On March 23, 2004, Blessed Pope John Paul II appointed Bishop George L. Thomas the 10th Bishop of Helena. Bishop Thomas took formal possession of the diocese on June 4, 2004. Monsignor Kevin S. O'Neill served as apostolic administrator for the diocese during the inter regnum between Bishop Morlino and Bishop Thomas.
Born May 19, 1950, in Anaconda, Mont., George Leo Thomas was raised in Butte, the second oldest of five children born to Mary Cronin Thomas and the late George Thomas.
He attended grade school at St. Ann’s parish school in Butte and graduated from Christian Brothers High School, Butte, in 1968. The Thomas family moved to Bellevue, Wash., that same year.
He received his B.A. degree in literature from Carroll College in 1972. He entered St. Thomas Seminary, in Bothell, Wash., as a student for the Archdiocese of Seattle, where he received a master of divinity degree. He was ordained to the priesthood May 22, 1976, at St. James Cathedral in Seattle.
Following ordination, Father Thomas served as associate pastor at Holy Family Parish, Kirkland, and St. James Cathedral in Seattle. He was parish administrator at Sacred Heart Parish in Bellevue, and served at Holy Innocents Mission in Duvall.
Father Thomas served as the Catholic chaplain to the King County Jail and the Seattle City Jail for 12 years and served as chairman of the Board of Directors for Catholic Community Services for 10 years. He also served as chaplain to the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Seattle.
In 1981 Father Thomas entered graduate school at the University of Washington and was awarded a master's degree in counseling and community mental health in 1983. In 1986 he earned a doctor of philosophy degree with an area of specialty in Pacific Northwest mission history. Father Thomas’ dissertation, titled “Catholics and the Missions of the Pacific Northwest,” received the university’s Gordon C. Lee Award for the distinguished dissertation for 1986.
In 1987 Father Thomas was appointed chancellor and vicar general, positions he held for 17 years. Following the death of Archbishop Thomas Murphy in 1997, Father Thomas was elected administrator for the Archdiocese of Seattle until the appointment of Archbishop Alexander J. Brunett, who re-appointed Father Thomas as vicar general.
George Leo Thomas was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle by Pope John Paul II on Nov. 19, 1999, and was ordained Bishop on Jan. 28, 2000. He continued his service as Vicar General and as chairman of the Board of Directors for Catholic Community Services and the Archdiocesan Housing Authority.
On March 23, 2004, he was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Helena, and was installed at the Cathedral of St. Helena on June 4, 2004.
As Bishop of Helena, Bishop Thomas is the Chancellor of Carroll College and a member of the Board of Trustees. He serves on the boards of directors for the Foundation for the Diocese of Helena, Inc., the Montana Catholic Conference, Catholic Social Services for Montana, as well as the board of the Montana Association of Churches.
He also serves on the USCCB Committee on Catholic Education and the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Native American Catholics. In June 2011, he joined Catholic Extension's Board of Governors.