Portsmouth native named
bishop of Duluth, Minnesota

Father Daniel J. Felton, a priest of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., and its vicar general, is seen in this undated photo. On April 7, 2020, Pope Francis appointed him to head the Diocese of Duluth, Minn. He will be ordained and installed May 20. (CNS photo/courtesy The Catholic Spirit)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Francis has appointed Father Daniel J. Felton, a priest of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and its vicar general, to head the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota.

The appointment was announced in Washington April 7 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio.

A native of Portsmouth, Virginia, Bishop-designate Felton, 66, also is moderator of the curia for the Green Bay Diocese. He was ordained a priest for the diocese June 13, 1981.

His episcopal ordination and installation as Duluth’s 10th bishop is scheduled for May 20.

Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay said he “could not be more delighted” the pope chose a priest from the Wisconsin diocese to head the Minnesota diocese.

Bishop-designate Felton “has excelled in his service to this diocese in the many positions he has held and has been a trusted adviser in his role as vicar general and moderator of the curia,” he said in an April 7 statement. “His presence, ministry and expertise will be sorely missed here, but he will bring many gifts to the faithful of the Diocese of Duluth.”

“We are grateful to our Holy Father, Pope Francis, for sending us our next bishop in this joyful Easter season,” Father James Bissonette, Duluth’s diocesan administrator, said.

The diocese looks forward to getting to know Bishop-designate Felton, he said, “and beginning this new chapter in our walk of faith together under his leadership as our next shepherd.”

Minnesota’s archbishop also welcomed the appointment, saying he looks forward “to collaborating with him as he joins the bishops of our state in providing pastoral leadership.”

“I have long admired from afar his ministry and service in the Diocese of Green Bay and am delighted that he will be bringing his rich experiences and gifts to the people of northeastern Minnesota,” said Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

In Minnesota, Bishop-designate Felton will head a 10-county diocese that covers 22,354 square miles. Established in 1889, the Diocese of Duluth has 71 parishes and over 44,000 Catholics.

The diocese has been without a bishop since 2019. Bishop Paul D. Sirba, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, died at age 59 in December 2019 after suffering a heart attack.

In June 2020, Pope Francis appointed Father Michel J. Mulloy, a priest of the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota, to head the diocese.

His episcopal ordination and installation was scheduled for October of that year, but in September, Bishop-designate Mulloy resigned his appointment following an allegation of child sexual abuse in the 1980s. Father Mulloy remains on administrative leave in the Diocese of Rapid City.

Bishop-designate Felton was born Feb. 5, 1955, in Portsmouth. He attended St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin, where he received a bachelor’s degree in religious studies and psychology in 1977. He earned a master’s degree in theology at St. John University in Collegeville, Minnesota, in 1981.

He received his licentiate in sacred theology in dogmatic theology and a master’s degree in social communications from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1990.

After his ordination, then-Father Felton was assigned in 1981 as associate pastor at Blessed Holy Innocents in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. In 1985, he became director of affiliate affairs for the Catholic Telecommunications Network of America in New York, serving in the post until 1987. He was a CTNA correspondent in Rome from 1987 to 1990.

He returned to the Green Bay Diocese serving as pastor at several different parishes. In 2014, Bishop Ricken named him vicar general and moderator of the curia.

Bishop-designate Felton’s pastoral ministry also includes assignments as a member of the college of consultors, the priests’ council, the diocesan finance committee and the personnel board. He also has served as a member of the National Advisory Council for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Archbishop Hebda asked Catholics of the archdiocese to join him in praying for Duluth’s bishop-designate.

“In this Year of St. Joseph, please join me in seeking St. Joseph’s intercession” for him and “for the faithful of the dioceses of Duluth and Green Bay in this time of transition,” he said in his April 7 statement.

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