Robert W. Muench
Most Reverend Robert William Muench
Robert William Muench, 70, is the son of William Anthony Muench and Mary Kathryn Allgeier of New Orleans, Louisiana. He was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on December 28, 1942, but three years later his family moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. He has three sisters: Mrs. Jo Ann Muench Talken of Vallejo, California; Mrs. Mary Alice Muench Pringle of Metairie, Louisiana, and Mrs. Marsha Muench Morse, of Covington, Louisiana. His parents were married almost 70 years, until his mother's death on May 4, 2006. His father died at 101 years of age on February 21, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky, where he resided since relocating from New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"Bobby" Muench attended Jefferson Davis and St. Leo the Great elementary schools in New Orleans. In 1956 he began studies for the priesthood at St. Joseph Seminary in St. Benedict, Louisiana, graduating from its high school in 1960. After two more years of junior college study there, he went on to attend Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans for two years, obtaining a B.A. degree in Philosophy. From 1964 to 1968 he completed his theological seminary studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, also earning an M.A. degree in Education (Guidance and Counseling). He has also taken courses at Loyola University of the South and the University of New Orleans as well.
He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of New Orleans on May 18, 1968. Later that year Father Muench was assigned to the faculty of St. John Vianney Prep School there. He served at that high school seminary for eight years, as religion teacher, liturgy director, guidance counselor and eventually rector. During this time he assisted as priest at various parishes in the New Orleans area. From 1976 to 1982 he served as associate pastor and then co-pastor of St. Matthias Parish in New Orleans. He was active as a counselor and associate chaplain at Brother Martin High School from 1978 to 1996. From 1977 to 1981 he served as Vicar for Christian Formation for the archdiocese as well. In 1981 he was appointed archdiocesan Vocations Director, and in 1983 Director of the Pope John XXIII House for Vocation Discernment in New Orleans. In 1985 he was designated a Prelate of Honor of His Holiness the Pope, with the title of "Reverend Monsignor." Throughout his priesthood in the Archdiocese of New Orleans he was also active on numerous boards, committees, and task forces, including the Clergy Personnel and Continuing Education Committees, the Archdiocesan Board of Religious Education, the Boards of Trustees of Notre Dame Seminary and St. Joseph Seminary College, the Priests' Council, the Finance Council, the Associated Catholic Charities board, and the Archdiocesan Cemeteries Board.
In 1983, when then Auxiliary Bishop Stanley Joseph Ott left New Orleans to become the third Bishop of Baton Rouge, Father Muench became the Executive Assistant to the Archbishop of New Orleans. In 1989 he became archdiocesan Vicar General, and in 1990 he was appointed Moderator of the archdiocesan Curia. On June 29, 1990, he was promoted to the episcopacy, and ordained Titular Bishop of Mactaris and an Auxiliary Bishop of New Orleans as well.
On March 19, 1996, he was installed as the Ninth Bishop of Covington, in Kentucky. In that role he was the chief shepherd of a flock of some 85,000 Catholics and 48 parishes in 14 northeastern counties of Kentucky. There he served on the Boards of St. Elizabeth Medical Center and Edgewood Hospital. He was Chancellor of Thomas More College, and served for a time as a member of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Priestly Formation. Perhaps the achievement for which he shall be most remembered and revered was his supervision of the repair and renovation of St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, a project was completed just before his transfer to Baton Rouge.
On December 15, 2001, announcements in Rome, Washington, and Baton Rouge were made, revealing that the late Pope John Paul II had reassigned Bishop Muench to be the Fifth Bishop of Baton Rouge. In this post he succeeded Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes, who seven months previously had become the Coadjutor Archbishop of New Orleans.
Bishop Muench was installed as Bishop of Baton Rouge at historic St. Joseph Cathedral on March 14, 2002. Archbishop Alfred Hughes presided at the Mass of installation, with 23 other bishops taking part, including the Papal Nuncio in the United States. At this celebration he took possession of the See comprised of 12 civil parishes (counties) in south-central Louisiana, having a Catholic population of more than 219,000 out of a total population of over 931,000 people.
Since assuming the office of bishop in Baton Rouge, Bishop Muench has paid special attention to the Church's ministry to young people. In addition to his presiding over the celebrations of the sacrament of confirmation whenever possible, he has reorganized and appointed chaplains at all eight Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Baton Rouge. He regularly visits each high school, spending the day in conversation - invariably with his infectious laughter! - with the students and faculty on campus. He serves on the Board of Trustees of both Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans and St. Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict, Louisiana. He has met monthly with the Presbyteral Council, and attends as many functions throughout the diocese as he can. He completed the "parochial visitation" program established by his predecessor, Archbishop Hughes, and has taken special interest in continuing to promote vocations to the diocesan priesthood.
A particular concern for Bishop Muench was collaboration with the Archdiocese of New Orleans during the fall of 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The bishops of the two dioceses worked together, offering pastoral leadership and support to the many displaced persons and other victims of the storm, including the many clergy and other employees of the archdiocese who suddenly became refugees in our midst. Once the immediate aftermath of the catastrophe ended, Bishop Muench led the diocese in renewed emergency preparedness planning, as well as ongoing charitable works for those who remained victimized.
A magnificent celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Diocese of Baton Rouge was held on November 6, 2011. As Bishop Muench and the people of God of the Diocese of Baton Rouge move into the future together, he is the first to say he is dependent upon the grace of God Himself for guidance and strength in the awesome task of bishop in the challenging times of the 21st century. Yet his prayers for his flock are more than matched by the prayerful and generous love of the Christian faithful for their shepherd, and so the building up of Christ's Kingdom here continues under his leadership. Ad multos annos!