Missouri bishop to succeed Bishop Finn in Kansas City-St. Joseph

Bishop James V. Johnston of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo., is seen in this undated photo. Pope Francis has named Bishop Johnston the new bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo. (CNS photo/Scroggins, Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau)

Bishop James V. Johnston of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo., is seen in this undated photo. Pope Francis has named Bishop Johnston the new bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo. (CNS photo/Scroggins, Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau)

by Catholic News Service  

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Francis has named Bishop James V. Johnston of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri, as the new bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph in the same state.

Bishop Johnston, 55, has headed the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese since 2008. He succeeds Bishop Robert W. Finn, who resigned April 21.

The appointment was announced in Washington Sept. 15 by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Calls for Bishop Finn’s resignation or removal followed his conviction in 2012 on one misdemeanor count of failing to report suspected child abuse. The situation developed after a diocesan priest’s computer was found in 2010 to have contained child pornography, but the diocese did not report the situation to civil authorities for another six months.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, has been apostolic administrator of the diocese since the bishop resigned.

Bishop Johnston’s installation Mass will be Nov. 4. Until then he will continue as administrator of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. His episcopal motto is: “The love of Christ urges us on.”

“Pope Francis is known for surprises and he certainly gave me one several days ago when I was informed by the apostolic nuncio of his decision,” Bishop Johnston said about being named the seventh bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

“I will do my best to live up to the trust that he has placed in me and be the best bishop I can for you,” he said at a news conference in Kansas City on the day of his appointment.

He pledged to serve his new diocese “with generosity, kindness and charity” and to “strive to be a good shepherd to you so that we can, together, live the truth in love and be effective witnesses to the Gospel of salvation and the beauty of our Catholic faith.”

Bishop Johnston said he looks forward to working with everyone in the diocese — priests, men and women religious and laypeople — because all have “an important place and mission within the church, which comes through our baptism. I am eager to join all of you in putting our focus and passion on loving Jesus, serving Jesus, and sharing Jesus.”

He emphasized the Gospel challenge that Pope Francis has made a key theme of his papacy — the need for the church not to be “inward looking,” but to understand “our energy and identity is to be in mission mode.” That is, he said, “to be mindful of the poor, the lost, those hungering and thirsting physically and spiritually, of those needing healing, including people who have been harmed by those within the church.”

He told Archbishop Naumann that his “gentleness, goodness and wisdom have been invaluable during this time (as administrator). I am truly grateful to you as well for the help you have already given me, and I look forward to being your neighbor.”

He thanked Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis for his “fraternal support and assistance.”

He called his years as bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese in southern Missouri some of the best of his life. “I will always love the wonderful people of this great diocese,” he added. “I thank the clergy, religious and laity for their love for me. I will truly miss all of you.”

He thanked the people of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. “You have recently been through uncertain and often difficult days,” he said. “I am grateful to you for your strong faith and commitment, for your love for the Lord and his church, your church.

On a more personal note, he talked about his own family and his upbringing.

“I want you to know how much my family means to me, and how big a part of my life they remain,” Bishop Johnston said.

Born Oct. 16, 1959, in Knoxville, Tennessee, he is the oldest of four children of Vann and Patricia (Huber) Johnston.

“My parents, in particular, are the ones that helped me to receive the gift of faith, and I owe so much to them,” he said. “My two sisters and brother and their families are also my dearest friends, and we love each other very much. They and their children, my nieces and nephews, enrich my life.”

Bishop Johnston said he looked forward to introducing his family members to the people of his new diocese, but noted his father has Parkinson’s disease and may be unable to travel.

“As I prepare to join you as part of this family of faith that is the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, let’s draw our strength and confidence from the truth that Jesus Christ loves us, aids us and never leaves us,” the bishop said.

During Bishop Johnston’s tenure as Springfield-Cape Girardeau’s bishop, Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri was established, serving thousands of people across the southern portion of the state. In 2011, Trinity Hills Catholic Worker House and Farm was instituted for prayer, service and formation.

In August 2014, he traveled some 2,300 miles in 17 days to visit each parish and mission church in the diocese to establish its new vision, priorities and goals: “One Church, East to West: Loving Jesus, Serving Jesus, Sharing Jesus.”

He also has made encouraging vocations to the priesthood a priority. When he became Springfield-Cape Girardeau’s bishop, the diocese had six men in studies and formation for the priesthood. Currently, the diocese has 16 men discerning a call to the priesthood at four seminaries in three states.

Since 2008, four Catholic radio stations have been launched in the diocese.

On the national level, he has served on the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Child and Youth Protection and is currently episcopal liaison to the National Council of Catholic Women.

Bishop Johnston is a fourth-degree Knight of Columbus and a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

He was ordained a priest of the Knoxville Diocese June 9, 1990, at his home parish, Holy Ghost Church in Knoxville.

He left his occupation in electrical engineering to pursue a call to the priesthood in 1985. At that time he had worked in worked in Houston for three years at an engineering consulting firm and for an electric utility. He graduated from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in 1982 with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering.

He studied for the priesthood at St. Meinrad College and School of Theology in Indiana, where he obtained his master of divinity degree. After his ordination he held a number of pastoral assignments in the Knoxville Diocese.

He has a canon law degree from The Catholic University of America in Washington and also served chancellor and moderator of the curia for his home diocese.

In his free time, Bishop Johnston enjoys sports and spending time hiking and exploring the mountains, woods and terrain around the United States and Canada. As a youth, he was active in the Boy Scouts of America and was awarded the rank of Eagle Scout.

In 2005, he and two other priests received the Citizen’s Award for Bravery from the U.S. Department of the Interior for helping save a father and two of his children from plunging over a waterfall in Glacier National Park in Montana.

The award is given to “private citizens for their heroic acts or unusual bravery in the face of danger.”

Copyright ©2015 Catholic News Service / U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

About the author


Catholic News Service is a leader in the world of Catholic and religious media.

Leave a Comment