Pope appoints North Dakota priest to head Diocese of Helena, Montana

WASHINGTON  — Pope Francis has appointed Father Austin A. Vetter, a priest of the Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota, to be the bishop of the Diocese of Helena, Montana.

The appointment was announced in Washington Oct. 8 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Pope Francis has appointed Father Austin A. Vetter, a priest of the Diocese of Bismarck, N.D., to be the bishop of the Diocese of Helena, Mont. The appointment was announced in Washington Oct. 8, 2019, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Bishop-designate Vetter is pictured in an undated photo. (CNS photo/courtesy Diocese of Bismarck)

Bishop-designate Vetter succeeds Bishop George L. Thomas, who was named in February 2018 to head the Diocese of Las Vegas, after 14 years as Helena’s bishop. Msgr. Kevin O’Neill was elected Helena’s diocesan administrator by the College of Consultors May 17, 2018, two days after Bishop Thomas was installed in Las Vegas.

Bishop-designate Vetter, 52, has been rector-pastor of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck since 2018. Before that he was director of spiritual formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome from 2012 to 2018.

The Helena Diocese covers almost 52,000 square miles of western Montana. Out of a total population of 612,419, there are 45,400 Catholics.