After presenting the Catholic Diocese of Marquette with its tenth bishop 35 years ago, the Diocese of Green Bay has again been called upon to provide one of its priests to lead the more than 50,000 Catholics in the Upper Peninsula. Pope Francis has appointed Father John F. Doerfler (pronounced DER-fler), who is currently serving as vicar general of the Diocese of Green Bay, as the thirteenth bishop of the Diocese of Marquette.
The late Bishop Mark Schmitt was the auxiliary bishop of Green Bay when he was appointed bishop of Marquette and installed at St. Peter Cathedral in Marquette in 1978. Father Doerfler will be ordained and installed as bishop in that same cathedral on February 11, 2014. He succeeds Archbishop Alexander Sample, who was installed as archbishop of Portland in Oregon on April 2, 2013, after serving as bishop of Marquette for seven years. The Diocese of Marquette has been led by diocesan administrator, Father Francis Dobrzenski (pronounced Dob-JEN-skee) of Lake Linden, since that time.
Father Doerfler said that the Upper Peninsula is familiar to him, having cross-country skied here in the past, and he enjoys outdoor activities, especially hiking and bicycling. “Though first attracted to the U.P. by its natural beauty, I now have the opportunity to experience the beauty of the people of faith in this diocese,” he noted.
Father Doerfler was born on Nov. 2, 1964 in Appleton, Wisconsin, the son of the late Henry Doerfler and Germaine (Mancl) Doerfler. He graduated from Appleton West High School in 1983 and earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and classics from the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. He then became a seminarian at Gregorian University in Rome, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology. He was ordained to the priesthood on July 13, 1991.
Father Doerfler’s first priestly assignment was as parochial vicar at St. John Nepomucene Parish in Little Chute, Wisconsin from 1991-1995. He then spent the next two years earning his licentiate in canon law at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. When he returned to Wisconsin, he was appointed defender of the bond for the Tribunal of the Diocese of Green Bay and parochial vicar of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay, while earning his licentiate in sacred theology from John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family. He went on to earn his doctorate in sacred theology from the same institute in 2008.
Other diocesan positions held by Fr. Doerfler include assistant chancellor, judge for the Tribunal, chancellor, and vicar general, a post he has held since 2005. In the past he also served as administrator of Holy Trinity Parish in Casco, St. Francis Xavier Cathedral and St. John the Evangelist Parish in Green Bay, and St. Joseph Parish in Sturgeon Bay. He was also sacramental minister of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral and Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Green Bay, as well as St. Martin Parish in Cecil. In addition, he served as rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wis. and was a part-time lecturer in moral theology at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners.
Father Doerfler is currently the chaplain to Legatus, a Catholic organization of lay business people, and a member of the Diocesan College of Consultors. He has written several articles on medical ethics for various publications. Organizations he has worked with include Teens Encounter Christ, Courage, Widows of Prayer and Retrouivaille. He has also done some Hispanic ministry, taught diocesan lay ministry formation courses, offered adult education conferences, was retreat master at Holy Name of Jesus Retreat House on Chambers Island, and served one term as chair of the Marriage Research Committee of the Canon Law Society of America.
Father Doerfler’s family includes his mother, Germaine Doerfler; brother, Thomas Doerfler; sister-in-law, Lisa (Hartzheim) Doerfler; and nephew, Bryan Doerfler.