Detroit's new auxiliary bishop shares a few of his hobbies, habits and holy heroes as he returns to ministry in his hometown
DETROIT — Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit might remember Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton from his 18 years as a priest here.
They might know he was rector of Sacred Heart Major Seminary, or that he served as priest-secretary to Cardinal Adam J. Maida, or that he has an advanced degree in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
But did you know he’s also a scuba diver?
“I haven’t done it in about 10 years, but I’m a certified diver,” Bishop Monforton told Detroit Catholic in an interview in late September. “I haven’t had a lot of time in recent years, but I enjoy doing that.”
There admittedly aren’t a lot of diving opportunities in southeastern Ohio, where Bishop Monforton has spent the past 11 years in the Diocese of Steubenville. But now that he’s returning to a state surrounded by water — you never know.
Hunting for shipwrecks and exploring lakes and reefs might be on a future summer’s agenda, but Detroit’s newest auxiliary bishop, who on Nov. 7 was welcomed back to the Archdiocese of Detroit during a special liturgy at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, said he’s always enjoyed the great outdoors.
As Detroiters become reacquainted with the native of Westland, Bishop Monforton shared some of his hobbies, habits and holy heroes with Detroit Catholic.
“I love reading and biking, especially my hybrid bike that I love to ride. It keeps me in shape, and it’s good for stress. I also like to hike, and I enjoy golf — or at least something that resembles golf,” he joked. “Golf is actually one of the ways I embrace humility.”
Weekend warriors everywhere understand the sentiment, Bishop.
Bishop Monforton is also a big fan of the Lions, Tigers, Pistons, Red Wings and Michigan Wolverines — a fact he didn’t broadcast too loudly in his former Ohio diocese — and relishes the football and hockey teams’ recent winning streaks.
“When I moved to Steubenville, I never got rid of my Red Wings or Michigan sweatshirts, and now I can maybe wear them a bit more outside the house,” he quipped. “We were always a hockey family growing up."
When the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 1997 and 1998, both years Bishop Monforton was in Rome working on his doctorate, so he didn't get to attend the parades. With a couple of local winning teams, he hopes to have another opportunity soon — although his brothers, David and Daniel, might have other ideas.
"The next time they went to the Stanley Cup Finals (in 2002), my brothers joked they were going to buy me a ticket to Italy,” he said.
Bishop Monforton also enjoys cooking, particularly barbecue and Italian, the latter of which he learned during his time in Rome and the former from his father, Marc.
However, “when it comes to anything in the oven, unfortunately for me all it’s good for is a frozen pizza,” he said.
On the spiritual side, Bishop Monforton’s favorite saints include the Blessed Mother and St. Paul “when it comes to evangelization,” as well as St. Therese of Lisieux, the patron of two of his assignments as a priest, the National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak and St. Therese of Lisieux Parish in Shelby Township. He also admires the two saints he met personally while in Rome, St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta.
“I also can’t forget, of course, Blessed Solanus Casey, whom my mom had a chance to meet twice, both times as a little girl,” he said.
Other than his episcopal motto, “Faith Comes From Hearing,” which comes from Romans 10:17, Bishop Monforton said his favorite Scriptures include the Beatitudes and the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, particularly “Jesus’ words to his heavenly Father: ‘Your will be done, not mine.’”
Bishop Monforton said he begins each morning with a holy hour, listening to God and giving his concerns and distractions to the Lord in prayer.
“For me, it’s all about Jesus and where he’s going to guide me,” Bishop Monforton said of his morning routine. “It’s more than just him providing me with a spiritual GPS for the day. It’s an encounter to remind me that he’s always with me, to recognize that I am loved.”
Bishop Monforton added he enjoys the sacrament of reconciliation — not just giving it, but receiving it.
“When I go to confession, it’s a chance for me to know my imperfections, and to have the courage to share those with a priest and to be forgiven,” Bishop Monforton said. “It’s not about me. It’s about our Lord Jesus Christ, and his kind heart is always there.
"My relationship with him can never be minimalized to a pragmatic relationship," he added. "It’s personal. I am loved, and he’s my master. He’s my friend. He’s my brother. And for that I am very grateful.”