Q: How did you become a bishop?

A: The short answer is that God called me to be a bishop. The longer answer involves the process in which the Catholic Church carefully listens to the Holy Spirit in the choice for our bishops. This occurs in a number of ways from prayerful choices to inquiry with other bishops and individuals familiar with potential candidates. It is a very involved, and at times, a painstaking process. You see, the Holy Father is determining through the gift of the Holy Spirit who are the men to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, as successors of the same Apostles Jesus called nearly 20 centuries ago.

Extensive work goes into the process here in the United States (for a U.S. bishop) as well as in the Vatican at the Congregation of Bishops, a group of bishops who assist Pope Francis in his governance of the church as the vicar of Christ.

Needless to say, I was very surprised to receive the phone call from the apostolic nuncio (sort of like the Holy Father’s ambassador to the United States) on June 26, 2012, informing me the Holy Father wanted me to be your bishop. What went through my mind is similar to your question: “How did I just become a bishop?”

After that, I “surfed the net” to better understand where the Holy Spirit was sending me: the Diocese of Steubenville.

Q: How do you balance reaching out to others who have no faith and making holy, faith-filled friends?

A: There is an old saying that “No man is an island.” I am blessed with many friends, some who are not Catholic and others who are not even Christians. Most of my friends are Catholic, and no one questions my firmness in the faith we profess at Mass. Still, we live a faith which is meant to be personal and communal. All of us have been made in God’s image and likeness, so each person should be treated with the dignity of a child of God. We do not disown or compromise our faith in order to be liked by others, but we cannot afford to insulate ourselves from a world in dire need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Easter hope of our eternal salvation.

hat is where the new evangelization comes into our lives. When Jesus told Peter and the disciples to “put out into the deep,” he was not telling them to stay in their comfort zone and bother no one, nor make new friends. If, as my motto (Faith Comes From Hearing) from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans is to resonate through our words and actions, then we need to make new friends and acquaintances who deserve to hear the truth of the God who loves them so dearly.

Q: Why is marriage between a man and a woman?
(Question modified because of similar question.)

A: This question is timely since the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments concerning the legality of marriage in our country.

Our faith instructs, without qualification, that the sacrament of marriage is contracted between a man and a woman for the good of each other and the procreation and upbringing of children (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church).

Jesus himself made marriage a sacrament, both through the creation of man and woman, as told in the Book of Genesis and in reference in Jesus’ words himself in the Gospel According to Matthew, Chapter 19, Verse 5: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one. …”

Obviously, maintaining this truth in our present culture does not make me popular with everyone, but then I was not elected bishop through a political convention. I was chosen by the Holy Spirit to uphold the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is much more to the argument about marriage being exclusively between a man and a woman from theological, biological and cultural perspectives, but I would need the rest of this Register edition.

You may wish to consult our own U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website for additional resources on the topic of marriage and family at usccb.org, in the section titled “Marriage and Family.”

At the same time, we should respect those who hold positions contrary to church teaching, since those people also are made in God’s image and likeness and deserve respect as our fellow brothers and sisters.

Regardless the criticism we may receive, we must always maintain a charitable attitude toward others, as our Lord Jesus did toward the people with whom he interacted 2,000 years ago. We uphold Jesus Christ’s teachings all the while embracing his all-encompassing love.

May our Lord Jesus Christ bless our beloved Diocese of Steubenville, as we serve him who created and recreated our world to be good.

Have a blessed Easter season.

Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton

Editor’s Note: Anyone in grades kindergarten through 12th grade in the Diocese of Steubenville, can pose a question, dealing with faith, to Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton.

To submit a question, log on askthebishop.diosteub.org, or mail it to the Office of Christian Formation and Schools, 422 Washington St., P.O. Box 969, Steubenville, OH 43952; attention Joseph M. Taylor (a name, address and telephone number must be included).