Denver — The journey that led Monsignor James D. Conley to become the new auxiliary bishop of Denver began at a Kansas university where he decided to become a Catholic 33 years ago.
Conley, born into a Presbyterian family in Kansas City, Mo., was named the fourth auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese's 118-year history Thursday.
"I can tell you that I've known and greatly admired the work of Bishop-elect Conley for a long time," Archbishop Charles Chaput said.
Conley, 53, has been the pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Wichita, Kan., since 2006. He had previously served for 10 years as an official in the Vatican Congregation for Bishops in Rome. He has been a priest for 23 years.
Conley lived in Denver and Arvada as a child and later attended high school in Kansas.
He converted to Catholicism while attending University of Kansas, where he earned a bachelor's degree in English literature. He said a professor in the Integrated Humanities Program led him to the Catholic faith.
Conley was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Wichita in 1985 and he baptized his parents six years later.
Conley said he will miss his Wichita parishioners but looks forward to learning about the "very dynamic" Denver Archdiocese.
He said he has admired Chaput for a long time.
"Archbishop Chaput has been a big hero of mine over the years," he said, citing Chaput's love for the church, his fidelity to the pope and "his charity and zeal for souls."
The Archdiocese of Denver has about 525,000 Catholics in 144 parishes. It has been without an auxiliary bishop since early 2005 when Conley's predecessor, Jose H. Gomez, became archbishop of San Antonio.
Conley will be ordained during a May 30 Mass.