BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Pope Francis has named a North Dakota priest as the next bishop of Helena, Montana.

The Rev. Austin Vetter is a priest from the Diocese of Bismarck. He comes to Helena from the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, where he has served as rector since 2018.

Prior to that, Vetter was posted to Rome for six years as director of spiritual formation for the Pontifical North American College.

The 52-year-old Vetter grew up on a farm near Linton, North Dakota, and was ordained a priest in 1993. He succeeds Bishop George Leo Thomas, who led the Diocese of Helena for 15 years. The pope appointed Thomas to be bishop of Las Vegas in February 2018.

The Diocese of Helena has 57 parishes, 38 mission churches and an estimated 45,400 Catholics.

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