Pope Francis on Wednesday appointed Monsignor J. Gregory Kelly, a local priest, to become the newest auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Dallas.

“I experience this new call to be an auxiliary bishop more than anything as a new grace from Christ and a new call to serve him, whom I love, and to whom I am especially grateful,” Bishop-designate Kelly said at a Dec. 16 press conference.

Citing the start of the Church’s Year of Mercy, he looked to the example of the Pope. He said Pope Francis “constantly reminds us that the path to life on high in Christ Jesus passes through the periphery, passes through going out to other people, our brothers and sisters who are suffering and hurting.”

To these people, the monsignor said, “we are called to be signs and instruments of God’s mercy, having received that mercy ourselves.”

Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas welcomed the appointment.

“I consider the fact that our Holy Father has appointed such an outstanding priest as Greg Kelly to serve as a bishop in our diocese to be an early Christmas gift from Pope Francis,” the bishop said in a statement. He described the bishop-designate as “extremely well-respected by priests and parishioners alike” and has been “outstanding” as a pastor and chaplain.

The 59-year-old priest was born in Le Mars, Iowa to John and Marilean Kelly. He was one of five siblings, and grew up in Colorado and attended Colorado State University, the Diocese of Dallas reports.

Bishop-designate Kelly attended Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving, Texas from 1976-1982. He has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s degree in theology from the University of Dallas. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Dallas in May 1982.

He served as chaplaint at the University of Dallas from 1986 to 1996, and was pastor of St. Gabriel Catholic Church in McKinney from 1996 to 2008. Benedict XVI named him a monsignor in 2013.

Msgr. Kelly has served as the diocese’s vocations director and as interim rector for Holy Trinity Seminary, and is presently the diocese’s vicar for clergy.

He will become the diocese’s second currently serving auxiliary bishop, joining Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel. There are about 1.3 million Catholics in the Dallas diocese, whose total population is about 4 million.

His Mass of episcopal consecration will be said Feb. 11 at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in downtown Dallas.

The bishop-designate voiced gratitude for “the many gifts that God has given me.”

“I am truly overwhelmed and shocked when I think about it,” he added in a statement. “I am confident that God’s grace to do this job comes with this call but ask that you please pray for me.”