THE COAT OF ARMS OF BISHOP THOMAS G. WENSKI
FOURTH BISHOP OF ORLANDO
Since the Middle Ages, bishops have been accorded the privilege of displaying a personal crest as a sign of their authority.
The coat of arms of Bishop Thomas G. Wenski is impaled, that is, it is a combination of the shield of the Diocese of Orlando and that of Bishop Wenski. As a viewer looks at it, the left side is that of the diocese and the right is personal to the bishop.
On the left side, for the Diocese of Orlando, the main colors of red and gold recall the colors of the flag of Spain, for it was missionaries from that country who first brought the Gospel to Florida. The Chi-Rho (X-P) is taken from the two first letters of the Greek word for Christ, the Son of God and the center of all Christian faith. The golden shell is a traditional symbol for the Apostle St. James the Greater, patron of the Cathedral. The orange blossom indicates that the nine counties of the diocese are centered in Orange County.
In the upper portion or “chief” of the diocesan arms is a blue fleur-de-lis on a background of white or silver. This is in deference to Mary, the Mother of God, the patroness of the diocese.
On the right side are the personal arms of Bishop Wenski. These elements have special meanings that are personal and spiritual; temporal and eternal – reflecting not only his life experiences but his faith journey as well. The white eagle, modeled after the national symbol of Poland, reflects Bishop Wenski’s pride in his family name and heritage. It has further significance in that it was drawn by his long-time good friend, Father Clarence Podgorski. Spiritually, the eagle recalls the soul’s ascension to God, and the heavenward striving of Christian life. There are resonances with eagles too, in both scripture and tradition – with Christ, the Gospel of John, St. Augustine, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Gregory the Great. “He will raise you up on eagle wings.”
The red shield, the color red, as the color of Pentecost, is always associated with Apostles and the gifts of the Spirit – and hence, with discipleship, the flame of faith, the Apostolic Church and the Church Triumphant. It also recalls the Blood of Christ – His sacrifice and our Redemption.
The blue wave suggests Bishop Wenski’s place of birth, West Palm Beach, Florida; and the Bishop’s education in various cities by the sea. Water, of course, has long been associated with life – especially for Christians in the new Life of the waters of Baptism, which cleanse and sanctify. Thus, the symbol of the wave recalls the rivers at the root of the Tree of Life, the ancient notion of water as the Great Mother, and the healing waters of the Sacrament.
The two crosses, in their dualism, represent spiritual union and the integration of man’s soul – the supreme identity, capable of the infinite expansion in every direction – the representation and reminder of the promise of life eternal. Of course, as the supreme symbol of Christianity, they also bear witness to Resurrection and Redemption. Christ’s sacrifice transformed rude wood into the Tree of Life – new life and life everlasting.
The triad of six-pointed stars is a reminder of both the Trinity and the approach of the Third Millennium. Personally, it symbolizes Bishop Wenski’s connections with three countries which hold a special place in his heart: the United States, Cuba, and Haiti. There are a variety of other meanings and associations suggested by the six-pointed stars. They were drawn from the Coat of Arms of the Wisniewski family, recognizing the Bishop’s ancestry, and they have long been known as the Creator’s Star, the symbol of divinity. The six points also recall the six days of Creation; the six star of the Pleiades, which the ancients regarded as the site of heaven; the Seal of Solomon; and finally, the morning star – and therefore, Chirst Himself, C.F. II Peter 1:19; “You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning rises in your hearts.” Thus, the three stars also represent the Light of Christ, the knowledge that pierces the darkness, the lamp of faith and the hope of the world to come.
The dominant use of blue and red throughout represents Bishop Wenski’s long association with Haiti and the Haitian people.
The cross staff recalls both the Processional Cross and the Bishop’s Staff, therefore invoking both Christ and the Good Shepherd – long the abiding symbol for compassionate authority and leadership – as well as the Community of Faith and the celebration of the Eucharist.
The motto endeavors to capture the personal ideal or theme of the bishop’s ministry. Bishop Wenski’s motto is taken from I Corinthians 9:22, “Omnia Omnibus” meaning “All things to all men.” The full text reads “I have become all things to all, to save at least some.”
The green bishop’s hat is the traditional emblem that adorns a bishop’s crest, with the three rows of tassels further denoting rank. The color green, as the color of growth and renewal, also suggests eternal life.
Compiled Nov. 2004