In just a week and a half, on Sept. 30, Father John Iffert (pronounced “if-ert” with a short i sound) will be consecrated as the 11th Bishop of the Diocese of Covington. This is an exciting moment in our diocesan history, which is filled with hope and expectation. It is a bit like the birth of a child, when all things are possible. We do not know Bishop Iffert yet, and we do not know what situations and circumstances that he will face.
From the moment he was announced to be our new bishop, he has asked for our prayers. A specific prayer he has asked for is a variation of one that he prays for himself each day. “Lord, let him be strong in faith and poor in spirit. Make him a man after your own heart.” This is a truly beautiful prayer, and I think it tells us something about the man we are going to get to know over the next several years.
Bishops are considered to be the successors of the Apostles. Each has the authority of an Apostle in his diocese. The only figure who is over a bishop is the pope. There are archbishops who have the responsibility of calling together the bishops of a particular territory, but he has no authority over the other bishops in that territory. There are national groups of bishops (for us that is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops), who work together to establish ministry and programs for the United States, but each bishop has the authority to participate in those activities or not. The conference has no power over the individual bishops.
As the leader of the Diocese of Covington, Bishop Iffert will have a number of bodies that he will need to work with. There is the Presbyteral Council, which is made up of representatives of the priests, the Board of Consulters, whom he must consult with before making major decisions, various boards (such as St. Elizabeth Hospital Board, Thomas More University Board, and many others). In addition he will appoint priests, religious, and laity who will serve on his day-to-day staff, and who will be there to give him guidance and suggestions. Bishop Iffert will be very dependent upon these groups and individuals as he is so new to the Diocese of Covington, and does not yet know the people involved or the concerns and problems of the various aspects of the diocese.
As you can imagine, the first year of our new bishop’s ministry will be overwhelming. He needs our patience, our prayers, and our support. There will certainly be times when he will make decisions that some of us will not agree with. I hope that when that happens, we can be charitable and respectful toward him even as we disagree.
Attendance at the Consecration is very limited. Each parish was given only two tickets to give to representatives of the parish. If you show up without a ticket, you will not be able to come in. The tickets for Mother of God have already been distributed.
May God bless and keep Bishop Elect Iffert, and may God bless and keep the Diocese of Covington.
—Fr. Mike Comer