Pope Francis has named Bishop George Thomas as the new bishop of Las Vegas. He replaces Bishop Joseph Pepe who is retiring after leading the Las Vegas Diocese for the last 17 years.

Bishop George Thomas

Bishop Thomas has been serving as the bishop of Helena for the last 14 years, where he drew on his own experience of working in four different parishes in the Seattle Diocese in leading the city’s Catholics. Ultimately, he ordained 18 permanent deacons and 14 priests, as well as three new churches in Helena.

Bishop Joseph Pepe, left, attended the 50th anniversary of Viatorians serving in Las Vegas. He is seen here with the late Fr. Robert Erickson, center, and Fr. Charles Bolser

In taking over as bishop of Las Vegas, he will be the pastoral leader of 750,000 Catholics — a population which is nearly 15 times the size of the Diocese of Helena.

Las Vegas officials say that under Bishop Thomas’ leadership in Helena, “youth, young adult and campus ministry flourished,” which bodes well for the two large Viatorian parishes in the Las Vegas Diocese.

Viatorians arrived in Las Vegas in 1954 or more than 40 years before the Las Vegas Diocese was formed. Since arriving, Viatorians opened two parishes — St. Viator Catholic Community in Las Vegas and St. Thomas More Catholic Community in Henderson — and started the region’s first Catholic High School, Bishop Gorman High School.

They continue to run the two parishes, which collectively serve more than 8,000 families — and feature vibrant youth ministry programs — while they have turned over administration of the high school to the diocese, but a few Viatorians continue to serve on staff.