STEUBENVILLE - A 49-year-old Michigan parish priest was introduced today as the new bishop to lead the nearly 40,000 Catholics of the Diocese of Steubenville.
Monsignor Jeffrey Marc Monforton was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to become the fifth bishop of the 13-county diocese, filling the one-year vacancy created when Bishop R. Daniel Conlon was appointed bishop of the Joliet, Ill., Catholic diocese.
Monforton officially was introduced Tuesday at the diocesan Chancery offices.
"I am very grateful and deeply humbled for our Holy Father to entrust me with the faithful of the Steubenville Diocese," said Bishop-designate Monforton.
"The Lord has blessed me on this Christian pilgrimage to shepherd the good people of St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Andrew faith communities, as well as to prepare the future priests and ecclesial ministers while rector at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. I've been blessed to serve Cardinal Maida as his secretary, and equally thankful for the faith Archbishop Vigneron has had in me these last three years," said Monforton in his prepared remarks.
He was born in 1963 in Detroit.
According to a Vatican Radio report Tuesday, Monforton completed his studies at the Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and in theology at the Pontifical North American College and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit on June 25, 1994.
"All of us in the Archdiocese of Detroit are deeply honored that Pope Benedict has chosen Monsignor Monforton, a son of this local church, to be the Bishop of Steubenville," said Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron in a prepared statement.
"Monsignor Monforton is an exemplary priest and a zealous pastor - qualities we have come to appreciate during his years in the Detroit presbyterate, especially while he served as rector of Sacred Heart Major Seminary. He will be greatly missed here, but the Lord has called him to greater responsibility for shepherding his flock. Monsignor Monforton goes with our prayers and best wishes; we're sure he will be a blessing to the pastors and people of the church in Steubenville," added Vigneron.
During his 18 years as a priest in the Detroit Archdiocese, Monforton served as assistant priest of the National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak; personal secretary of Cardinal Adam J. Maida; assistant parish priest at St. Paul on the Lake Parish in Grosse Pointe Farms and St. Jane Frances de Chantal Parish in Sterling Heights; professor at the Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit; pastor of the St. Therese of Lisieux Parish in Shelby Township and rector of the Sacred Heart Seminary for the past six years.
Monforton concluded his six-year term as Sacred Heart's rector on May 5.
He was serving as pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Rochester, Mich., and continued to serve the seminary as a member of the part-time theology faculty until his appointment today.
Monsignor Kurt Kemo, pastor of Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of Lourdes parishes in Wintersville, has served as diocesan administrator since Conlon was installed as bishop of Joliet on July 14.
"I have told people I believe six months to a year is a fairly good guess for when a new bishop will be appointed," Conlon remarked during in an interview prior to leaving Steubenville.
Conlon said his successor will face several challenges.
"So much depends on the larger issues of the economy. This has resulted in a loss of population, jobs and personal wealth. I think we have to be more creative as we move forward. We cannot continue parish and diocesan life as we have for the past 100 years. Do I have a prescription for change? No. I have some ideas. The next bishop will need to discuss what changes are needed for church life. We may need to change our church institutions as well as the way we train and utilize our personnel," stated Conlon.
He also said a more immediate need facing the next bishop will be priestly vocations.
He left behind a diocese of 38,000 Catholics with 36 active priests for a diocese of 650,000 Catholics and 120 priests.
"We also need to sustain our Catholic schools largely by increasing enrollment numbers," he added.
"I worked on improving the teaching of the faith and developed an ongoing formation of our priests," cited Conlon.
Conlon arrived at the beginning of a downturn in the area steel industry that saw hundreds of steelworkers lose their jobs and the start of a regional economic recession.
Monforton arrives in Eastern Ohio as the region waits and watches the oil and gas industry start to grow.
Besides English, Monforton also speaks Italian.