Father Mark Keene and Deacon Jim Fortner begin new leadership roles in diocese

Laura Keener, Editor

The month of August opened and closed with two top positions being filled at the Curia. Bishop John Iffert has appointed Father Mark Keene vicar general and Deacon James Fortner chief operating officer for the Diocese of Covington.

“I look forward to collaborating with Father Keene and Deacon Fortner in leading the Curia staff and serving parishes of the Diocese of Covington,” said Bishop Iffert. “I am personally grateful for their willingness to put their substantial pastoral and leadership skills at the service of this local Church.”

Father Keene was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Covington in 1984 by Bishop William Hughes. In addition to his new assignment as vicar general, Father Keene’s current assignments include: pastor, St. Agnes Parish, Ft. Wright; pastoral administrator, Covington Catholic High School, Park Hills; dean, Northern Kenton County Deanery; and member of the Presbyteral Council and Priest Retirement Fund Committee.

Previous assignments included associate pastor, St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Ft. Thomas (1984–1987); and St. Joseph Parish, Crescent Springs (1987–1993); pastor, St. Benedict Parish, Covington (1993–1999) and chaplain, Covington Latin School (1997–1999).

A Louisville native, Father Keene attended Holy Spirit Parish and Holy Trinity High School where he earned an athletic scholarship to the University of Kentucky playing football. At UK, he was recognized as an Academic All-American and his team won the Peach Bowl. Upon graduating Phi Beta Kappa from UK in 1979, Father Keene studied pre-theology at St. Pius X Seminary, Erlanger, completing his seminary studies at Mt. St. Mary Seminary, Cincinnati.

The role of Vicar General is a canonical appointment in the Catholic Church. The Code of Canon Law requires a bishop to appoint at least one vicar general “who is provided with ordinary power … and who is to assist him in the governance of the whole diocese.” (475)

Bishop Roger Foys ordained Jim Fortner a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Covington in 2019. He is assigned to his home parish, Blessed Sacrament Parish, Ft. Mitchell.

Prior to being name COO for the diocese, Deacon Fortner was assigned campus minister at Covington Catholic High School. At Blessed Sacrament Parish he has taught in the Parish School of Religion, led the “That Man Is You” men’s spiritual development program and trained Altar Servers. Other responsibilities in the Diocese have included spiritual director, Cursillo; ministering at Madonna Manor; and preparing couples for the sacrament of marriage.

He and his wife, Julie, have been married for 34 years. They have been blessed with five children and five grandchildren, with two more expected by the end of this year.

Deacon Fortner received a Bachelor’s of Science in Economics and Information Systems from Northern Kentucky University in 1987 and a Masters in Finance from St. Louis University in 1989. In 2003 he earned a Lay Ministry Development Certificate from the Diocese of Covington. He com- pleted his diaconate studies in 2019 at The Athenaeum of Ohio, Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. Deacon Fortner is a life-long learner and continues to take classes at The Athenaeum of Ohio, on track to earn his Masters in Theology in 2023.

After 29 years at Procter and Gamble, most recently as senior vice president, chief information officer for Supply Chain, Research and

Development and Procurement Services Worldwide, Deacon Fortner retired in 2018. After his retirement and until 2021, he developed his own consulting firm, JAF Business Services Strategic Consultant, serving over 75 companies worldwide to improve business services.

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) is a new position developed by Bishop John Iffert to directly collaborator with the Bishop and Vicar General in planning and implementing goals in every pastoral and administrative area. The COO directs and supervises the offices of the Curia. Deacon Fortner will begin his new assignment as COO for the Diocese of Covington, Aug. 29.