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Sharing Easter blessings and urging support of religious freedom

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Continued Easter blessings to all of you! The Church in her wisdom continues to celebrate the spectacular event of Christ’s Resurrection from the dead for fifty days. My hope and prayer is that the joy, peace and new growth that the Easter message gives, will touch each of our lives and fill us with renewed strength to live the gospel in our lives.

SIGNS OF NEW LIFE

For me, as Bishop, the opportunity to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation to our young people is a great privilege and joy. Each parish I visit gives me a chance to see our youth take another step in their continuing growth in learning more and more about what it means to be Catholic. As they complete their Christian initiative by this Sacrament, I remind them of how important their witness of faith is in our sometimes troubled world. The power of the Holy Spirit is given to them along with His sevenfold gifts of wisdom, understanding, spirit of right judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence and the spirit of wonder and awe. Please pray for our young people, especially those to be confirmed this year. May they be bold witnesses to the faith and signs of encouragement to us all.


WELCOMING THOSE NEWLY RECEIVED INTO THE CHURCH

For those received into the Church at the Easter Vigil, the seven weeks of Easter are also a time of deepening and strengthening their new faith. We call this the “period of mystagogy.” There is always a risk of remaining shallow in our understanding of and commitment to the Faith, perhaps even of leaving the Faith again. We don’t want to let that happen to our newest members. Therefore we should be certain to pray for them; their journey is only beginning. We should be especially attentive to welcome them, to help them get more connected to our parish life and parish ministries, to truly find a home among us. They will need more help learning to live out the Faith thoroughly in daily life. We should look for the many opportunities God will give us, to lead them deeper into the mysteries of the Faith.

Of course, this is true also for each of us, no matter how long we have been Catholic or how much we have studied and grown in faith. None of us has perfect faith. All of us desire a home in the Church, and all of us need regular renewal in our commitment and daily practice of the Faith. Just as the discipline of Lent taught us to purify our lives of some of the persistent obstacles to faith, so let the joys of Easter deepen and enliven the daily practice of our faith. Christ has risen indeed! He remains with us, and we must again and again open our hearts to His light and grace.

“FORTNIGHT FOR FREEDOM”

Last week, my brother bishops, through our ad hoc committee on religious liberty under Archbishop Lori of Baltimore, published an important and helpful statement about our common effort to defend our religious liberty under God and the Constitution. As you know, our right to live out the fullness of the Faith in all aspects of our lives is under attack. Our increasingly secular culture scorns the richness of our faith, and seeks to remove love for God as a public motive to serve our neighbor. The current administration has let this idea influence several of its policies, most egregiously in the terrible Health and Human Services.

Archbishop Lori writes, “Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the Rosary at home. It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good…. What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society—or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it. Religious believers are part of American civil society, which includes neighbors helping each other, community associations, fraternal service clubs, sports leagues, and youth groups. All these Americans make their contribution to our common life, and they do not need the permission of the government to do so. Restrictions on religious liberty are an attack on civil society….” And this is precisely correct. To seek to deny religiously motivated citizens the opportunity to serve the common good is to claim that religion cannot serve the common good. This is both false, and very dangerous, because it puts our ministries – our Catholic schools, hospitals, nursing homes, food pantries, prison ministries, marriage counseling, adoption services, and so much more, both organized and individual initiatives of serving – outside the rule of law. It makes the government, not merely indifferent to religion, but actively hostile to its presence in public life.

If we are to defend our right to live out the Faith fully, we need both to know the nature of the attack (our political response), and also to be vigorously and publicly involved in witnessing all the good that the Faith does (our social response). To build the volume of both responses, we are calling for a “Fortnight for Freedom,” from June 21, the vigil of the feast of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, to July 4, our national Independence Day. With our liturgies, with devout prayer, and with other events that witness our strong faith, we will let our voices ring loudly for religious liberty both at home and abroad, for the Constitution, and against religious persecution in our own country. Thank you to all of you who remembered to pray the Rosary on the Fridays of Lent for support of Religious Freedom in our country. Please continue to pray and be informed about these important issues in our day.

KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS

This past weekend the Diocese of Sioux City hosted the Annual Iowa Convention for the Knights of Columbus from all four dioceses of our state. I was privileged to be with these fine men and their wives and families. I know all of you join me in thanking the Knights in our Diocese and in our parishes for the great work they do for the Church. We really couldn’t get along without them! May all of us continue to support as best we can the projects and programs that they sponsor and provide to so many.

May the peace, joy and hope of Easter continue to be with each of you!

Your brother in Christ,

Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless,
Bishop of Sioux City


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