STEUBENVILLE - Nearly 40,000 Eastern Ohio Catholics are preparing to welcome their new spiritual leader Monday when a 49-year-old parish priest from Michigan is ordained and installed as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Steubenville.
The three-hour ceremony will start at 2 p.m. in the Finnegan Fieldhouse on the Franciscan University of Steubenville campus with approximately 1,800 people expected to attend to watch the elevation of Bishop-elect Jeffrey M. Monforton to lead the eastern Ohio Catholic diocese.
"We have been notified to expect two Cardinals, 25 bishops and 115 priests as well as the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano for the ceremony. Retired Bishop Gilbert Sheldon as well as former Steubenville Diocese Bishop R. Daniel Conlon plan to be here along with Bishop Roger Foys of the Covington (Ky.) Diocese. Retired Bishop Albert Ottenweller cannot attend but has sent a greeting to the new bishop," said Diocesan spokesperson Pat DeFrancis.
PLANNING — The Rev. Thomas A. Chillog, episcopal vicar for pastoral planning and personnel for the diocese, left, and the Rev. Bradley W. Greer, episcopal vicar at the Triumph of the Cross parish in Steubenville, met last week at the Finnegan Fieldhouse on the Franciscan University of Steubenville campus to review plans for Monday’s ordination and installation of Bishop-elect Jeffrey M. Monforton. -- Dave Gossett
She added every Catholic school in the diocese will be represented by students, staff or teachers.
The series of ceremonies will actually start today with Vesper prayer services at 6:30 p.m. at Holy Name Cathedral.
"The Vespers service will be open to the public," remarked DeFrancis.
"We have a 100-voice diocesan-wide choir who will be singing during the Mass under the direction of Matthew Berher," added DeFrancis.
Following the Mass and installation service, Monforton will walk to the Fireside Lounge in the J.C. Williams Center where he will greet well-wishers. A large tent with light refreshments will be located adjacent to the Finnegan Fieldhouse following the Mass.
"Bishop-elect Monforton is really excited and really happy to be here in the Steubenville diocese. He is a real people person who loves the outdoors. He will become bishop for the diocese the minute he is installed. At that point Monsignor Kurt Kemo will no longer be the diocesan administrator," continued DeFrancis.
According to the Rev. Thomas A. Chillog, episcopal vicar for pastoral planning and personnel for the diocese and a member of the planning committee, "We are all excited to have a new shepherd. The ordination installation will be a momentous occasion. It will certainly be a ceremony with a lot of ritual. It is a ceremony filled with great historic importance. The holy father will be represented by the apostolic nuncio so the entire church will be represented."
DeFrancis said buses filled with parishioners will be arriving in Steubenville Monday from throughout the diocese as well as the Detroit diocese.
"The university has been planning for this day since the bishop-elect agreed to use our facilities for his ordination and installation. We have held a lot of meetings to review security and logistics. Geary Teramana has graciously agreed to allow us to ask our students with vehicles to move them from the campus to the former All American bowling alley to allow more parking space for our visitors. And, Steubenville City Manager Cathy Davison has offered the Belleview Park parking lot for spillover parking on Monday. All classes on the campus will stop at 11 a.m. At that point staff and faculty will be urged to leave the campus area," explained Rob Palladino, director of the university chapel ministries.
Monforton will fill the vacancy created in July 2011 when Conlon was appointed to lead the diocese of Joliet, Ill.
He was appointed as the fifth bishop of the 13-county diocese on July 3 of this year.
"I was taken aback by the phone call. I had a sleepless night after that call. But I am here today nervous and excited. I am putting everything into perspective and I am looking forward to my time here," Monforton said during a July press conference at the diocesan chancery offices.
Monforton was born in 1963 in Detroit and ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit on June 25, 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 R. Daniel 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.
The bishop-designate moved into his new home last week and is now getting to know Eastern Ohio and the people he will lead.
"I am not used to your valleys. In Detroit a valley is 12 to 15 feet deep. You have real valleys here. I have enjoyed the beauty here. The people in Steubenville have been very welcoming," observed Monforton during his initial visit in July.
"I am a huge hockey fan. And I love the Red Wings. I know I am coming to the area that follows the Penguins and the Blue Jackets. But I am still a Red Wings fan," Monforton stated.
Monforton said he was familiar with Conlon's plans to build a new cathedral.
"There are pros and cons with any plan and that is something I will have to explore. I will not dismiss anything that has been discussed in the past," commented Monforton at the July press conference.
"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.
"The resources here are different. There is a longer drive time here. But I look forward to coming here," Monforton said.
Following a walk through rehearsal Friday afternoon Monforton met and prayed withy the 22 university students who were setting up 1,800 folding chairs in the gymnasium.
"I just want to thank you for your work preparing for Monday," Monforton told the student workers.
Monforton will be leaving for Rome Tuesday, where he will attend a school for new bishops called a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter and conference for new bishops, said DeFrancis.