STEUBENVILLE - Nearly 2,000 Roman Catholics from throughout Eastern Ohio greeted their new spiritual leader Monday afternoon with prayers, songs and shouts of "hallelujah" during a three-hour ordination and installation ceremony in Finnegan Fieldhouse at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
"I am grateful to be your shepherd. Our faith is meant to be proclaimed and to be shared, I am delighted to be your bishop. I am yours," declared Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton during remarks at the close of the ceremony attended by two cardinals, the apostolic nuncio from Washington, D.C., 25 bishops from across the country and 115 priests.
The audience responded with a thundering standing ovation that lasted for several minutes.
A NEW SPIRITUAL LEADER — Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton addressed nearly 2,000 people Monday afternoon following his ordination and installation as the fifth bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville. The three-hour-long ceremony was held in Finnegan Fieldhouse on the Franciscan University of Steubenville campus. -- Michael D. McElwain
The 49-year-old Monforton, a seminary rector and parish priest from the Archdiocese of Detroit, was named bishop-elect on July 3 to fill the vacancy created in July 2011 when former Bishop R. Daniel Conlon was assigned to the Joilet, Ill., diocese.
"You honor me today with your presence. The cardinals honor us with their presence. And, to use baseball language, we are in Pirates territory, but today Cardinals are most welcome," said Monforton.
"Hopefully, my arrival in Steubenville six days ago is an indication I am excited to call Steubenville my home," he added.
Monforton thanked his family and friends for attending his ordination and installation.
"I have every confidence that dad is smiling down on us today from above," stated Monforton after he noted his mother and two younger brothers with their families sitting in the front row.
Monforton also said he was looking to future collaboration with the Franciscan University of Steubenville.
The fifth bishop of the 13-county Diocese of Steubenville was expected to meet with his chancery staff today before leaving for Rome Wednesday in order to attend a school for new bishops.
The new spiritual leader for 38,000 Catholics in Eastern Ohio was ordained to the priesthood in Detroit in 1994.
"There are a lot of options to study in this diocese. I will continue a healthy assessment of what has been proposed by Bishop Conlon. I want the church to be welcoming with a strong pastoral outreach. One of my hallmarks has always been education. I look at how we can work with younger children and how do we bolster older children in their faith," Monforton noted during his introductory press conference in July.
"My first priority as bishop of Steubenville will be the salvation of souls. I also want to make sure our parishes are strong. And I want to look at our media. I want to broaden our approach. I have a smartphone, but I don't have time for Facebook or Twitter. I also believe education is essential. I also believe there is a need for social outreach in the diocese," cited Monforton.
"I am delighted to have Bishop Monforton here with us. I hope to step back from the duties I performed during the past year. I welcome our new bishop," retired diocesan Bishop Gilbert Sheldon said Monday.
According to the Rev. Thomas A. Chillog, pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Church in St. Clairsville, "We are all excited to have a new shepherd. The ordination installation was a momentous occasion. It was a ceremony filled with great historic importance. Today was spirit filled, uplifting and full of hope and joy."
"I thought it was a wonderful celebration. It is wonderful to have a new shepherd for our diocese," said the Rev. Timothy Shannon of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Lowell.
The Rev. Bob Gallagher of St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Little Hocking said the new bishop "is very enthusiastic to be here and that's what we need in our diocese."
And, for Lacey Huck, a sophomore at Franciscan University of Steubenville, the ordination and installation was a chance to see her new bishop.
"I thought it was great it was held on our campus. There was so much tradition this afternoon. I was glad I was here. It is something I will always remember," said Huck.
Monsignor Kurt Kemo, who served as the diocesan administrator during the past year, urged the audience to remember Monforton "is leaving a city which was his home and leaving a support system that included family and friends."
"He won't be able to eat a healthy meal at Burger King without someone telling him how to run a diocese. We need to be mindful of what he has left behind to accept this assignment. So we need to give him a warm welcome to our diocese," commented Kemo.
A 100-member choir that included members from all parts of the diocese under the direction of Matthew Berher sang throughout the installation ceremony and Mass.
And Steubenville Mayor Domenick Mucci proclaimed Monday as "Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton Day" in the city.
(Gossett can be contacted at email@example.com)