New Evangelization Top Priority for Fargo’s New Bishop

Msgr. John Folda, the successor to now-Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila, will be installed tomorrow.

Bishop-elect John Folda
Bishop-elect John Folda (photo: Diocese of Fargo)

FARGO, N.D. — Msgr. John Folda, who will be installed tomorrow as bishop of the Fargo Diocese, looks forward to promoting the Catholic faith in eastern North Dakota.

“My challenge will really be how to implement the New Evangelization here in the Diocese of Fargo and to help the faith to flourish,” Bishop-elect Folda told Catholic News Agency June 17.

“I hope I can ... positively promote and share the faith with others,” he said, noting the example of his own longtime bishop, Fabian Bruskewitz of the Lincoln Diocese.

On April 8, Pope Francis appointed Msgr. Folda the eighth bishop of Fargo, succeeding Bishop Samuel Aquila, who was transferred to the Denver Archdiocese in 2012.

He will be consecrated a bishop tomorrow by Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis, at Fargo's Cathedral of St. Mary.

Msgr. Folda had been ordained a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln and served as rector of St. Gregory the Great Minor Seminary for 14 years prior to his appointment as bishop of Fargo.

“I just look forward to meeting the people of the diocese,” he said. “I've had an opportunity to meet quite a few of the priests already, and I want to get to know them better as soon as possible. ... They're the people I'll work with most closely, so that's a priority.”

“Visiting as many parishes as I can and different institutions of the diocese, really just getting to know the Diocese of Fargo — that's going to be my first priority, and that's what I'm looking forward to.”

“I think that's always really enjoyable for a bishop, to first just travel around a little bit” and get to meet the people of his diocese, Bishop-designate Folda added.

Initially, he plans to learn about his new diocese, becoming familiar with its parishes, schools and institutions, as well as the priests, deacons, religious sisters and seminarians in Fargo. “I'm kind of in my learning, my homework stage; I have to do my research and meet people.”

He did add that the New Evangelization “is certainly on everyone's mind right now and on mine,” and that it will be an emphasis of his episcopacy.

As a seminary rector for so many years, Bishop-designate Folda said that Catholic education and priestly vocations will be particular “areas of interest” to him, but that “those are just two of the facets of a very big project.”

His 14 years as rector of St. Gregory's has “helped me to understand the priesthood better,” he reported. “I think I have a much better understanding of the needs not just of seminarians, but of priests themselves,” having seen many seminarians move towards priestly life.

“Certainly I think I have a better understanding of priestly vocations now, and that is something that any bishop has to be not just interested in, but directly involved with.”

“I think I'll be able to hit the ground running when it comes to the preparation of our future priests,” Msgr. Folda said, and in “inviting men to consider the priesthood.”

Bishop-designate Folda served as a priest under now Bishop Emeritus Bruskewitz for 20 years, and he said that he admired his example of energy and joy in teaching the faith.

“It seemed like he never lost his spirit of enthusiasm for our faith. … He certainly wasn't afraid to defend the faith or respond to challenges to the faith, but he always did so with great good humor and with a good spirit, a real positive spirit.”

“I hope I can imitate that in my own time as bishop, just to positively promote and share the faith with others.”

“I hope I can also have an opportunity to meet with young people and just spend some time with them, get to know them and be a part of their lives,” he added. “They are the future of the Church ... so, really, to work with them closely and to get to know them, what's on their minds, where their lives are headed — that's going to be very important for me.”

Bishop-designate Folda wants to emphasize “the presence of Christ among us,” both in the sacraments and in “the people in the Church.” His motto is a Latin phrase from the Gospel of John meaning “And the Word became flesh,” and it is meant to remind us “clearly of the dignity of every human being” since Christ took on “our human nature.”

“We need to look reverently on our brothers and sisters and appreciate their innate dignity and realize they share this same humanity with Christ our Lord, and that, I think, hopefully imbues our relationships with a higher level of respect and mutual support,” he said.

He noted appreciatively that North Dakotans already have a culture of life, which he said he “can only hope to support” and to be involved with. Furthermore, those of his flock he has already met have “a real down-to-earth quality” with a “clear understanding of what's important, what matters.”

“That's similar to the people I've known in Nebraska as well, and so I feel a real affinity for the folks I've met up here.”

“I'm very happy to be here,” Bishop-designate Folda said. “I was very happy to be given this call to serve, and you can't help but be nervous about the challenges of such a large responsibility; but, at the same time, I put my faith in God.”

“I trust his grace is always there. For whatever calling he gives, he gives the grace to carry it out — I put my trust in that.”