Father Shawn McKnight named bishop of Diocese of Jefferson City

Ordination set for Tuesday, Feb. 6, at St. Joseph Cathedral in Jeff City
Bishop-elect W. Shawn McKnight said at a press conference Tuesday, Nov. 21, that he is leaving the Diocese of Wichita, “which has nourished my faith and vocation as a priest, and has served as my home,” and is being given by Pope Francis “to you in service to God to teach, sanctify and shepherd the people of our local church.”
His appointment as the next bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri, was announced earlier that morning in Washington, D.C., by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Bishop-elect McKnight is scheduled to be ordained and installed Tuesday, Feb. 6, at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Jefferson City.
After thanking Pope Francis and others in the church hierarchy involved in his appointment, Bishop-elect McKnight talked about the shock the parishioners at Church of the Magdalen must be feeling and adding that they had been a blessing to him.
He said other than driving through on I-70, his visit was the first time he had been in the Diocese of Jefferson City. Being the first bishop of the diocese from outside of Missouri, Bishop-elect McKnight said he has a lot to learn.
“Your new bishop-elect eagerly anticipates the opportunities we will have over the coming weeks and months to get to know one another,” he said. “I am especially eager to learn how we are evangelizing those in our community, especially the youth, and how we are promoting a culture of vocations among them.”
Bishop-elect McKnight said in his 23 years as a priest he has spent more than half of them outside of the Diocese of Wichita studying, serving the Pontifical College Josephinum Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, or at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.
As a result, he has been able to get to know a number of bishops throughout the country – including Bishop Gaydos. “I had the privilege of working closely with Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis, who served as the chairman of the (USCCB) committee I staffed. I look forward to working closely with Archbishop Carlson again as our metropolitan and in the Missouri Catholic Conference.”
After listing some points of interest after he is ordained bishop, such as nurturing the presbyterate, focusing on the pastoral care of the family, evangelization, and vocations promotion, Bishop-elect McKnight said he and the faithful of the diocese will face the future together.
“In our time as a diocese there are a number of challenging pastoral issues we are facing, but we are not alone or without the help we need,” he said. “We have the deposit of faith, the communion of the church, and the charisms of the people of God.
“We must discern the difficult issues facing our families, our cities and towns, state, country, and our world not as individuals but together as a church. And working together is what brings joy to my heart. I hope and pray that in being a bishop for you, you may tangibly see my personal faith and love for Christ, and for you his people.”
Bishop-elect McKnight is the fifth priest of the Diocese of Wichita since 1998 to be named bishop by the pope.
Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, now the ordinary of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, was named bishop of the Diocese of Salina in 2004 when he was pastor of Magdalen. Other priests of the Diocese of Wichita now serving as bishops are Bishop John B. Brungardt of the Diocese of Dodge City, Bishop Emeritus Ronald M. Gilmore of the Diocese of Dodge City; and Bishop James D. Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln.
The outgoing Bishop John R. Gaydos introduced Bishop-elect McKnight at the press conference.
“I have known Bishop-Elect McKnight for several years and I am extremely pleased that he will be the next Bishop of our beautiful Diocese of Jefferson City,” he said. “I know that you will give him a warm welcome and I believe you will soon begin to see what a great gift we are receiving in this dedicated priest as he prepares to take up his episcopal ministry in our midst.”
Bishop Gaydos is resigning because of health issues and because of his age.

Diocese of Jefferson City only 61 years old
The Diocese of Jefferson City is a relatively young diocese. It was established on July 2, 1956, by Pope Pius XII from territory taken from the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Diocese of Kansas City, and the Diocese of St. Joseph.
It has 88,000 Catholics, 95 parishes, and 15 missions served by 61 active diocesan priests and six religious priests. It also has 36 women religious, one religious brother, and 93 permanent deacons.
The Diocese of Jefferson City is the largest diocese in Missouri, covering over 22,000 square miles – about one third of the state. It is slightly larger than the Diocese of Wichita, which was established in 1887, and covers slightly more than 20,000 square miles.
Bishop-elect McKnight will be the fourth ordinary of the diocese, succeeding the Most Rev. John R. Gaydos, who was appointed in 1997.