Michael Warfel was born in Elkhart, Indiana, and studied at Indiana University; St. Gregory’s College Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio, from where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy; Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West, earning his Master’s of Divinity; and St. Michael’s College, Colchester, Vermont, earning his Master’s in Theology. He was ordained to the priesthood on April 26, 1980. He then performed pastoral work in the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska.
On November 19, 1996, Warfel was appointed the fourth Bishop of Juneau by Pope John Paul II. He received his episcopal consecration on the following December 17 from Archbishop Francis Hurley, with Bishops Michael Kaniecki, SJ, and William Skylstad serving as co-consecrators. Warfel was Chairman of the Committee on Evangelization within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1999 to 2002. He was later named Apostolic Administrator of Fairbanks on October 23, 2001, resigning upon the appointment of Donald Joseph Kettler on June 7, 2002.
Pope Benedict XVI named him the seventh Bishop of Great Falls-Billings, Montana on November 20, 2007. He was formally installed in his new post by Archbishop John Vlazny on January 16, 2008.
Within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Warfel also serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions, and as a member of the administrative committee for the USCCB.