DETROIT (OSV News) — A native son of the Archdiocese of Detroit, Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton of Steubenville, Ohio, will return home to serve as Detroit’s 32nd auxiliary bishop.
Pope Francis appointed Bishop Monforton to his new position Sept. 28 and named retired Bishop Paul J. Bradley of Kalamazoo, Michigan, as the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Steubenville.
Bishop Monforton, 60, will assist Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron in the pastoral care of the approximately 907,000 Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit, where he served for 18 years as a priest from 1994 to 2012.
“On behalf of the clergy, religious, and faithful of the Archdiocese, I offer a heartfelt ‘welcome home’ to Bishop Monforton,” Archbishop Vigneron said in a statement. “This is the local Church in which his priestly vocation was nurtured, and we are blessed to have him be with us once again to help lead our efforts to unleash the Gospel.”
Bishop Monforton, who had headed the Ohio diocese since 2012, said he was pleased to learn Pope Francis had named him a Detroit auxiliary bishop but called the appointment “bittersweet.” “My hometown is Detroit, and I look forward to ‘going home’ and serving the faithful of Detroit under the leadership of Archbishop Vigneron.”
“At the same time, I have come to know and to love the good people of the Diocese of Steubenville, from Carroll County in the north to Lawrence County in the south,” he continued. “It has been my distinct pleasure and profound joy to serve the faithful of this diocese for 11 years as their shepherd. The people of the Diocese of Steubenville will always remain in my prayers and have a special place in my heart. I kindly ask that you pray for me.”
In a statement about his appointment, Bishop Bradley said, “I am happy to accept our Holy Father’s request to serve the Church in this way as Apostolic Administrator. I am mindful of the challenges ahead and, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, I look forward to shepherding the faithful people in the Diocese of Steubenville, listening to their concerns, and, together, strengthening the mission of the Church in southeastern Ohio.”
Upcoming ministry in Detroit
Bishop Monforton’s ministry in Detroit will begin Nov. 7, during a 2 p.m. Mass of welcome and the inauguration of his ministry at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit.
Bishop Monforton will join current Auxiliary Bishops Arturo Cepeda, Gerard W. Battersby and Robert J. Fisher serving in active ministry in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Detroit also has three retired auxiliary bishops, Bishops Donald F. Hanchon, Francis R. Reiss and Thomas J. Gumbleton. Retired Cardinal Adam J. Maida also resides in the archdiocese.
Archbishop Paul F. Russell, who was appointed auxiliary bishop of Detroit in 2022, is not currently in public ministry as the Holy See investigates an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor dating to his time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston.
“I look forward to having the opportunity to serve the faithful in Detroit, and I hope I can be instrument of God’s peace for them, as well as to share Jesus Christ’s love and His Most Sacred Heart with all whom I encounter,” Bishop Monforton told Detroit Catholic, the archdiocese’s online news outlet.
Jeffrey Marc Monforton was born May 5, 1963, in Detroit, the eldest of three sons of Marc Louis and Virginia Rose (Ackerman) Monforton. His family attended SS. Simon and Jude Parish in Westland.
Young Jeffrey attended Tinkham Elementary School and John Marshall Junior High in Westland, and he graduated from Wayne Memorial High School in Wayne. He briefly attended Wayne State University in Detroit before discerning the call to priesthood, entering Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit in 1986 at age 23.
After earning his bachelor’s in philosophy from Sacred Heart, he was sent to study at the Pontifical North American College and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, earning his bachelor’s and licentiate in sacred theology. Later, as a priest, he earned his doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 2002.
He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit June 25, 1994, by Cardinal Maida at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit. After being ordained, he served as associate pastor of the National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak (1994-96), while teaching religion at the parish high school.
Then-Father Monforton served as Cardinal Maida’s personal priest-secretary from 1998 to 2005, during which time he was a member of the faculty at Sacred Heart Major Seminary and assisted during weekends at St. Paul on the Lake Parish in Grosse Pointe Farms (1998-2002) and at St. Jane Frances de Chantal Parish in Sterling Heights (2002-05).
