A bishop’s coat of arms is distinguished by a sign of his rank. That sign, placed over a shield, is a version of an ecclesiastical hat that was worn in processions as late as 1870. By heraldic tradition, the coat of arms includes the arms of the bishop and the arms of his jurisdiction, in this case the Diocese of Savannah, represented on the left side of the shield.
The Lamb of God at the base of the shield recognizes the centrality of the Eucharist in both the life of the Church and Bishop Parkes. The Lamb is carrying the flag of victory (over death) which gives hope for the future. It also points to John the Baptist, patron of the Diocese of Savannah, who introduced Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
The fleur-de-lis at the top of the shield shows the Bishop’s personal devotion to the Blessed Mother. He served 16 of his 22 years of priestly ministry at Annunciation Catholic Church in the Diocese of Orlando, where Mary is their patron saint. The fleur-de-lis is also on the coat of arms for the Diocese of Orlando, for whom he was ordained a priest in 1998.
The final component of the Bishop’s shield is the palm frond across the middle. This honors St. Stephen, who is both the patron of the Bishop and honors the date of his parents’ reception of the sacrament of matrimony on December 26, the Feast of St. Stephen. The palm itself is a symbol of martyrdom, hence used to represent St. Stephen, the first martyr for the Church.