After 19 years of faithful service, Bishop Foys to retire; announces Father John Iffert has been appointed next bishop

Laura Keener, Editor.

Bishop-elect John Iffert

The Diocese of Covington Curia was buzzing with excitement, July 13, as Bishop Roger Foys announced that, after 342 days, Pope Francis has accepted his letter of resignation and has appointed as the diocese’s 11th bishop Father John C. Iffert, a priest of the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois. Bishop-elect Iffert currently serves as vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Belleville.

The appointment was publicized in Washington, D.C. on July 13, 2021, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Additionally, Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Foys apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Covington to oversee its operations until the installation of Bishop-elect Iffert. The consecration and installation is scheduled for Sept. 30, 3 p.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington.

Last year, on July 27, 2020, Bishop Foys celebrated his 75th birthday — the retire-

ment age of bishops — and, as required, submitted his letter of resignation to the Holy Father. In his 19 years as Bishop of Covington, Bishop Foys has ordained 42 priests for the Diocese of Covington and has revitalized Covington’s Cathedral Square. He has been a faithful

and resolute proponent of Catholic school education, especially for vulnerable families in the urban core.

“It is with gratitude to Almighty God that I welcome Very Rev. John C. Iffert as my successor as the 11th Bishop of the Diocese of Covington,” said Bishop Foys. “I am grateful also to our Holy Father Pope Francis for providing for the pastoral care of our diocese by this appointment. Bishop-elect Iffert brings a wealth of pastoral and administrative experience to his episcopal ministry. He comes well-prepared to provide for the needs of our diocese as a pastor with the heart of a shepherd.”

Father Iffert was born Nov. 23, 1967. He received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois (1988). He attended Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Il., where he earned a Bachelor of Sacred Theology in 1996 and a Master of Divinity in 1997. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Belleville on June 7, 1997.

Bishop-elect Iffert’s assignments after ordination include: parochial vicar at St. Peter Cathedral in Belleville (1997-2000); administrator and pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Columbia (2000-2003). During that time, he served as a member of the diocesan personnel board, Defender of the Bond for the Tribunal, Spiritual Moderator for both the Belleville deanery CYO and the Diocesan Teens Encounter Christ movement. In August 2003, he entered the novitiate of the Order of Preachers, Province of St. Albert the Great, USA (Dominican, Central Province). He professed simple vows as a Dominican in 2004 which he renewed in 2006. From 2007-2008, he served as parochial vicar of St. Thomas Catholic Center at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Father Iffert left the Dominicans in 2008 and returned to the Diocese of Belleville.

Father Iffert has served as administrator of St. Mary Parish in Mount Vernon (2008-2010); administrator of St. Theresa Parish in Salem and at St. Elizabeth in Kinmundy (2009-2010); pastor of St. Mary Parish (2010-2020); and pastor of St. Barbara Parish in Scheller (2014-2020). He has served as vicar forane of the North Central Vicarate (2013-2020); diocesan co-vicar for priests (2014-2020); member of the Diocesan Finance Council (2010-present); and as a member of the College of Consultors (2016-present). Since 2020, Father Iffert has served as vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Belleville, and since January 2021 he has served as pastor of St. Stephen in Caseyville.

“Bishop-elect Iffert has been an excellent priest and a dedicated pastor, and he is widely respected in our diocese,” said Bishop McGovern, Diocese of Belleville. “With his strong faith and many talents, I believe Bishop-elect Iffert will be an excellent shepherd for the people of Northern Kentucky.”

At a press conference, July 13 at Bishop Howard Memorial Auditorium at the Diocese of Covington Curia building, Bishop Foys introduced Bishop-elect Iffert to the Curia staff and the local community. Also attending the press conference were Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Archdiocese of Louisville; Bishop William Medley, Diocese of Owensboro; and Bishop John Stowe, Diocese of Lexington.

“This is an announcement we have been waiting for a long time,” said Bishop Foys acknowledging that together he and the staff have been waiting almost a year for the Holy Father to accept his retirement.

Reflecting on his thoughts after Archbishop Pierre

called with the news as he was about to call to congratulate Bishop-elect Iffert, Bishop Foys said, “I felt sort of like John the Baptist, when he was waiting, like everyone else, for the Messiah who would set him free. I was reminded of Matthew, chapter 11, verse 3, ‘Are you who is to come or do we have to wait for another?’ Well, he is the one who is to come,” Bishop Foys said to the laughter of the staff.

