Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas recognized his Golden Jubilee as a priest Tuesday with a Mass of Celebration at St. Augustine Cathedral.

Kicanas was ordained to the priesthood 50 years ago. He has led the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson for 14 years.

Upon his 75th birthday in August 2016, Kicanas submitted a letter of retirement to Rome, as the church’s canon law requires all bishops do at that age. Usually the pope accepts the resignation. So far, the Tucson diocese has not yet learned of a successor, said diocese spokeswoman Steff Koeneman.

Leaving the administrative work of a bishop behind will give Kicanas more time for “hearing confessions and celebrating Mass — the things that you really went into the priesthood to do,” he said in an earlier interview with the Star. He’ll still be a priest and a bishop, just not bishop of the Diocese of Tucson.

Kicanas was ordained April 27, 1967 in Mundelein, Illinois. His ministry began as parish priest in Libertyville, Illinois, and progressed to teacher and counselor at a high school seminary and a part-time chaplain for a juvenile detention center.

He became rector of the high school seminary and then of the collegiate Mundelein Seminary before Pope John Paul II made Kicanas an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Next stop, Tucson.

In 2001, Kicanas was appointed coadjutor bishop to the Tucson diocese, alongside Bishop Manuel D. Moreno. After Moreno’s retirement in 2003, Kicanas became the sixth bishop of a diocese reeling from claims of sexual abuse carried out by diocesan personnel and clergy and corresponding settlements. It was his job now to lead the diocese and restore credibility and make amends.

Over the years, Kicanas has developed a reputation in Tucson and around the country for his attention to social justice issues, particularly those involving immigration, prisons, drug addiction and poverty.

“I am deeply grateful to God for the opportunity I had to serve as a priest,” he wrote in his weekly Monday Memo. “What a privilege it has been to enter the lives of so many people. They have been an inspiration for me in my own faith.”

Contact reporter Johanna Willett at jwillett@tucson.com or 573-4357. On Twitter: @JohannaWillett

Writing about Tucson's heart and soul — its people, its kindness, its faith — for #ThisIsTucson.