By KATIE BORKOWSKI
Although she has only been in the Diocese of Sioux City about a year and half, Sister Esther Mary Nickel, RSM, has been an integral part of Ministry 2025, pastoral planning for the diocese.
“I have enjoyed the privilege of working in this diocese,” said the associate director of the office of worship and pastoral planning. “I’ve been very grateful to Bishop (Walker) Nickless and for the opportunity to work with Renee (DeMay) and Grace (Zavala). It has been great to work with Father (Brent) Lingle and Father Brad (Pelzel). I will miss everyone.”
Effective July 1, Sister Esther Mary has been reassigned to the Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. To allow time for her move to Saginaw, her last day at the chancery will be June 19.
“I have been asked to go to our convent, which is in the city of Saginaw,” she said. “I will be with three of my sisters working in that diocese in a capacity that is being developed. I will be closer to our mother house working with our sisters.”
Sister Esther Mary is originally from Michigan and her family lives there. She has not lived there for 37 years, so her family is excited to have her there.
Time in the diocese
Sister Esther Mary started in the diocese on Jan. 26, 2017. While in the diocese, she worked in many different areas: worship and liturgy, vocations, diaconate formation and most especially, in seeing the diocese through the first year of transition with Ministry 2025.
The Mercy sister worked with Father Shane Deman, director of vocations, to put on three discernment days in Sioux City, Fort Dodge and Carroll for young women of the diocese.
“I have been very grateful to be back in contact with young priests who were my students at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver – Fathers Brian Feller, Pat Behm, Mauro Sanchez and Andy Galles and Deacon Pedro Pablo,” she said.
Sister Esther Mary expressed her appreciation for being able to learn from Father Brian Hughes, who helped her learn about church architecture and sacred patrimony.
“I was involved on the building commission, which was unusual,” she said. “I worked directly with Father Hughes inventorying sacred patrimony and storing items (from closed parishes). Lee Bailey is a saint. Working with Deacon Ken Lindquist was a great joy. Deacon Rick Roder was also on our team.”
Initially, Sister Esther Mary was a facilitator because she was going to work with facilitators of Ministry 2025, pastoral planning.
“After working with one grouping, I realized a lot was going on in terms of the plan, but it was important to go out and be with the people,” she said. “That was one of the most precious experiences. It was a great joy to be with the people.”
Sister Esther Mary learned the pastors in the parishes are “very good. There are some tremendous priests in this diocese.”
The diocese is now finished with phase one of Ministry 2025, the restructuring. Sister Esther Mary acknowledged the process of phase one caused “a lot of suffering and sacrifices.”
“Sometimes, it is not as if people don’t want to do what the Lord wants us to do, but they want the opportunity to talk about it,” she said. “That’s important for every one of us no matter where we are. The times I have been able to visit with parishioners and with groups working together has been a great gift to be a sister of mercy and to hear their sorrows.”
As the parishioners come together in new configurations, Sister Esther Mary clarified that “we are still one Body of Christ. We still receive the same Lord in the Eucharist. The Lord is who is most important because he is the one who brings us together.”
The Pastoral Planning Committee is now looking at phase two of the plan.
“There is a wonderful group of priests who make up the committee,” said Sister Esther Mary. “You don’t have the difficulties here that many other dioceses have. You aren’t doing mediation, bankruptcy and other things happening in many dioceses.”
With Ministry 2025, there will be continual assessment, Sister Esther Mary pointed out.
“Everyone has to come together,” she said. “We can build the church in the Diocese of Sioux City. There is no reason this diocese can’t be strong, vibrant and support vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life and to holy matrimony.”