Pope Francis has named the Most Reverend George Leo Thomas as Bishop of Las Vegas, Nevada. At the same time, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Joseph A. Pepe, who has reached the age of mandatory retirement. Bishop Pepe has served as Bishop of Las Vegas for nearly 17 years.
Bishop Thomas has served as Bishop of Helena, Montana, for nearly 14 years. He will be installed as Bishop of Las Vegas on May 15, 2018. There are nearly 750,000 Catholics in the Diocese of Las Vegas, a Catholic population nearly 15 times the size of the Diocese of Helena.
George Leo Thomas was born in Anaconda, Montana, and raised in nearby Butte. He is a graduate of the Diocese of Helena’s Carroll College. His family relocated to Seattle, Wash., where he was ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of Seattle on May 22, 1976.
During his tenure in the Archdiocese of Seattle, Father Thomas served in four different parishes, chaired Catholic Charities-Seattle and the Archdiocesan Housing Authority, and was night chaplain for King County Jail for 13 years. While in Seattle, Father Thomas served as Chancellor and Vicar General for three different Archbishops during a span of 17 years. He holds two Masters’ Degrees and a Ph.D. from the University of Washington.
He was appointed as Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle on November 19, 1999, and ordained Bishop on January 28, 2000. Bishop Thomas was appointed as Bishop of Helena on March 23, 2004, and installed on June 4 that same year.
Youth, young adult, and campus ministry flourished under Bishop Thomas’ leadership. He dedicated three new Churches, ordained 18 permanent deacons and 14 priests for the Diocese of Helena, and is distinguished for his pastoral presence to his priests and seminarians. He helped bring new vigor and visibility to the Guatemala Mission, with its Clinica Maxeña and Asunción School.
Bishop Thomas addressed the extraordinarily difficult clergy sexual abuse crisis through a unique model of pastoral care and mediation which was characterized by the Bankruptcy Judge as a “singular achievement” of the Judge’s 30 years on the bench.
In addition to serving on numerous boards and committees in the Diocese of Helena, Bishop Thomas is the Chancellor of Carroll College, a Board member of the Catholic Health Association and of the Catholic Extension Society of Chicago. He also is a member of the Board of Trustees at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver, a Regent at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon, and a Board member of the Catholic Mutual Society of America. He is an honorary member of the Blackfeet Nation, a community he holds very dear to his heart.
“It is difficult to leave Montana,” Bishop Thomas said. “But, Pope Francis requests that each Bishop possess a generous missionary spirit. In light of the Holy Father’s request and with humble thanks for the confidence he places in me, I joyfully accept this appointment.”