Life enriched and blessed in the year since appointment as Bishop of Sioux City
Nov. 2, 2006
My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
ALL SAINTS, ALL SOULS
We have begun the month of November. It begins with the great Feast of All Saints. This Festival Day invites us to rejoice with our brothers and sisters who now surround the throne of our God. So many faithful men and women, young and old, lay, married, clergy and religious have answered the Lord's universal call to holiness and share in the blessed happiness of heaven We rejoice with them. I encourage you this month to reflect on your patron and favorite saints. They can be great inspirations for us. One of my favorite saints is St. John Vianney, the Cure' of Ars, the patron of parish priests. I had the privilege of being ordained to the priesthood on his feast day, August 4th.
St. John had a difficult time in the seminary. Yet he trusted that the Lord was truly calling him to be a priest and was eventually ordained. He had a difficult assignment in the city of Ars in France, but his faith in God's call enabled him to convert the whole town to holiness. He spent as many as 18 hours a day in the confessional. I ask St. John Vianney to intercede for our priests and seminarians, may they continue to grow in holiness and experience the joy of their vocation. As you know, All Souls Day is a special day set aside for the Church to pray for all our friends, relatives and all those who are in purgatory undergoing a process of purification after death. Let us never forget to pray for our beloved dead. They count on our prayers here on earth so that they may soon enjoy the everlasting joy of heaven. By virtue of our baptism, we all share in membership in the Body of Christ. Living or dead, we together form one Church constantly called to give glory to God. November is a month we can set aside to pray for them and remember them.
Last week I had the special joy of sharing a few days with my brother priests from Diocese of Sioux City. Even though we met at a hotel in the Archdiocese of Omaha, we still kept our Iowa roots! We spent our days in prayer, fraternity and continuing education. Father Ronald Knott, a priest from the Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky facilitated our reflections and discussions. He is presently a member of the faculty at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana. He spoke highly of our seminarians who are preparing for the priesthood at St. Meinrad: Brent Lingle, Andrew-Bao Vo and Jeremy Wind. He spoke to us about the value of priests and bishop working together for the good of the diocese and the spread of the gospel. He reminded us that priests are not "lone-rangers", but that they, together with the bishop, form a team focused on living out the call to service the Lord has given us. Our mutual support and fraternal care for one another and our vocation is of great importance at a time when so many of our priests find themselves alone in parish ministry. Father Ron helped us realize the brotherhood we share and helped us appreciate the gift of priesthood we have been given. I had been looking forward to being together with our priests for a long time. I am so impressed with their spirit of joy and dedication to their ministry. Our diocese is indeed blessed to have so many fine men serving us in so many ways. Continue to pray for them. I spent Wednesday afternoon sharing with the priests my hopes, desires and goals of my ministry as Bishop. We talked about a number of issues, including Catholic Schools, priestly morale, Parish Ministry, Youth Ministry, Liturgy, Finances, reorganization of the Presbyteral Council and new assignments and appointments. It was a special privilege to have a number of our retired priests join us for these days. They too are treasured gifts to the Church of Sioux City.
NEW BISHOP IN SIOUX FALLS
I left the priestly gathering a day early so that I could attend the ordination and installation of Bishop Paul Swain as the eighth Bishop of Sioux Falls. This impressive ceremony, of course, brought back memories of my own ordination and installation on January 20. Like attending a wedding right after your ceremony, one gets a better perspective on what the ceremony was all about. The promises a bishop makes, the prayers, anointing and giving of the ring, mitre and crosier all came alive for me once again. It was a beautiful ceremony and a joy for the people of Sioux Falls who have waited so long for a new bishop. (We waited even longer. I guess I needed more formation before I was ready!) October 31st marked the one year anniversary of my call to be your bishop. So much has changed in my life since that day when I spoke with the Apostolic Nuncio and he told me, "I have great news for you, our Holy Father has appointed you Bishop of Sioux City." As I look back, it was great news. My life has been enriched and blessed in so many ways since that announcement and my Episcopal ordination. You are all a part of these blessings and I thank you once again and beg for your continued prayers.
I was overwhelmed with the huge success of our 10th annual Bishop's Dinner for Catholic Schools. Raymond Arroyo shared with us his reflections of a beautiful woman of the Church, Mother Angelica. Special thanks are in order for Jim and Jameley Levich, Jim Wharton, Steve Elbert and Michelle Steinbach and all who helped them to make this event truly spectacular. Thank you to all of you who, by your support, continue to ensure Catholic Schools in our Diocese.
Not only had I been looking forward to meeting with our priests, but also I have been anxious to be with our High School youth. The opportunity came this past Sunday with the Catholic Youth Rally held in Le Mars at Bishop Gehlen High School. I had the privilege of Celebrating the Eucharist with hundreds of our High School youth from all over the Diocese. I was impressed with their reverence in prayer, their love of the Church, their contagious enthusiasm and their joyful presence. Our youth are our signs of hope. Let's do all we can to encourage them and support them as they grow in faith. From them and their generous gift of themselves to the Lord, will come our next generation of priests, consecrated persons and dedicated laity. Thanks to Jessica La Fleur for all she and her helpers did to bring our youth together for this special day. I know first hand why our late Holy Father, John Paul II, loved to be with young people during World Youth Day.
Sunday afternoon I celebrated Mass for the Disabled of our Diocese at the gym of the Cathedral parish. (The Cathedral itself was unavailable, due to the installation of our new organ.) This Mass brought together men and women, boys and girls, who are disabled, but still wonderful gifts to the Church. These are our treasures, as St. Lawrence once said of the poor, the needy and the often neglected in the Church. We prayed for and with them as well as for the faithful parents and caregivers who sacrifice so much on their behalf. May God continue to bless and protect them. Thanks to Bev Hurni and her staff who made this event possible.
Finally, please take seriously your responsibility to vote this coming Tuesday. The candidates and the issues that support affect the future of our community and society. Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in decisions you make in the voting process. Recall the one non-negotiable belief: All life is sacred from natural birth to natural death. Respecting the dignity of each human being is the fundamental responsibility of a society. The unborn, the immigrant, the family, the prisoner, the young, the old all deserve justice, compassion and respect. Let us all remember that as we approach the voting booth next week.
My Denver Broncos had a small slip this past weekend, but I have not lost hope. I continue to meet Bronco fans all over our Diocese. It's good to know I am not alone!
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless