Pope Francis names Illinois priest to lead Covington diocese in Kentucky

Bishop-elect John Iffert of Covington, Kentucky Bishop-elect John Iffert of Covington, Kentucky./ Courtesy photo.

The Vatican announced Tuesday that Pope Francis appointed Illinois priest Msgr. John C. Iffert to be the next bishop of the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky.

Iffert, 53, will succeed Covington’s 10th bishop, Roger J. Foys, whose resignation was accepted July 13 by Pope Francis. Foys, who will turn 76 later this month, is retiring for age reasons.

The bishop-elect has served as vicar general and moderator of the curia in the Diocese of Belleville, in southern Illinois, since Oct. 1, 2020.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, welcomed Iffert’s appointment “with great joy.”

“Bishop-elect Iffert brings a wonderful background in ministry as a priest of the Diocese of Belleville where he has served as a parochial vicar, a pastor, and most recently as the Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia,” Kurtz said in a July 13 statement.

He added that Iffert “is known to have great pastoral heart as well as excellent pastoral experience in his more than two decades of service in the Diocese of Belleville.”

“The bishops of the Province of Louisville have a great fraternity, and together we welcome Bishop-elect Iffert. We promise him and Bishop Foys our prayerful support,” Kurtz stated.

Iffert grew up with two older sisters on a farm outside the small Illinois town of Du Quoin.

After high school, he studied political science and economics at Illinois State University. After graduation, he worked as an analyst in Illinois’ Bureau of the Budget.

He entered seminary in 1992 and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Belleville in 1997.

After serving as a parochial vicar and a pastor in the diocese, Iffert entered the Dominican novitiate with the Province of St. Albert the Great in 2003. He professed simple vows with the Order of Preachers the next year, which he renewed in 2006. He left the Dominicans and returned to the diocesan priesthood in 2008.

As part of his priestly service in Belleville, Iffert was a member of the College of Consultors, Priest Personnel Board, Diocesan Finance Council, and the planning committee for the Into My Vineyard program.

He has also been a part of the spiritual ministry team for the “Teens Encounter Christ” conference.

The bishop-elect was part of a group of community and church leaders who founded the Lifeboat Alliance Family Shelter in Mount Vernon, an ecumenical ministry that received the Governor’s Cup Award for its service to the local community.

At the time of Iffert’s appointment as vicar general of the Diocese of Belleville in 2020, Bishop Michael McGovern said that he “is an excellent priest and a dedicated pastor, and he is widely respected in our diocese.”

“With his strong faith and many talents, I believe he will be an excellent servant leader, and bring a pastor’s heart to the work of administration,” McGovern said in a letter to priests and laity.

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The Diocese of Covington was created in 1853. It covers a territory of over 3,000 square miles in northern Kentucky and serves 89,000 Catholics.

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