Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As we continue to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in this Easter season, may his grace and mercy fill your hearts and lives with abundant blessings! I pray that you may all be renewed in faith and in joy by this prayerful and glorious time.
In this issue of our Catholic Globe, I am announcing the new priest assignments, which will take effect in July. Change is always difficult, and a change in pastor is a significant change for all of us. It is true that our pastors are not interchangeable. Each has different gifts for your parish and different ways of doing familiar things. Within the unity of our one Catholic faith, we must be open to how the Holy Spirit wants to use these different priestly gifts to build up our parish and our spiritual life, even when we might prefer something else.
I urge you to pray for all our priests, especially those who will take up a new assignment this year. Please be very welcoming! For your pastors, too, this change can be hard. Remember that they are trying to get to know you well enough to discern how their individual priestly gifts and talents can best be used for you. Remember also that they, too, are trying to be open to your parish’s particular circumstances and customs, equally unfamiliar to them.
I urge you to open your hearts and your homes to your new pastor. The more you make them feel at home in their new parish, the more easily and generously they will know how to serve you, and the more their ministry will build you up to Christ.
If we are prayerful, and in union with Christ and the Holy Spirit, such changes, even when difficult, can be very fruitful moments of deepening our faith and love. If you are about to experience a change in pastor, let God make use of this change to move your heart or your spiritual inertia. Whether you have been solidly regular in all the ways of practicing the faith, or whether you have been lax or inconsistent, renew your commitment to attend Holy Mass, to receive sacramental confession, and to pray every day.
Come and listen to your new pastor with an open heart. Although he, too, is only human; nevertheless, God has chosen him as a priest and wishes to use him to make you holy. Be willing to search for and to find the work of God in his ministry to you.
If you have been away from the church, not practicing the faith for a time, let this moment invite you to return. If previously someone has said or done something that seemed to drive you away, be willing to forgive in this new moment, so that Christ can heal your wound.
If you are devout, let this time of change give you courage to reach out to your own friends and family members who are outside the church or marginal in their faith. Invite them with love to hear a new voice in your parish. Perhaps they are only waiting for the invitation to return!
To my brother priests, too, I hope that you find in such a change a renewal of your faith and ministry. Regardless of how well we may have done in our previous assignment, at this moment of taking up a new assignment, God gives us another chance to begin afresh, with the same joy and commitment we knew when we were newly ordained, but deepened by our experiences. This is one way we as priests can “become like little children” (Mt 18:3), uniting our will to our heavenly Father’s, and so inspire others with true joy and hope in Christ.
Finally, I urge all of you to pray, pray, pray for each other, and for your pastors, and for an increase in priestly vocations, so that the love and mercy of Jesus Christ can continue to be spread throughout Iowa and our country. In this year of consecrated life, please pray also for vocations to all forms of consecrated life.
Please know that I pray for all of you constantly, that our Lord will give you every grace and every good thing in this life, and bring you into the light of his holy face.
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City