Pope Francis has named a priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bismarck as bishop of the Diocese of Helena in Montana.
The appointment of the Rev. Austin Vetter was announced Tuesday in Rome and in Bismarck. He will be ordained and installed as the bishop of Helena on Nov. 20 at the Cathedral of St. Helena. He takes over for Bishop George Thomas, who was appointed bishop of the Diocese of Las Vegas in February 2018.
“Thank God that he has the courageous faith to say ‘yes’ and be a shepherd of God’s people," Bismarck Bishop David Kagan said in a statement. "He will do very well, and he will always be a credit to Christ and our Church and to his home diocese.”
Vetter said he ignored several calls from a Washington, D.C., area code last week because he thought they were coming from a telemarketer. After Kagan suggested that he return the calls, he did so and learned the news. “And I was silent for quite some time,” he said.
Vetter, 52, a native of Linton, will be the 11th bishop in the 135-year history of the Helena Diocese, which covers about 52,000 square miles of western and north central Montana, encompassing 21 counties and parts of two others. The diocese has 57 parishes and 38 missions.
“I promise you all of my energy. All of it. I don’t know much about our diocese yet, but I am ready and willing to learn,” he said during a press conference in Helena.
Vetter is only the second Bismarck Diocese priest to be named a bishop, along with Sylvester Treinen, who was named Bishop of Boise, Idaho, in 1962.
Vetter attended North Dakota State University and Cardinal Muench Seminary in Fargo. After receiving his bachelor of arts degree in philosophy, he studied at the Pontifical North American College and the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. He was ordained a priest for the Bismarck Diocese by Bishop John Kinney at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck on June 29, 1993.
He has held various roles in the diocese. Prior to being named bishop in Helena, he served as rector of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit and vice chairman of the board of directors of Light of Christ Catholic Schools in Bismarck. Kagan will appoint the new rector of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit later.