WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Roger J. Foys of Covington, Kentucky, and named as his successor Father John C. Iffert, currently vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois.
Bishop Foys, who has headed the Diocese of Covington since 2002, is 75, the age at which canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation to the pope. The bishop turns 76 July 27.
The changes were announced July 13 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio.
Bishop-designate Iffert, 53, was ordained a priest for the Belleville Diocese June 7, 1997, by then-Bishop Wilton D. Gregory.
After high school and before he entered the seminary, the bishop-designate studied political science and economics at Illinois State University and upon graduation in 1988, he accepted a fellowship with the state of Illinois and worked as an analyst in Illinois’ Bureau of the Budget.
He will be ordained and installed as the bishop Covington Sept. 30 in the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington.
“I am astounded and deeply grateful that Pope Francis has elected me to serve as the 11th bishop of Covington,” Bishop-designate Iffert said in a letter to the faithful of southern Illinois.
“I am inspired by Pope Francis’ vision of a church so deeply rooted in a relationship with Christ that we accompany the outcast, tend the wounded, mourn with the brokenhearted, and rejoice and give thanks in every circumstance, and so carry out Jesus’ mission of evangelization,” he said.
Serving as Belleville’s vicar general and moderator of the curia since October 2020, he was named pastor of St. Stephen Parish in Caseyville, Illinois, in January of this year.
Bishop Michael G. McGovern of Belleville praised the newly named bishop as “an excellent priest and a dedicated pastor” who “is widely respected in our diocese.”
“With his strong faith and many talents,” Bishop-designate Iffert “will be an excellent shepherd for the people of northern Kentucky,” Bishop McGovern said in a statement.
“While I will personally miss collaborating with him in the Lord’s vineyard in southern Illinois, I look forward to his episcopal ordination and serving with him in the college of bishops,” he added.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, metropolitan of the Louisville province which includes Kentucky and Tennessee, welcomed the appointment of a new shepherd for the state “with great joy.”
Bishop-designate Iffert “brings a wonderful background in ministry” as well as a “great pastoral heart” and “excellent pastoral experience” in succeeding Bishop Foys, he said in a statement.
Archbishop Kurtz said Bishop Foys “has served northern Kentucky with great distinction, and I join with the bishops of the province in thanking him for his leadership and collaboration since 2002.”
The bishops of the province “have a great fraternity,” he added, and together welcome Bishop-designate Iffert and “promise him and Bishop Foys our prayerful support.”
A native of Du Quoin, Illinois, Bishop-designate Iffert is the youngest of John and Mary Iffert’s three children. He grew up on the family farm on the outskirts of Du Quoin and attended Sacred Heart School and Du Quoin High School.
After college and his stint in public service with the state of Illinois, he entered Mundelein Seminary in August 1992. He earned a bachelor’s degree of sacred theology in 1996 and a master of divinity degree in 1997.
After his ordination in 1997, then-Father Iffert was parochial vicar at St. Peter Cathedral in Belleville until 2000, when he was named administrator and pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Columbia, Illinois. He served the parish until 2003.
Between 1997 and 2003, Father Iffert also was spiritual moderator of the Catholic Youth Organization in the Belleville Deanery and spiritual moderator of the diocesan Teens Encounter Christ movement.
In 2003, he entered the Dominican novitiate at the order’s Province of St. Albert the Great in Chicago. He took simple vows as a Dominican in 2004 and renewed his vows in 2006.
He was parochial vicar at St. Thomas Catholic Center at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, from July 2007 to June 2008, when he left the Dominicans and returned to the Belleville Diocese.
His parish assignments included being named administrator for several parishes, including St. Mary Parish in Mount Vernon, Illinois, where he became pastor in 2010. He was named pastor of St. Barbara Parish in Scheller, Illinois, in 2014 while continuing as pastor of St. Mary.
He served the two parishes until he was named vicar general and moderator of the curia. From July 2014 to 2020, he also was co-vicar for priests.
Established in 1853, the Diocese of Covington encompasses the city of Covington and the 14 counties of northern Kentucky. The diocese has 48 parishes and approximately 90,000 Catholics within 3,358 square miles.