Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Two weeks ago, I ordained five men from our diocese as permanent deacons. This was the seventh such ordination for me as your bishop. I am always moved by the commitment and dedication of these men, and by the generosity of their families, in offering husbands and fathers to a life of greater service in the church. They have answered God’s personal call to serve as deacons, serving you all as “heralds of Christ” and “icons of Mercy” for the rest of their life.
Likewise, next week I shall have the same joy in ordaining three men as transitional deacons for our diocese. Transitional deacons are the same as permanent deacons, except that, as the two adjectives imply, transitional deacons hope also to be ordained as priests, while permanent deacons do not.
These three deacons will spend the summer serving in parishes in our diocese, and then return to seminary for their final year of formation. By God’s grace and calling, next year I will be able to ordain them as priests. Please pray for all our clergy and men in formation to be deacons and priests, so that God will guide and sustain them in their formation and ministry. We need more such holy and committed leaders, to reap the harvest of souls to heaven.
May is also the time of graduations from high school and college. To the young adults who are taking these momentous steps, I say, congratulations and blessings of God. You have worked hard to earn your accolades, and your futures and vocations in Christ await you with beckoning brightness. Please continue to grow in faith and prayer and remain close to Christ and to our Blessed Mother throughout your life. The world offers so much that is good and worthy of your commitment, yet it can also lead us away from God and from true happiness. Stay close to the church. Cling to your Catholic faith. Most especially, never forget that Christ was willing to die for you, and that his mercy is infinitely greater than anything you can do against him. Never be afraid or reluctant, therefore, to turn back to him and seek his gracious forgiveness. This humility will never lead anyone astray.
To the families of our graduates, I share your joy at your child, or grandchild, or sibling’s milestone. I urge you, never stop praying for them. Furthermore, never stop striving to be, yourselves, disciples for our Lord Jesus Christ. Your simple and daily witness to the importance that faith brings to living makes such an impression on our youth. Let your children, and others, see that you love Jesus Christ, and they will have a chance to learn to love him, too.
It is true that our culture increasingly puts pressure on all of us to hide our faith in Christ. The media that we consume most often ridicules those who act with faith. In many careers, those who act secularly and parrot the ideas of the culture are preferred and promoted.
In our engagements in civil society, expressions of faith are frequently discouraged and muted, even as marriage and family and virtue continue to erode. And many institutions claiming to be Catholic make more and more compromises with the demands of the world. There seems to be less and less space in which admitting our faith or acting on it does not bring negative responses from those around us.
Yet recall that even our Savior had to drag the cross up the hill of Calvary and told us we would do likewise. And recall also that he warned us that the “broad and easy way” of drifting with the culture, of going along with the lies and blandishments of “the world, the flesh, and the devil,” does not lead to God. Resisting the aggressive secularism of our times is part of our carrying of the cross.
We should take note, however, that it is still true that the easiest places to begin clinging more to God than to the world are the bedrock actions of our spiritual life: regularly going to Mass and confession and forming the daily habit of prayer and devotion, all within the community of the family.
Indeed, it is very difficult to know and love Christ in our exterior life of discipleship, if we do not first know and love him in our interior life of the heart’s desires. And we will be much more likely to have the courageous “holy boldness” of true disciples and attentive discernment of the promptings of Christ and the Holy Spirit in our hearts about when and where to speak up or take action before others, if we are close to him in our interior life. Or to be blunt, what I am saying is that, if we want to change the world, we must always start with changing ourselves to become like Christ.
Please pray, then, for our new clergy and our new graduates, and for their families. Pray for our pastors and our parishes, and for our deeper faith and conversion throughout our life. Pray for fidelity in every vocation, and especially the “big three” vocations of marriage and family, clergy, and consecrated life. And please pray for me, just as I always pray for all of you.
May the light of Christ and the Pentecost outpouring of the Holy Spirit ever form and guide us and bring us safe to our true home in heaven. God bless you and keep you in all things. Our Lady, Mother of the Church, pray for us.
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City