Bishop Monforton speaks to Rotary

STEUBENVILLE – Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville told members of the city Rotary Club about himself and his new mission during the club’s Friday luncheon meeting at the YWCA.

Monforton was ordained as bishop Sept. 10 at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He said he was serving as a monsignor in Detroit when he got the call he would soon be a bishop.

“On the 25th of June I had celebrated my 18th year as an ordained priest,” said Monforton, adding he had been ordained a monsignor in 2005.

He said he remembered well the day the papal nuncio’s office in Washington, D.C., had left a message on his phone for him to call the ambassador. Monforton said he knew then that change was coming.

“(The pope’s ambassador) called and wanted to talk to me,” he said. “Life as I knew it was about to change.”

The ambassador informed him Pope Benedict had appointed him as the new bishop of the Diocese of Steubenville.

“Please tell the Holy Father I humbly accept,” Monforton said he told the ambassador’s office. “I then immediately went and Googled Steubenville.”

That appointment made Monforton the fifth bishop in the history of the diocese as well as the second-youngest bishop in the United States. He followed R. Daniel Conlon as the bishop of Steubenville. Conlon served as bishop from 2002 through 2011 before being named as the bishop of the Diocese of Joliet, Ill.

“I’m thrilled with my new appointment,” he said. “I hope to retire here as bishop in 26 years.”

Monforton said he began receiving messages from friends about the hospitality of the Ohio Valley. He said he believed he’d fit right in, as his interests included cooking, barbecue, eating, reading, sports and traveling.

Monforton said he spent last week visiting the different Catholic schools in the diocese.

“It provided me the opportunity to get to know these schools,” said Monforton, adding he wanted to get “a snapshot” of the diocese. “I put 1,000 miles on my car last week, but it was worth it.”

The bishop said it was his duty to tend to his parishioners, including the youngest pupils enrolled in parochial schools in the diocese.

“If they are asking questions about the faith, then it’s my duty as shepherd to answer them,” he said. “We have to be able to see eye-to-eye with people. We’re all members of the human race, and there are times we need to be on one knee (to reach others).”

The diocese Monforton leads covers 13 counties and 5,913 square miles in Eastern Ohio, and includes 37,011 Catholics.

He also discussed issues the area is facing, such as economic uncertainty and decreasing population. He said coming from Detroit he understands the challenges and concerns, and plans on being “an instrument of hope.”

Monforton also complimented Rotarians on their mission of service above self.

He added he believed the area had challenges, and for citizens to “Keep your hearts and minds open. The bottom line is that God knows what he’s doing. My brother and sister Rotarians, you make things happen. God bless you.”