Pope Francis on Tuesday named a new bishop for the Catholic Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan.

The pope appointed Father Jeffrey J. Walsh, a priest of the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Dec. 21 to the post that had remained vacant for more than a year and a half.

The 56-year-old is currently serving as the pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish and Saint Rose of Lima Parish in Carbondale, a city in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania.

The bishop-elect said: “With gratitude to our Holy Father Pope Francis, and joy in the Lord, I am eager to begin a new chapter in my life of discipleship among the good people of the Diocese of Gaylord. I am also most grateful to God for 27 years of priestly ministry in the Diocese of Scranton.”

“I have been inspired and challenged to grow in faith through various diocesan assignments and will forever prayerfully remember all the lay faithful, religious, deacons, priests, and bishops with whom and for whom I have served.”

The appointment comes after the pope named Bishop Steven J. Raica, who had led the Gaylord diocese since 2014, as bishop of Birmingham, Alabama, in March 2020.

Pope Francis appointed retired Grand Rapids Bishop Walter A. Hurley as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Gaylord in June 2020.

Gaylord is the northernmost Catholic diocese on Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The predominantly rural diocese, established by Pope Paul VI on July 20, 1971, has around 44,149 Catholics out of a population of about 506,000. The diocese has 75 parishes and 16 Catholic schools, 40 active diocesan priests, and 27 permanent deacons.

The diocese was previously led by Bishop Edmund Szoka (1971-1981), a future cardinal and president of the Governorate of Vatican City State; Bishop Robert John Rose (1981-1989); Bishop Patrick R. Cooney (1989-2009); Bishop Bernard Hebda (2009-2013), now archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis; and Bishop Steven Raica (2014-2020).

Jeffrey J. Walsh was born on Nov. 29, 1965, in Scranton. One of three brothers, he graduated from the University of Scranton in 1987 with a degree in Health and Human Resources.

He studied for the priesthood at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, earning a Master of Divinity Degree.

He received a Master of Arts in Christian Spirituality from Creighton University in Omaha in 1999 and a Master of Social Work degree from Marywood University in Scranton in 2010.

He was ordained to the priesthood on June 25, 1994, by Bishop James C. Timlin. He has served in a wide range of assignments in the Scranton diocese.

In 2006, he was appointed episcopal vicar for the eastern pastoral region. In 2015, he was named episcopal vicar for clergy by Scranton Bishop Joseph C. Bambera.

He became pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish and Saint Rose of Lima Parish in July 2020. He recently oversaw the renovation of the almost 150-year-old Saint Rose of Lima church.

Walsh has also served as a school chaplain and chaplain to the deaf community, as well as diocesan vocations director.

Bishop Bambera said: “With pride and gratitude to God, we celebrate Pope Francis’ appointment of Father Walsh to serve as the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord.”

“This announcement brings great joy in the Diocese of Scranton as the Holy Father has chosen a native son, nurtured and formed locally, to the office of episcopal leadership and service in the Church.”

“Having known and served alongside Father Walsh for many years, he has shown himself to be a caring, compassionate and skilled pastor. His deep love for the Lord is evident in the loving service that he has shared with the flock of Christ entrusted to his care in a wide range of parishes, ministries, and apostolates.”

“Father Walsh has generously shared his talents and his love for the Church in so many ways, especially with our youth, elderly, the poor, sick, and those on the periphery.”

The bishop added: “While this appointment is somewhat bittersweet for many of us in the Church of Scranton ... we are grateful to God that he has chosen Father Walsh to serve the broader Church and particularly our brothers and sisters in the Church of Gaylord as bishop.”

Walsh will be ordained the sixth bishop of Gaylord on March 4, 2022, at St. Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral, in the city of Gaylord. The diocese has released a novena prayer ahead of the ceremony.

The bishop-elect said. “In particular, I would like to acknowledge the kind support of Bishop Joseph C. Bambera. The most important act of gratitude I can offer is for my parents, Jerome and Nancy (Doud) Walsh. They, as well as my deceased grandparents, have been the most significant formators of my life.”

“I have been blessed with a solid, but by no means ‘perfect,’ family that also includes my two brothers, two nieces, one nephew, aunts, and uncles and many close first cousins.”

“Looking forward, I hope to bring a missionary spirit to my episcopal ministry under the mantle of Divine Providence. From ‘Penn’s Woods’ to the land of ‘Great Lakes,’ I trust God’s loving plan.”