Pope Francis has appointed Msgr. John Folda the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Fargo, North Dakota. He is one of the first bishops named by Pope Francis.
“It is certainly an honor to be chosen by him for this role,” said Bishop-Elect Folda. “I only hope I can follow the beautiful example of service, simplicity, and joyful faith that he has already shown the world.”
He will be ordained at the Cathedral of Saint Mary in Fargo June 19.
A priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, Bishop-Elect Folda, 51, has served as rector of Saint Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward, Nebraska, since 1999. Prior to that, he has served in multiple capacities ranging from parish priest and religion teacher to assistant to the Vicar General, master of ceremonies and censor librorum (the diocesan official who reviews texts and verifies their faithfulness to Church teaching).
John Thomas Folda was born in Omaha in August 1961, the youngest of Mabel and the late James Folda’s three children. He attended St. Thomas More Grade School and Archbishop Ryan High School, then studied architecture and electrical engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
While at UNL, he discerned a calling to the priesthood. Bishop-Elect Folda entered Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy in 1985, a master of divinity degree in 1988, and a master of arts in theology the following year.
He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Lincoln by Bishop Glennon P. Flavin on May 27, 1989. On October 10, 2007, he was elevated to Chaplain of His Holiness with the title Monsignor.
“Being a priest has been more satisfying than I could have imagined,” Bishop-Elect Folda said
In addition to his direct service to the faithful laity, Bishop-Elect Folda has had administrative roles while serving on several boards, including those of Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital, the Nebraska Catholic Conference, and Catholic Social Services. He also served on a number of committees related to ethics, finance and education and was president of the National Association of College Seminaries from 2008 to 2010.
Msgr. Folda will fill a vacancy in Fargo that has existed since Archbishop Samuel Aquila was moved to Denver in June 2012. Since last July 18, the Diocese of Fargo has been overseen by Bishop David Kagan of Bismarck, North Dakota, who was appointed apostolic administrator by Pope Benedict XVI.
There are a number of similarities between the Dioceses of Fargo and Lincoln. Founded within two years of each other, they are both rooted in the Great Plains. The Diocese of Fargo has 132 parishes, 141 diocesan priests, 43 permanent deacons, and 117 religious sisters, while the Diocese of Lincoln, has 134 parishes, 150 diocesan priests, 3 permanent deacons and 141 religious sisters.
Both dioceses have relatively large geographic regions for their populations, and both dioceses maintain Catholic elementary and high schools, charitable organizations and various programs and ministries.
“Although I never expected to become a bishop or to leave this diocese, I feel great joy at the opportunity God has given me to serve Him in a new way,” Bishop-Elect Folda said. “I am thrilled to go to Fargo… I also am quite aware of my own limitations, so I’m a little apprehensive about taking on the responsibilities of a bishop.”
He continued, “I trust that God will lead me and give me the grace I need to carry out the office of Bishop.”
Bishop James. D. Conley of Lincoln said that the entire Diocese of Lincoln rejoices with the Diocese of Fargo on the appointment of Bishop-Elect Folda.
“I have known Msgr. Folda for over 20 years, and I know that he will be a stellar bishop,” Bishop Conley said.
He added, “His vast experience, as well as his keen intelligence, his personal humility, and his dedication to Jesus Christ and His Church will prepare Bishop-elect Folda well to teach, govern and sanctify the faithful of the Diocese of Fargo.”