Yesterday Bishop Michael Warfel was installed as the new bishop of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings. The former bishop of the Diocese of Juneau, Alaska and told the congregation that he was thrilled to accept the opportunity to shepherd the people of Montana.
The bishop succeeds Bishop Anthony Milone who resigned for health reasons in July 2006.
Bishop Warfel addressed the congregation saying, “I am here with great excitement and joy to serve the people here. It is my desire to do nothing more than serve with the love of God manifested by Christ on the cross.
Originally from Indiana, Warfel previously served in Alaska, where he was for over 30 years; first as a priest, then as a bishop. During his first homily as Bishop of Great Falls-Billings, he told the story of how he came to be bishop of Juneau, Alaska.
The Billings Gazette reports that while serving as a priest in Anchorage, Warfel received a call at 5:40 one morning. The voice on the line said that the papal nuncio wanted to speak to him.
Warfel groggily replied, “What’s a nuncio?” The congregation laughed. The new bishop explained, “Well, it was early and I’d only been awake a minute.”
The nuncio told him that “the Holy Father appointed you bishop of Juneau and, of course, you accept, don't you?” He accepted and four weeks later, he was the bishop of Juneau.
Eleven years later, he received a similar call inviting him to become bishop of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings.
"Not only did I know what a nuncio was," he said, "but I recognized his voice almost immediately."
"I said without much of a pause, ‘Of course I accept,’” Warfel said, adding that he's learned the importance of accepting a call whenever it comes.
He continued by telling the congregation, “I want to be your shepherd to be with you in times of celebration and in time of hardship, struggle and suffering.”
Bishop Warfel also stated that he will continue to carry out the mission of the Church by encouraging people to grow in faith, to reach out to those who have fallen away, to reach out to those without faith, and to evangelize those with other faiths.
"We must pray for unity and actively make the effort to achieve it," he said.