BOISE, Idaho — The Rev. Peter F. Christensen, Idaho's next Catholic bishop, has set an assignment for himself even before he assumes his office: Learn Spanish.
"Be patient with me," he told more than 600 people gathered for an evening service Tuesday at St. John's Cathedral on the eve of his formal installation as bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise. "I will do all I can to learn Spanish."
His commitment immediately resonated with Jessica Gallegos, a Spanish teacher at Holy Spirit Catholic School in Pocatello. She came to Boise for both the Tuesday and Wednesday services.
Hispanic Catholics make up between 25 percent to more than 50 percent of the religion's followers in Idaho, depending on the region of the state.
"I think he can do it," Gallegos said. "I feel it is a really good thing for him to do."
Tuesday's Evening Prayer service began with Christensen standing outside the Cathedral and knocking three times on the door asking to be admitted — a long-held Catholic tradition.
"What do you want?" asked the Rev. Gerald Funke, diocesan administrator.
"I desire to serve the good and faithful people of this diocese," Christensen responded.
The doors opened and Christensen was first greeted by Catholics of the Nez Perce and Coeur d' Alene tribes, in honor of Native Americans being the first people to greet Catholic missionaries who came to Idaho.
"I am so pleased to be here," he told the congregation. "I am so pleased to be here to be your next bishop. Thank you for having me."
Among those in the congregation were 23 bishops from the Northwest, the Midwest and Wisconsin, where Christensen served as bishop in Superior.
Christensen also recognized the Rev. Carlo Vigano, the Papal Nuncio to the United States, who had flown in from attending a bishop installation in Fairbanks, Alaska.
"He came to Boise to warm up," Christensen said.
He was appointed bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise by Pope Francis in early November.
Christensen, who was born in California on Christmas Eve in 1952, is known for being a sailor, master gardener and potter.
He sees similarities between sailing and his Catholic faith.
"Filled with sail is a good thing to be ready for the spirit - the wind - to push us and direct us where we need to go," he said in a video made shortly after he was named bishop at Superior in Wisconsin in 2007.
He was ordained as a priest in 1985 at St. Paul Cathedral for the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis in Minnesota.
Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com