“Knowing Father Iffert these last several days, I am confident that he will make a wonderful shepherd — he is a pastor with the heart of a shepherd,” Bishop Foys said. “I know that you, along with me, will not only welcome him but also pledge him our support and most importantly our prayers as he begins to take the reins of the diocese.”

At the press conference, Bishop-elect Iffert received a standing ovation as he approached the podium to address the staff and people of the Diocese of Covington.

“I am astounded and deeply grateful that Pope Francis has elected me to serve as the 11th Bishop of Covington, Kentucky, and called me to share in apostolic ministry,” Bishop-elect Iffert said. “I thank the Holy Father with all my heart for this election and call. I am inspired by his vision of a Church so deeply rooted in relationship with Christ that we accompany the outcast, tend the wounded, mourn with the brokenhearted, rejoice and give thanks in every

circumstance, and so carry out Jesus’ mission of evangelization. It is with joy that I dedicate myself anew to this happy labor, now with you in the Diocese of Covington.”

Bishop-elect Iffert praised and thanked Bishop Foys for his 19 years as shepherd of the Diocese of Covington.

“I am also grateful to Bishop Roger Foys. For 19 years he has served the people of the Diocese of Covington faithfully, diligently, and with a pastor’s heart for those who are hurting,” he said. “Since my election, he has been most

welcoming and gracious — a true Christian gentlemen. I look forward to the opportunity to know Bishop Foys, to be his brother bishop and friend in Christ.”

Bishop-elect Iffert gave heartfelt and tender words of gratitude to his parents, John and Mary Iffert, and his two sisters, Kim and Kathy, six nieces and nephews and 14 great nieces and nephews.

“The only lottery in this world that counts is the family that you are born into, and I am a winner in that lottery. I am most grateful,” Bishop-elect Iffert said.

Bishop-elect Iffert indicated that he has only three agenda items as he comes to lead the Diocese of Covington — to get to know its priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful, to invite young men to consider priestly vocations and to beg for prayers.

“To the priests, deacons, lay faithful of the Diocese of Covington, I can’t wait to get to know you and pray with you,” he said. “From the moment that I learned that I would be the bishop-elect, I have been praying for you. Every time I pause and turn toward God you are the people who come to my mind the most. My agenda as I come to the Diocese of Covington is just that, to get to know you. I want to visit with you in our parishes and schools, to celebrate Mass with you, to hear from you why you love our faith and what burdens you carry … You, and being Church with you, are the stuff of my hopes, prayers and dreams these days. Please — once I am consecrated and on the ground here in Covington — invite me. I want to be asked.”

About priestly vocations, Bishop-elect Iffert made a plea to the young men of the diocese.

“I want to take this moment to invite every active, prayerful, Catholic young man to spend some significant time — maybe six months — learning about the life of a priest and discerning whether God might be calling you to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. … Let me witness to you today, this is a joyful and fulfilling life in the midst of loving and dedicated people in community. If God is offering you life as a priest or religious, you do not want to miss this. It is an adventure and it is a joy. So please, please every Catholic young man consider life as a priest and if God is calling you.”

Bishop-elect Iffert said he is begging the people of the diocese to pray for him, as he is praying for them, sharing a prayer he has prayed most every day of his life since his confirmation when he was 12 years old.

“There is a little prayer that I have always attributed to my confirmation patron, St. Isaac Jogues. I have moved into that prayer, stretched it a bit, and made it my own. I offer it this way: ‘Wherever I go from here, Lord, let me be strong in faith and poor in spirit. Make me a man after your own heart.’ I have always prayed it for myself, my parishioners, my coworkers, my bishop, our pope and now I will pray it for the people of the Diocese of Covington.

“The Rite of Ordination and Installation of a Bishop is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, at 3 p.m., in the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington. At that hour, please pray that prayer with me and for me. Pray that I can be strong when strength is needed and weak when I am tempted to be full of myself. Know that I will be carrying you in my heart that day, and asking God to make us all men and women after his own heart.”

Archbishop Kurtz congratulated both Bishop Foys and Bishop-elect Iffert.

“It is with great joy that I welcome the news that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has appointed Father John Iffert as the next bishop of the Diocese of Covington. He is known to have a great pastoral heart as well as excellent pastoral experience in his more than two decades of service in the Diocese of Belleville,” said Archbishop Kurtz. “Bishop-elect

Iffert is succeeding my friend and brother bishop, Bishop Roger Foys. Bishop Foys has served Northern Kentucky with great distinction, and I join with the bishops of the province in thanking him for his leadership and collaboration. 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.”