find his complete biography on the Diocese of Orlando Web site but here are some salient features for our purposes:
- Most of Mons. Wenski's early ministry in Miami involved working with immigrant communities: "He served three years as associate pastor of Corpus Christi Church, a mainly Hispanic parish in Miami. In 1979, after briefly ministering in Haiti, he was assigned to the newly established Haitian Apostolate of the Archdiocese. He was associate director and then director of the Pierre Toussaint Haitian Catholic Center in Miami from that time to his appointment as a Bishop in 1997. The Pierre Toussaint Haitian Catholic Center in addition to providing for the pastoral and spiritual needs of the Haitian communities of South Florida also provided numerous social, educational and legal services to newly arrived Haitian immigrants. He also served concurrently as pastor of three Haitian mission parishes in the Archdiocese—Notre-Dame d’Haiti in Miami, Divine Mercy in Fort Lauderdale, and St. Joseph in Pompano Beach." In the process he learned Spanish and Haitian Creole, both of which he speaks more fluently than the Polish of his own immigrant parents.
- He has been involved in relief efforts for and travel to both Cuba and Haiti -- the countries of origin of many of Miami's immigrants: "In January 1996, the then Father Wenski was appointed the Archdiocese Director of Catholic Charities, one of the largest Catholic social service agencies in the United States. In this capacity he helped forge a collaborative relationship with Caritas Cuba, the social service arm of the Catholic Church in Cuba. Since early 1996 he has traveled to Cuba on many occasions on behalf of the Church. In late 1996, he spearheaded a relief operation that delivered over 150,000 pounds of food to Caritas Cuba for distribution to people left homeless by hurricane Lily. This was the first time that Cubans in Miami participated in a humanitarian relief effort directed to Cuba. In subsequent years, similar relief efforts were also directed to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the countries of Central America and Colombia."
- Other relevant posts held by Mons. Wenski include chair of CLINIC (Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.) (1998-2001) and chair of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops’ Committee on Migration (2001-2004), with which he still works as a consultant.
- As Bishop of Orlando, Wenski established eight new parishes and missions between 2004 and 2010 including the Centro Católico La Guadalupana Mission in Ocala (Hispanic), Santo Toribio Romo Mission in Mascotte (Hispanic), and St. Philip Phan Van Minh Catholic Church in Orlando (Vietnamese). A couple of the other new churches he established also have Mass in Spanish. He also established El Clarín and Buena Nueva FM, two communication ministries for the Hispanic faithful.
- In 2005 together with leaders from the United Farm Workers union and other migrant labor activists, Bishop Wenski spoke out in support of the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits and Security Act of 2005 (AgJOBS). The bill, which resulted from several years of negotiations between representatives of farmworkers and growers, would have given undocumented immigrants who currently work in U.S. agriculture the right to apply for temporary legal status and then, through additional labor in agriculture, earn permanent residency.
Today at a press conference announcing his appointment to the Archdiocese of Miami, Mons. Wenski demonstrated his polyglot abilities by delivering his acceptance speech in English, then Spanish and ending with a smidgeon of Creole:
We are grateful for Bishop Wenski's appointment to the Archdiocese of Miami, wish him well, and hope that this signifies our Church's commitment to work even more strongly for comprehensive immigration reform.
before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law on Comprehensive Immigration Reform, May 22, 2007
Photo: Bishop Thomas Wenski presides over the funeral of Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot and vicar Charles Benoit, on Jan. 23, in the courtyard of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Port-au-Prince Haiti.