Monday, November 30, 2009

A Pastoral Magisterium: Bp. Nickless' pastoral letter (part 1)

This is the first of a ten-part series on the recent pastoral letter of Bishop R. Walker Nickless for the diocese of Sioux City, Iowa. His letter, entitled Ecclesia Semper Reformanda can be viewed online as a single HTML page, or downloaded as a PDF or as a Word document (formatted to "folio" paper size to be printed as a booklet on 8.5" x 11" paper).

I will be providing the full text of this letter (slightly edited for formatting) with emphasis and commentary.
  1. Preface
  2. I. Introduction
  3. II. The Second Vatican Council and the New Evangelization
  4. III. The Current Context
  5. IV. Pastoral Priorities for the Diocese of Sioux City:  1. Renew Eucharistic Spirituality
  6. IV. Pastoral Priorities:  2. Strengthen Catechesis
  7. IV. Pastoral Priorities:  3. Foster Faithful Families
  8. IV. Pastoral Priorities:  4. Foster Vocations
  9. IV. Pastoral Priorities:  5. Embrace Missionary Character
  10. V. Conclusion
Ecclesia Semper Reformanda
(The Church is Always in Need of Renewal)

A Pastoral Letter on the Future of the Church
in the Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa
To the Priests, Deacons,
Consecrated persons and all the Lay Faithful
of the Diocese of Sioux City
15 October 2009
Memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus
Virgin and Doctor of the Church

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Greetings of peace and joy to you and all your families. By God's providence we are privileged to live in northwest Iowa and practice our faith in the Diocese of Sioux City. I am honored to serve you as your Bishop.
Note how His Excellence makes it clear that his vocation to the episcopate is one of service.  The triple office of a bishop – to teach, to govern, and to sanctify – are works of love, of charity.  To be an ordained minister of the Church is to be a servant of the People of God.  Pope St. Gregory the Great described his office as "servant of the servants of God."
I take great joy in sharing with you my first pastoral letter for our Diocese. It is my hope that this document be a source of instruction and direction for all of us: priests, deacons, consecrated persons, and faithful laity. The points shared in this pastoral letter are basic to the celebration and faithful living of our Catholic faith. They are the foundation of all that we are called to do for the Lord in our Diocese and beyond.
This is his first pastoral letter after about four years as their bishop.  We'll see why it took that long in the next section.  He makes it clear, though, that this letter, while pastoral, is an instruction to his diocese; it is not a mere observation or opinion, this is his instruction to his flock.  Bishop Nickless says the letter pertains to foundational elements of living and celebrating the Catholic faith, to the basics of being Catholic.
As I publish this pastoral letter, I do so on the Memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus. On this day, the Church prays: "O God, you raised up Saint Teresa by your Spirit so that she could manifest to the Church the way to perfection. Nourish us with the food of her heavenly teaching and fire us with a desire for holiness." May Saint Teresa be an inspiration to all of us in our desire to grow in holiness.

This is the Year for Priests promulgated by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. I express to each of the priests in our Diocese my profound gratitude for their faithful witness of holiness and dedication to you, the People of God and to me, their Bishop. Priests are co-workers with the Bishop in the mission given to us by Christ. Please pray for us.

May all of us, united in love, continue to grow in the same holiness of Saint Teresa and Saint John Vianney as we continue to live our faith in hope and love.
The constant theme here is holiness, not only of priests, but of all Catholics.  This holiness is attained through a unity in love, in charity.  Faith, hope, and love (the three theological virtues) are succinctly brought together here:  by living and celebrating their Catholic faith daily (as individuals, a family, a parish, and a diocese) with the same hope and true love, the faithful of the diocese of Sioux City, Iowa, will grow in holiness.
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City

No comments: