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Two former Catholic priests, a former Methodist minister and a female rector are among the five candidates to succeed Bishop David C. Bowman as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York.

Bishop Bowman, who has led the diocese since 1987, retires Dec. 31.

The candidates to replace him as leader of Western New York's 23,000 Episcopalians are:

The Rev. Allen W. Farabee, 51, dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in Buffalo.

The Rev. Carol W. Hull, 55, rector of St. George's Episcopal Church in Dayton, Ohio.

The Rev. Dr. Paul Kowalewski, 50, rector of St. David's Episcopal Church in DeWitt, a Syracuse suburb.

The Rev. Michael Garrison, 53, vicar for Southern Nevada and vicar for the Development of Ministry for the Episcopal Diocese of Las Vegas.

The Rev. Dr. Leander S. Harding, 49, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Stamford, Conn.

The candidates "represent a broad cross section of the church" and have "a variety of experiences," Bishop Bowman said.

The bishop conceded it is somewhat unusual that the list of candidates includes two former Catholic priests but called that development "purely coincidental."

"About half of our seminary graduates come from other denominations, so it is not surprising that some of our bishops are not lifelong Episcopalians," Bishop Bowman said.

The new bishop will be elected during a special convention at 10 a.m. Dec. 5 in St. Paul's Cathedral. The new bishop will be consecrated April 24.

The four out-of-town candidates were selected by a diocesan nominating committee that worked for a year, considering more than 100 applicants, according to the Rev. J. Frederick Barber.

Dean Farabee was nominated by petition, and additional candidates can be nominated from the floor during the election convention.

Under diocesan rules, there will be separate balloting by about 128 clergy and up to three lay delegates from each of the 67 parishes in the diocese.

A nominee must receive a simple majority of both the clergy and lay votes to win election.

In addition, the bishop-elect must be approved by a majority of the 200-member national House of Bishops and by standing committees of more than 100 dioceses across the nation.

Father Barber, rector of Episcopal Church of the Advent, Kenmore, and chairman of the nominating committee, said the five candidates will be introduced to the diocese during a series of gatherings next week in various churches.

The sessions are scheduled Wednesday in St. James Church, Batavia; Thursday in St. Luke's Church, Jamestown; Friday in Christ Church, Lockport; and Saturday in St. Paul's Cathedral. The Batavia, Jamestown and Lockport meetings will be from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. The gathering in St. Paul's will be from 9 to 11 a.m.

Dean Farabee became dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in September 1995. Ordained in 1975, he served for 10 years as rector of St. Michael's Parish, a historic parish in Litchfield, Conn., before coming to Buffalo.

Trained to be an operatic tenor, Dean Farabee, who also has a law degree, initially was ordained as a Methodist minister. He became an Episcopal priest in 1975.

He and his wife, Galen, have two sons.

A Texas native and longtime resident of Corning, Rector Hull was ordained into the Episcopal priesthood in 1984 in the Diocese of Rochester.

She has been rector of St. George's Church, Dayton, since 1991. Earlier, she ministered in three rural Southern Tier parishes and served as a district dean.

She and her husband, Thomas, have two children.

Father Kowalewski, a Buffalo-area native and graduate of Christ the King Seminary, East Aurora, was ordained a priest in the Buffalo Catholic Diocese in 1973.

After serving in the diocese for several years, he left the ministry, married, earned a doctorate in communications from the University at Buffalo and taught at UB.

In 1985, Father Kowalewski returned to ministry, joining the United Methodist Church and serving as chaplain at Syracuse University.

He was received as a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York in 1990. He has been rector of St. David's for six years.

Father Kowalewski and his wife, Karen, have two sons.

Father Garrison was ordained a Catholic priest in 1971 in Ohio and returned to his sponsoring diocese in eastern Oregon. There, he served as assistant pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish for three years.

He was received into the Episcopal Church in 1975 and has served several congregations in central and southern Nevada since then. A member of the bishop's staff since 1979, Father Garrison currently is regional vicar for six congregations.

He and his wife, Carol, have six children.

A New York City native, Father Harding grew up on a small farm in northern Virginia. He worked his way through the seminary by farming. Even after his ordination in 1981, he raised sheep commercially to help support his family in his early years in ministry.

Since 1989, Father Harding has served as rector of St. John's, a large ethnically, racially and economically diverse parish in Stamford that was established 255 years ago. He also has served churches in Arlington, Mass., and Houlton, Maine.

He and his wife, Claudia, have three sons.

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