VATICAN CITY – Former Seattle Auxiliary Bishop George Leo Thomas, leader of the Diocese of Helena, Montana, since 2004, has been appointed bishop of the Diocese of Las Vegas.
The Feb. 28 announcement from the Vatican notes that Bishop Thomas, 67, will take over for Bishop Joseph Anthony Pepe, 75, who has led the Diocese of Las Vegas since 2001, but is at retirement age.
Bishop Thomas, a native of Anaconda, Montana, has broad pastoral experience and expertise in psychology, mental health issues, mission work and prison ministry.
Ordained a priest of the Seattle Archdiocese on May 22, 1976, he served in several parishes, including Holy Family in Kirkland and St. James Cathedral. He was parish administrator for Sacred Heart Parish in Bellevue and Holy Innocents Mission in Duvall.
For 12 years, he served as prison chaplain for the King County Jail and the Seattle City Jail. He served a decade as chairman of the board of directors for Catholic Community Services of Western Washington and was chaplain for the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Seattle.
He received a master’s degree in counseling and community mental health from the University of Washington in 1983. In 1986, he received a doctorate in philosophy, with an emphasis in Pacific Northwest mission history. His dissertation, “Catholics and the Missions of the Pacific Northwest,” received the university’s Gordan C. Lee award.
In this 1998 file photo, then-state Rep. Al O’Brien, then-Washington State Catholic Conference staffer Eric Paige, then-Father George Thomas, then-WSCC executive director Dominican Sister Sharon Park, then-Seattle Archbishop Alexander Brunett, and then-state Rep. Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney at the legislative building in Olympia, Washington. Photo: Catholic Northwest Progress files
In 1987, he was appointed the archdiocese’s chancellor and vicar general, positions he held for 17 years. After the death of Archbishop Thomas Murphy in 1997, he was named apostolic administrator for the archdiocese until the appointment of Archbishop Alexander J. Brunett, who reappointed him vicar general.
He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Seattle by Pope John Paul II and ordained on Jan. 28, 2000. Bishop Thomas continued serving as vicar general and chairman of the board of CCS and the Catholic Housing Authority.
On June 4, 2004, Bishop Thomas was installed as bishop for the Diocese of Helena, returning to his home state.
He was born May 19, 1950, in Anaconda, Montana, the second of five children. Bishop Thomas was raised in Butte, Montana, where he attended Catholic school, graduating from Christian Brothers High School in 1968.
He received a degree in literature from Carroll College in Helena in 1972, then entered St. Thomas Seminary in Bothell (his family had moved to Bellevue in 1968). He received a master of divinity degree before his 1976 ordination at St. James Cathedral.