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Pope Francis appoints new bishop of Helena

Posted: 9:59 AM, Oct 08, 2019
Updated: 2019-10-09 16:10:23-04
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HELENA — After more than a year without a bishop, the Diocese of Helena announced Father Austin Anthony Vetter was appointed by Pope Francis as the 11th Bishop of Helena.

Fr. Vetter currently serves as Rector of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck, N.D.

At a press conference Tuesday morning, Fr. Vetter says not coming to Montana with an agenda, and wants to take the time to learn the history and the people of the diocese first.

“My priorities are to give myself completely,” said Fr. Vetter. “That’s it and to be open, to learn, to journey together, to rely on one another, to listen and then to be a man of faith.”

Fr. Vetter received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy and studied at the Pontifical North American College and the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, Italy. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Bismarck at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck in 1993.

He said it’s been an emotional a humbling time since he found out about the appointment.

“I mean, I’m a small kid from a small town in North Dakota,” said Vetter. “My mom said it so honestly, she just simply said ‘My baby’s a Bishop.’”

Fr. Vetter is the successor to Helena Bishop George Thomas, who was chosen by Pope Francis to become the bishop of Las Vegas in 2018.

In Thomas’s absence, Monsignor Kevin O’Neill took over administrative duties for the diocese. During that time, O’Neill had to balance his pastoral and administrative duties.

“I am delighted beyond words, and with great praise to the lord and gratitude to our lady, that Pope Francis has selected Bishop Elect Vetter to be with us,” said Msgr. O’Neill. “His faith and his generosity are there on record. I can’t think of better credentials for a shepherd than to be a person of invitation, a person willing to walk beside, a person who looks forward with a clear understanding of from whence he has come and with a desire to better know love and to serve the lord.”

An ordination mass has been scheduled at the Cathedral of St. Helena on Wednesday, November 20, 2019.

With the appointment of Fr. Vetter, there are now just four bishop vacancies and two archbishop vacancies nationwide.