New Bishop

Bishop Thomas prepares to leave Montana for Las Vegas

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By Jacob Fuhrer - MTN News

Bishop George Thomas, a Montana native, is preparing for his departure from the Treasure State after nearly 16 years as the Bishop of Helena.

Born in Anaconda and raised in Butte, the bishop said he knew early on he was destined for the clergy.

“I said to my dad as early as the second grade, ‘I think I want to be a priest when I grow up' and I didn’t really waver from that idea,” Bishop Thomas said.

But the bishop’s father said he had to go college first, so he did. Bishop Thomas attended Carroll College and then the University of Washington earning both a masters and a doctoral degree.

However, Thomas said his eyes were originally on the priesthood.

“I thought I’d be a country priest with a little white picket fence around the church and a pickup truck and a dog around the back seat and it just didn’t ever pan out,” Bishop Thomas said.

Thomas was ordained bishop in Helena in 2004. During his tenure, he was recognized as an honorary member of the Blackfeet Nation and became the Chancellor of his alma mater at Carroll College.

He also oversaw difficult times in the church after accusations of sexual abuse of children in the diocese during the time period of the 1930s to the 1970s came to light.

Bishop Thomas said that it was the church’s responsibility to the victims to be open and honest about the whole process.

In 2015, the Diocese of Helena posted a list online of every employee accused while working there. All members of the diocese who where accused are now deceased.

“This has been a hidden problem,” the bishop said. “It has been put under the carpet too long. In my opinion, the only way to deal with these kind of things is bring them to the light. Healing can take place only in the light and presence of truth.”

The bishop’s willingness to address controversy will be helpful as he enters his new role in Las Vegas, a community he said still has a broken heart over the deadly shooting that has further pushed the conversation around gun control.

“The whole question around access to guns by minors or persons with mental health issues, all that has to be on the table again,” Bishop Thomas said.

Many will certainly look to the bishop for guidance in a diocese that is 15 times the size of Helena’s. The bishops said it will be hard to leave.

“It’s hard to leave family. This is a bittersweet time. Hard to leave all these communities. I love them to pieces. It just started to dawn on me that this is actually happening. So probably when i actually unpack boxes in Las Vegas, I’ll realize I have a new home and I’ll be a visitor when I come back to Montana.”

Bishop Thomas will serve as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Helena until May 15th.

The diocese college of consultors, which is comprised of local priests, will then have eight days to appoint a diocesan administrator to serve until a new bishop is selected by Pope Francis.


Most Reverend George Leo Thomas Ph.D.   

Pope Francis has named the Most Reverend George Leo Thomas as Bishop of Las Vegas, Nevada.  At the same time, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Joseph A. Pepe, who has reached the age of mandatory retirement.  Bishop Pepe has served as Bishop of Las Vegas for nearly 17 years. The announcement was made this morning by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Thomas has served as Bishop of Helena for nearly 14 years. He will be installed as Bishop of Las Vegas on May 15, 2018. There are nearly 750,000 Catholics in the Diocese of Las Vegas, a Catholic population nearly 15 times the size of the Diocese of Helena.

George Leo Thomas was born in Anaconda, Montana, and raised in nearby Butte.  He is a graduate of the Diocese of Helena’s Carroll College.  His family relocated to Seattle, Wash., where he was ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of Seattle on May 22, 1976.

During his tenure in the Archdiocese of Seattle Father Thomas served in four different parishes, chaired Catholic Charities-Seattle and the Archdiocesan Housing Authority, and was night chaplain for King County Jail for 13 years.  While in Seattle, Father Thomas served as Chancellor and Vicar General for three different Archbishops during a span of 17 years.  He holds two Masters’ Degrees and a PhD from the University of Washington.

He was appointed as Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle on November 19, 1999, and ordained Bishop on January 28, 2000. Bishop Thomas was appointed as Bishop of Helena on March 23, 2004 and installed on June 4 that same year.

Youth, young adult, and campus ministry flourished under Bishop Thomas’ leadership.  He dedicated three new Churches, ordained 18 permanent deacons and 14 priests for the Diocese of Helena, and is distinguished for his pastoral presence to his priests and seminarians.  He helped bring new vigor and visibility to the Guatemala Mission, with its Clinica Maxeña and Asunción School. 

Bishop Thomas addressed the extraordinarily difficult clergy sexual abuse crisis through a unique model of pastoral care and mediation which was characterized by the Bankruptcy Judge as a “singular achievement” of the Judge’s 30 years on the bench.

In addition to serving on numerous boards and committees in the Diocese of Helena, Bishop Thomas is the Chancellor of Carroll College, a Board member of the Catholic Health Association and of the Catholic Extension Society of Chicago.  He also is a member of the Board of Trustees at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver, a Regent at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon, and a Board member of the Catholic Mutual Society of America.  He is an honorary member of the Blackfeet Nation, a community he holds very dear to his heart.

 “It is difficult to leave Montana,” Bishop Thomas said.  “But, Pope Francis requests that each Bishop possess a generous missionary spirit.  In light of the Holy Father’s request and with humble thanks for the confidence he places in me, I joyfully accept this appointment.”

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