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2012 Man of the Year
Bishop Neal Buckon graduated from Gesu Elementary School in University Heights and Cathedral Latin High School. He continued his education at John Carroll University, earning a Bachelor of Science Degree through his participation in the ROTC program at Carroll. “Even before college, I knew I wanted to be in ROTC,” Bishop Buckon says. “It wasn’t something that was popular at the time with Vietnam, but my grandfather and other family members served. I felt every citizen ought to consider being of service.”
In May 1975, he was recognized as a Distinguished Military Graduate, appointed as a Regular Army Officer, and served in both the Infantry and Transportation branches of the U.S. Army. As a member of the Infantry, he served as Rifle Platoon Leader and Weapons Platoon Leader with the 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry, 1st Armor Division, Erlangen, Germany; and Battalion S4 and Company Commander with the 3rd Battalion, 19th Infantry, 24th Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Georgia. As a member of the Transportation Corps, his assignments included serving in Mannheim Germany as a Platoon Leader and Company Operations Officer with the 28th Transportation Battalion and as a Platoon Leader and Transportation Officer in the Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the Allied Command Europe, Mobile Force (Land) (AMFL) (including deployments to Denmark, England, and Norway).
Following seven years of active duty, he resigned his commission and traveled to more than 100 countries. Inspired by these travels Neal entered the ministry. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Cleveland State University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from Borromeo College of Ohio. He later received a Masters of Divinity degree and a Master of Arts degree in Church History from Saint Mary’s Seminary in Cleveland, Ohio. Following his graduate theological studies, he was ordained a priest in May 1995 for the Diocese of Cleveland and assigned to Saint Margaret Mary Church in South Euclid, Ohio. While in the seminary, he served in the U.S. Army Reserve as a Chaplain Candidate and was subsequently accessioned into the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps in 1996.
His Chaplain assignments included locations around the world. Some of the locations and deployments were: Cleveland, Ohio (including a deployment to Bosnia); Fort Stewart, Georgia; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Baghdad, Iraq; Heidelberg, Germany; and Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He served his last assignment as the Eighth United States Army (EUSA) Chaplain for Current Operations and Catholic Chaplain in Yongsan, Korea.
His awards include the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters), the Parachutist Badge, and the Ranger Tab.
U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Neal J. Buckon retired on December 31, 2010 after 28 years of distinguished service in the military. Three days later, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI named him Titular Bishop of Vissalsa and Auxiliary Bishop to the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, Archbishop for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.
Bishop Buckon’s appointment was announced in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 2011 by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. He explains his role as auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. “Archbishop Broglio reorganized the areas of responsibility for his four auxiliary bishops. I will be his vicar for the Western United States, situated in San Clemente, California, traveling to 95 military installations in 18 western states, including Hawaii and Alaska. The Archdiocese for the Military Services includes the Catholic service members and their families on Active Duty in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. In addition to celebrating annual Confirmation Masses at these installations, I will support the Catholic Chaplains by answering questions, resolving issues, and talking through difficulties to find solutions. I will also provide pastoral care to those serving in the military and their families. I will be working with the Catholic Chaplains to sustain the spirituality and souls of those in our Armed Forces. As I serve God, I am also serving this great nation and the brave service members of the U.S. military,” Bishop Buckon states proudly.
Bishop Buckon notes, “Christianity is a very powerful thing because it is the love of God. As bishops, we select our own coat of arms and motto. I selected the motto of Cathedral Latin, opere et veritate, which means “in deed and in truth.” In the letter of John 3:19, Jesus says, ‘Little children, do not merely talk about love. Let us serve in deed and in truth.’ This is a wonderful message for our military. It has strengthened and encouraged me since my Latin days.”
On Feb. 22, Buckon was ordained a bishop during a ceremony at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Neal asked three friends and former Cathedral Latin alumni to serve as deacons at his ordination Mass on February 22: Bruce Battista ’71, of Holy Rosary Church, Little Italy; John Wenzel ’65, of St. Anthony of Padua, Fairport Harbor; and John Sferry ’63, of Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. Why? “Because they were Latin grads,” jokes Bishop Buckon with a laugh. “They are good friends, and we’ve worked together or stayed in close touch all these years.”
Bishop Buckon is a native Clevelander and is the son of John (deceased) and Rita Buckon. His siblings include Liz (deceased), Nancy, Jane, Marie, Leo ’73 and Paul ’76. He currently resides at Our Lady of Fatima Church in San Clemente, CA.
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