The announcement in the spring of 2011 that R. Daniel Conlon, then the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville, was leaving to assume the duties of bishop of the Joliet, Ill., diocese brought with it much speculation about who would succeed him.
Those questions were answered Tuesday, when Pope Benedict XVI appointed Monsignor Jeffrey Marc Monforton as the fifth bishop of our local diocese.
Monforton brings a solid background to the 13-county diocese. Since he was ordained as a priest in 1994, Monforton has served as an assistant priest of the National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, Mich.; as personal secretary for Cardinal Adam J. Maida; as an assistant priest at St. Paul on the Lake Parish on Grosse Point Farms, Mich., and St. Jane Frances de Chantal Parish in Sterling Heights, Mich.; as professor at the Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit; as pastor of the St. Therese of Lisiuex Parish in Shelby Township, Mich.; and as rector of the Sacred Heart Major Seminary. He served as the pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Rochester, Mich., until his appointment.
He also comes with a great recommendation -Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron described Monforton as an exemplary priest and a zealous pastor.
That foundation will serve him well as he comes to our diocese of about 38,000 Catholics. Like Conlon, Monforton will be faced with an area of declining population, declining school enrollment and declining church attendance. A bright spot is that the footprint of the diocese covers much of the area in Eastern Ohio that figures to benefit from drilling for oil and gas in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations.
The new bishop also will be faced with questions about what is to become of the plans for the new cathedral that was to have been built in front of Catholic Central High School.
Yet, the diocese Monforton will now lead is in stable condition, thanks to the efforts of Monsignor Kurt Kemo, pastor of Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of Lourdes parishes in Wintersville, who has served as diocesan administrator since Conlon's departure last July.
If there's anything about Monforton's history that troubles us, it is that the Michign native is a professed fan of the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League. That allegiance can be a bit tough to accept in the heart of Pittsburgh Penguins country.
Kidding aside, we welcome Monforton to our community and wish him well as he begins his assignment as the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville.