Pray, discern God’s will during pastoral planning process

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

May the cleansing and healing mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ fill your hearts and protect you from all sin! Last week we completed the beautiful celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast so needed and so suited to our own day.

Our culture is cruel and grasping, degrading and punishing everyone in many ways, both blatant and subtle. It demands not only that we remain silent in the face of the many evils it pretends are good, but also that we participate in our own enslavement by submitting to them. This culture is not acquainted with Christ’s redeeming mercy. Christ’s gift of devotion to the Divine Mercy, given to St. Faustina and passed on to the whole church by St. John Paul II, allows us to know, celebrate, and promote for others that true good of Jesus’s saving and freeing mercy.

Next week we will begin our pastoral planning meetings at the deanery level. (Please see the other pastoral planning information on Ministry 2025 in this edition of The Catholic Globe, and, of course, the previous three editions.)

There will be four such meetings in total, one each in our four proposed new deaneries. Please remember that these meetings are for the parish leadership team which your pastor has organized for this purpose. If you have criticisms, improvements, or other ideas concerning the draft pastoral plan, which was publicized in the Feb. 25 edition of The Catholic Globe, please share them with your parish team.

In the April deanery meetings, the parish leadership teams will receive more thorough information about their deanery’s pastoral planning data than could be shared in The Globe, and the process of offering modifications to the draft plan will begin. By this summer, the draft will have accepted some of the feedback provided at the deanery meetings. Once the plan is finalized and approved by the bishop, parishes will begin planning for its July 2017 implementation.

As we go through this difficult but necessary process, I beg you all to remember the lessons of the Divine Mercy. We need above all to make this whole process as prayerful and discerning of God’s will as we can. We need to open our hearts, not only to the possibility that the future of the diocese may look quite different than the past, but also to the idea that what we want is not necessarily the best for all.

We need to be slow to speak in anger, but quick to listen to the ideas of others. We need together to be committed to the goal – and the goal, simply, is a healthy and vibrant diocese, made up of healthy, vibrant parishes capable of evangelizing throughout Northwest Iowa, in a culture increasingly removed from knowledge of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Finally, we need to recognize and accept that sacrifices – even when they are painful – do sometimes bear sweeter fruit, and that the more Christ-like we are now with the patrimony we have received, the better we can pass it on to the next generation.

Please pray, therefore, that a powerful spirit of humility and docility will fill all our hearts in the coming meetings and pastoral planning process. May we be passionate enough about sharing in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we may be dispassionate about how he will arrange our lives in the church in the meantime.

May our minds and hearts be truly open to God’s perfect and holy will, and may we be inspired by Divine Mercy to be truly attentive and hospitable to each other.

As we continue to celebrate together the glories of the Easter season, may God bless you all with the fullness of his mercy, and with every good and needed grace and blessing. Please pray for me, as I do for you!


Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City

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