Archbishop Alexander Sample kneels in prayer as Bishop Austin Vetter, newly ordained to lead the Diocese of Helena, lays prostrate during his ordination. (David Renshaw/Archdiocese of Portland)
Archbishop Alexander Sample kneels in prayer as Bishop Austin Vetter, newly ordained to lead the Diocese of Helena, lays prostrate during his ordination. (David Renshaw/Archdiocese of Portland)
HELENA, Montana — “Good things come to those who wait.” That was the sentiment delivered Nov. 20 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, to the packed house in St. Helen Cathedral here as they anxiously awaited the ordination and installation of their new bishop.

Since May of 2018, Msgr. Kevin O'Neill had served as diocesan administrator in Helena, a diocese without a bishop. That all changed on Oct. 8 when Father Austin Vetter of Bismarck, North Dakota received “that call.” Pope Francis had named him bishop.

Archbishop Alexander Sample was the principal ordaining archbishop, as he serves as the Metropolitan of the Portland Province, of which Helena is a part. In his homily, Archbishop Sample recalled that he was baptized 59 years to the day in Kalispell, Montana. “But this day is about you,” he said, gesturing to the soon-to-be bishop.

Archbishop Sample reminded the people that the bishop is there to serve the people as a husband serves his wife. A bishop is “espoused” to the diocese. Hence the bishop’s ring. Like Christ, a bishop is not called to be served, but to serve, the archbishop said.

After the laying on of hands by the other bishops present, having his head anointed, and receiving the Book of the Gospels, the newly ordained Bishop Vetter was invested with his ring, miter and pastoral staff (crosier), then led to this bishop’s seat — the cathedra. The applause could be heard across the street where the faithful who were unable to fit inside watched the streaming event on a television placed in the back of a pickup truck.

“I’m going to miss talking to Msgr. O’Neill,” remarked Archbishop Sample. “But now I have a new friend,” — and a new brother bishop.

Cardinals Roger Mahoney and Edwin O’Brien were present as Metuchen, New Jersey, Bishop James Checchio and Bismarck Bishop David Kagan co-ordained. A total of five archbishops and 17 bishops attended including former bishops of Helena Bishop George Thomas of the Diocese of Las Vegas and Archbishop Elden Curtiss, Archbishop Emeritus of Omaha.

Renshaw is communications director for the Archdiocese of Portland.