In 2005, he was named a monsignor by Pope Benedict XVI, and that same year was appointed pastor of St. Therese of Lisieux Parish in Shelby Township.
During the 2005-06 academic year, Msgr. Monforton was asked by the Holy See to serve as an apostolic visitor for the Congregation for Catholic Education to evaluate U.S. seminaries and houses of formation. At the conclusion of his service, Cardinal Maida named then-Msgr. Monforton the 12th rector of Sacred Heart Major Seminary Oct. 24, 2006.
In 2012, Archbishop Vigneron named Msgr. Monforton pastor of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s largest parish, St. Andrew in Rochester — a role in which he served for just two months before Pope Benedict appointed him as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Steubenville on July 3, 2012. He was ordained and installed Sept. 10, 2012.
Bishop Monforton’s tenure in Steubenville — Ohio’s smallest diocese with fewer than 30,000 Catholics — included the pastoral care of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, one of America’s best-known Catholic universities. Bishop Monforton served as an adjunct faculty member from 2013-19, and was awarded an honorary doctorate in sacred theology from the university in 2014.
A strong proponent of evangelization, Bishop Monforton became known for hosting frequent question-and-answer sessions about the Catholic faith, especially with students, and in 2020 wrote a book, “Ask the Bishop: Questions and Answers Over the Years,” compiling material from these sessions over a seven-year period. He also has been a regular guest on Catholic radio stations throughout the Ohio Valley.
In 2022, Bishop Monforton proposed a merger of the Steubenville Diocese with the neighboring Diocese of Columbus, a plan Bishop Monforton said was a response to a rapidly shrinking population in post-industrial eastern Ohio, as well as concerning financial, sacramental and demographic trends in the Diocese of Steubenville.
The proposal, however, received pushback from clergy and parishioners who argued the plan needed additional consultation and deliberation, and Bishop Monforton ultimately asked the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to cancel a scheduled vote on the merger in November 2022.
Interview with Bishop Monforton
In an interview with Detroit Catholic, Bishop Monforton acknowledged the difficult emotions generated by the proposal, adding he’s tried to “embrace the example of Christ” amid dialogue and disagreements.
Bishop Monforton added he’s continued to hold the faithful and clergy of the Diocese of Steubenville in prayer.
“These last 11 years have been a source of grace and joy for me, and I look forward to serving the Archdiocese of Detroit,” Bishop Monforton told Detroit Catholic. “I’m grateful to God, and yet, at the same time, there are some mixed feelings because for the last 11 years, Steubenville has been my home, and I’ve made a lot of friends.”
While the Diocese of Steubenville spans a sprawling 5,910 square miles, serving 29,000 Catholics in 51 parishes over 13 counties, Bishop Monforton said his new assignment will likely be much different — serving more Catholics in a smaller geographic area.
“(The Diocese of Steubenville) is quite smaller (in population) than probably any of the four pastoral regions in the Archdiocese of Detroit, if not maybe some of the vicariates,” said Bishop Monforton, who has been given the titular see of Centuria by the Holy See. “At the same time, I could drive to my mom’s house (in the Archdiocese of Detroit) faster from Steubenville than I can to the southern part of the diocese.”
Over a decade as Steubenville’s bishop, Bishop Monforton said he’s traveled hundreds of thousands of miles as he’s traversed the southeastern part of the state for confirmations, ordinations, conferences, school visits and special blessings — making a point to, quite literally, meet people where they are.
“My episcopal motto is, ‘Faith Comes from Hearing.’ It’s from Romans 10:17, and I’ve tried to live that in the last 11 years,” Bishop Monforton said. “That’s why I’ve racked up more than 350,000 miles in my car, because nothing replaces personal encounter and face-to-face interaction with our priests, deacons, religious, consecrated virgins and all the laity.”
He added, “When I became a bishop 11 years ago, I quoted the words of St. Augustine: ‘For you, I am a bishop. With you, I am a Christian.’ Those words still ring true today.”
Michael Stechschulte is the editor-in-chief of Detroit Catholic, the news outlet for the Archdiocese of Detroit.