Browsing The Northern Cross

New bishop of St. Cloud, Minn., to build his ministry on mercy, hope, justice

By Kristi Anderson 
OSV News 

From Portland, Oregon, to Peru and many places in between, hundreds of people came to St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud Feb. 14 to witness the ordination and installation of the Diocese of St. Cloud’s 10th bishop, Bishop Patrick M. Neary, an Indiana native and priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross. 

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, read a decree from the pope and offered brief remarks to Bishop Neary, who succeeds Bishop Donald J. Kettler, the diocese’s shepherd from 2013 until his retirement in December.

Bishop Patrick M. Neary shows the mandate from Pope Francis to the congregation during his ordination and installation as the 10th bishop of St. Cloud at St. Mary’s Cathedral Feb. 14. (OSV News photo/Gianna Bonello, The Central Minnesota Catholic)

“Mercy is a great gift. The Holy Father has taught us that mercy is the very heart of God,” he said. “You told the people when you moved that you learned the motto of the Diocese of St. Cloud: ‘Heart of Mercy, Voice of Hope, Hands of Justice.’ … This motto also describes your ministry. You have shown mercy and justice in your many assignments as priest, campus minister, missionary … perhaps the first impression that someone has when encountering you is that you are a voice of hope.” 

“It is obvious that you have met Christ, that you encounter him each day in your prayer,” Archbishop Pierre added. “For that reason, I am eager for you to share Christ with the good people of this diocese.” 

Serving as the principal ordaining bishop was Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The co-ordaining bishops were Auxiliary Bishop Peter L. Smith of Portland and Bishop William A. Wack, who heads the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, and is a Holy Cross priest. 

“If Pope Francis needs any confirmation that he has made a good choice for the Diocese of St. Cloud,” said Archbishop Hebda in his homily, “all he needs to do is consider the motto that the bishop has chosen for his episcopate, ‘Ave Crux, Spes Unica,’ ‘Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope.’” 

“Sure, it is the motto of the Congregation of Holy Cross, the religious community that has sustained Father Pat’s priestly ministry for more than three decades,” he said. “But it is also an insight into what the new bishop finds important and inspiring, where he has found his hope and how his ministry embracing the cross will bring hope to others, and most especially to this local church.” 

Representatives from the diocese and the community also came forward to greet the new bishop, including St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis; leaders of the Franciscan, Crosier, and Benedictine religious communities; and the youth representative on the Diocesan Pastoral Council. In addition, the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, the Hispanic community, and the Knights of Columbus also were represented. 

“It was incredible to see the involvement of so many people, both locally and from so many areas of the world,” said Jane Marrin, recently retired chancellor of the Diocese of St. Cloud. 

“It is obvious that Bishop Patrick has already had a wide impact on the hearts of the people he has served, and we are ready and willing to welcome him into our hearts here in the Diocese of St. Cloud,” she told The Central Minnesota Catholic, the diocese’s magazine. 

Courtney Huiras, a sophomore and theology major at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, was excited to help with hospitality at the ordination, especially after missing the installation last fall of the new bishop in her home Diocese of New Ulm. Bishop Chad W. Zielinski, former bishop of Fairbanks, Alaska, was installed Sept. 27. 

“I’m really looking forward to Bishop Neary coming to our campuses and to see what we are doing in campus ministry,” she said. 

More than 150 bishops, priests, and deacons attended the ceremony as well as members of the diocese’s religious communities. Many of Bishop Neary’s confreres from the Congregation of Holy Cross also attended, including Superior General Brother Paul Bednarczyk. 

For Father John Paul Igbokwe, a visiting priest from the Archdiocese of Owerri, Nigeria, this was his first experience of an ordination and installation of a bishop in the United States. Father Igbokwe attends St. Cloud State University and serves locally in parishes in the St. Cloud area while completing his studies. 

“My heart is full of joy. I had an encounter with the new bishop, and he is a gift. We are happy to have him. I am also happy to meet new priests and see the ones I have met before. It is a special day to get together and share that fraternity and love,” Father Igbokwe said. 

The diocese’s seminarians also participated in the Mass and prayed a Holy Hour for the new bishop just before it began. 

“We prayed for him to have the light of the Holy Spirit to guide the whole diocese through these tough times and to keep his trust and hope in the Lord,” said seminarian Kevin Soenneker. 

About 45 people traveled the 1,600-plus miles from Portland, Oregon, where then-Father Neary had been serving as pastor of Holy Redeemer Church. Among them was Carmen Salvador. 

“It was very important for us to be here today to support [Bishop] Neary,” Salvador said. “He is a very holy man who always shows God’s love to people. He has helped so many people come back to God and to the church. It is a very sad day for us because we will miss him but, at the same time, we are very happy because we know he will help so many more people here to know the Lord.” 

The bilingual Mass was livestreamed, and many parishes and schools across the diocese hosted watch parties, including St. Ann Parish in Wadena, part of the Mary Mother of the Church Area Catholic Community. 

About 25 people gathered there for a soup and sandwich lunch, followed by the livestream. 

“It was really good for people to get a glimpse of the process and to be able to hear what the people had to say,” said Jessy Waldock, communications director at the Catholic community. “People enjoyed both the serious and lighthearted moments at the same time. I think that was reassuring for people to see in the new bishop that he can be fun and spiritual and human at the same time.” 

In remarks at the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Neary thanked all who were there — especially the many ministers, staff and people in attendance — as well as those who were not present. Following the Mass, he stood on the steps of the cathedral and gave a blessing to the city and diocese. 

Bishop Neary’s parents, Jacob and Marybelle, had front row seats at the Mass, along with members of his family. 

“I am very proud of my brother,” said Laura Duncan, one of Bishop Neary’s five sisters. “I watched him from an early age take care of all of us and care about people. It’s just really thrilling to know that he is going to shepherd the flock of so many and change their lives. That is what he is the best at — changing lives.” 

Kristi Anderson writes for The Central Minnesota Catholic, magazine of the Diocese of St. Cloud.