ST. PETERSBURG — Bishop Robert Lynch has picked a man with local roots to head the most important church in the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg.
Father Joseph Waters, now pastor at Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Temple Terrace, has been appointed rector of the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg. He will replace Father Gregg Tottle, who is heading to St. Michael the Archangel in Clearwater.
The assignments are part of the normal rotation of duties in the diocese that follow retirements, ordinations and requests by priests for transfers. About a dozen priests will be affected this year.
Waters, 47, made news in January when he was charged with driving under the influence near Riverview. He pleaded no contest to reckless driving, received probation and community service. He says he's a humbler and more compassionate person as a result of the incident.
The priest apologized to his congregation, saying he was "terribly embarrassed" and "sorry for the poor judgment" he showed. He had been returning home from a social engagement, he said.
Frank Murphy, a spokesman for the diocese, said Waters is highly regarded.
"I think the one mistake that he's made should not override the fact that he was apologetic and he has served in leadership positions in our diocese," he said.
"He is known as a very forceful, very strong person and has done a very good job at Corpus Christi, and the bishop is very pleased that Father Waters accepted the appointment."
The cathedral is the bishop's church, so Waters will technically be second in command in the parish. St. Jude's includes a parochial school of 438 students and a congregation of about 1,800 families.
Waters also will be in a position to advise men considering priesthood. He said he knew Father Alberto Cutie, the Miami priest who recently reignited the debate about celibacy after intimate pictures surfaced of him with a woman. He said priests choose their vocation because they have found something worth sacrificing for.
"There are times when you miss not having a family," Waters said, adding that his advice to those seeking the priesthood is that God will give them grace to get through difficult times.
The new position will be a homecoming of sorts, said Waters, the ninth of 10 children. His family moved to the city from Long Island in 1973 and belonged to St. Paul's Parish. He graduated from St. Petersburg Catholic High, and five siblings still live here. He will begin his new position July 1.
Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727)892-2283.