Coat of Arms of Bishop John Folda

Heraldic Achievement of
Bishop of Fargo

Azure, a cross Or charged with a horseshoe of the field, in dexter chief a garb of the second, impaling Argent on a pale gules a Chi-Rho and from base a demi-eagle displayed Or, on a chief azure to dexter a star of six points and to sinister a dove volant argent.

In designing the shield—the central element in what is formally called the heraldic achievement—a bishop has an opportunity to depict symbolically aspects of his life and heritage, and to highlight elements of the Catholic faith that are important to him. Every coat of arms also includes external elements that identify the rank of the bearer. The formal description of a coat of arms, known as the blazon, uses a technical language, derived from French and English terms, that allows the appearance and position of each element in the achievement to be recorded precisely.

A diocesan bishop shows his commitment to the flock he shepherds by combining his personal coat of arms with that of the diocese, in a technique known as impaling. The shield is divided in half along the pale or central vertical line. The arms of the diocese appear on the dexter side — that is, on the side of the shield to the viewer’s left, which would cover the right side (in Latin, dextera) of the person carrying the shield. The arms of the bishop are on the sinister side — the bearer’s left, the viewer’s right.

Central to the arms of the Diocese of Fargo is the Cross of Christ. The colors of the shield, gold and blue (Or and azure), are traditional attributes of the Virgin Mary, who is invoked as patron of the diocese under the title of her Immaculate Conception. In the center of the Cross is a horseshoe, alluding to William George Fargo (1818–81), the namesake of the See city and co-founder of Wells Fargo & Co., whose stagecoaches carried express mail, bank funds and settlers throughout the Midwest. At the top left (dexter chief) is a wheat sheaf (garb), which recalls the important agricultural product of North Dakota, as well as the bread that becomes the Body of Christ in the celebration of the Eucharist.

The arms of Bishop Folda incorporate the colors and layout of the arms of the Diocese of Lincoln (Nebraska); the bishop was ordained a priest of that diocese in 1989. In the blue band at the top of the shield (the chief azure) is a star to represent Our Lady, also taken from Lincoln. Next to the star is a dove, a symbol of the Holy Spirit and an attribute of Saint Gregory the Great, the pope and doctor of the Church, who is often depicted with the dove hovering at his ear as he writes. Bishop Folda served as Rector of Saint Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward, Nebraska, from 1999 to 2013.

On the red vertical stripe (the pale gules) is a Chi-Rho, the ancient monogram for Our Lord composed of the first two Greek letters in the name Christ. Rising from the base of the shield is an eagle, which has been used from ancient times to allude to Saint John the Evangelist, the author of the fourth Gospel and Bishop Folda’s baptismal patron.

The Bishop’s motto, on a scroll below the shield, is taken from the Prologue of this Gospel: Verbum caro factum est —“The Word was made flesh” (John 1:14). As the Chi-Rho draws the viewer’s eye to Christ at the center of the shield, so the motto draws the viewer’s heart to contemplate the Incarnation, the central mystery of the Christian faith.

The shield is ensigned with external elements that identify the bearer as a Bishop. A gold processional cross appears behind the shield. The galero or “pilgrim’s hat” is used heraldically in various colors and with specific numbers of tassels to indicate the rank of a bearer of a coat of arms. A bishop uses a green galero with three rows of green tassels.