Fr. Daniel Felton of Wisconsin was announced Wednesday as the new bishop-elect for the Diocese of Duluth, including Catholic churches on the Iron Range, where he is scheduled to be officially installed May 20.
Felton’s appointment from the Vatican and Pope Francis comes more than a year after Bishop Paul Sirba died in December 2019 and about seven months after former Bishop-elect Michael Mulloy resigned last September over allegations he sexually abused a minor in the 1980s in the Diocese of Rapid City in South Dakota.
Felton, 66, most recently served as the vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese in Green Bay, Wisconsin since 2014. He will now lead a diocese that serves 10 counties in northeastern Minnesota with more than 44,000 Catholics and 71 parishes.
“Who I am today as a person, who I am today as a priest, who I am today as a pastor and ultimately who I am today as a bishop-elect has been significantly shaped and impacted by you,” Felton said of his past parishes and friends, during a press conference Wednesday afternoon. “And in my new call as a bishop to this diocese, much of what I do and much of what I say in the days and the years to come, will be your influence upon me.”
The Duluth Diocese has been without a bishop since Sirba’s death on Dec. 1, 2019, at the age of 59, from a sudden heart attack. Bissonette has since performed the administrative duties for the diocese.
“We are grateful to our Holy Father, Pope Francis, for sending us our next bishop in this joyful Easter season,” said Fr. James Bissonette, diocesan administrator for the Diocese of Duluth. “We look forward to getting to know Bishop-elect Felton and beginning this new chapter in our walk of faith together under his leadership as our next shepherd.”
Felton has spent most of his life in Wisconsin. He was born in 1955 and attended school at St. Edward School in Mackville, Wis. and Appleton West. He received a bachelor’s degree from St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis., in religious studies and psychology, later working toward a master’s degree in theology from St. John University in Collegeville, Minn. He also earned a master’s degree in social communications from the Gregorian University in Rome.
Felton was ordained as a priest in 1981 for the Green Bay Diocese and parish assignments have included Holy Innocents in Manitowoc, St. Raphael the Archangel in Oshkosh, and St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Manitowoc, all in Wisconsin.
Beyond his parish duties, Felton was also the director of affiliate affairs for the Catholic Telecommunications Network of America. He’s also served as a member of the diocesan College of Consultors, Presbyteral Council, Bishop Advisory Council, Personnel Board, Diocesan Finance Council, St. Norbert Board of Trustees, and Silver Lake College Board of Directors. He is also a member of the National Advisory Council of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.