By Leslie A. Eidson
Special to the Catholic Key
KANSAS CITY — On Sept. 15, 2015, Pope Francis appointed Springfield-Cape Girardeau Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr., as the Seventh Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph in northwest Missouri. The appointment was made public in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Bishop-designate Johnston’s episcopal ordination and installation as Bishop for the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau was March 31, 2008. He will continue as Diocesan Administrator of Springfield-Cape Girardeau until his Installation as Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph on Nov. 4, 2015. Kansas City in Kansas Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann remains Administrator in Kansas City – St. Joseph until Bishop Johnston’s installation.
Bishop-designate Johnston will succeed Bishop Robert Finn, 62, who resigned April 21, 2015. Bishop Johnston’s nomination falls just five months after the diocese’s former bishop stepped down.
The Most Reverend Joseph F. Naumann introduced Bishop-designate Johnston to the chancery staff at a press conference held the morning of the appointment in the Catholic Center in Kansas City. After reading a statement of greeting, Bishop-designate Johnston fielded a host of questions from area media.
Also considered a missionary diocese, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph comprises 15,429 square miles in Missouri. It has a total population of 1,530,829, of which, 125,854, or eight percent are Catholic. Comparatively, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau comprises 25,719 square miles and is around six percent Catholic. Bishop Johnston’s home Diocese of Knoxville in Tennessee is around three percent Catholic and approximately 14,000 square miles.
Similar to the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has two cathedrals: The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Kansas City, MO, and the Cathedral of St. Joseph, in St. Joseph, MO.
Bishop-designate Johnston was born on Oct. 16, 1959, in Knoxville, TN. He attended Catholic elementary and secondary school and in 1982 earned a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
Bishop-designate Johnston left a career in engineering in 1985 in order to pursue a call to the priesthood. He attended St. Meinrad School of Theology in Indiana, obtained his Master of Divinity Degree there in 1990, and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Knoxville on June 9, 1990. He earned a Licentiate in Canon Law from the Catholic University of America in 1996.
In Knoxville, Bishop-designate Johnston served in parish ministry and as Chancellor and Moderator of the Curia. In 2005, he and two other priests were awarded the Citizens Award for Bravery by the US Department of the Interior for helping to save a family in danger of plunging over a waterfall in Glacier National Park.
Since his episcopal ordination, Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri has been established, offering aid to thousands across the southern portion of Missouri and beyond, including many mothers and babies at LifeHouse Crisis Maternity Home in Springfield. In 2011, Trinity Hills Catholic Worker House and Farm was instituted for prayer, service, and formation. Bishop-designate Johnston endeavored a historical first in August of 2014: After a year-long envisioning process, he traveled some 2,300 miles in 17 days to visit each parish and mission church in the diocese establishing its new vision, priorities, and goals: “One Church, East to West: Loving Jesus, Serving Jesus, Sharing Jesus.”
At the time of his ordination and installation as Bishop, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau had six men in studies and formation for the priesthood. With a deliberate and a pro-active approach, the Diocese currently has 16 men discerning a call to the priesthood at four seminaries in three states.
Among his national commitments, Bishop-designate Johnston served on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Child and Youth Protection and is currently Episcopal Liaison to the National Council of Catholic Women.
Bishop-designate Johnston’s Episcopal Motto is “The Love of Christ Urges Us On.”
Leslie A. Eidson is Director of Communications for the Diocese of Springfield – Cape Girardeau.