Bishop provides congratulations cards for communicants
By JOANNE FOX, Globe editor
The bishop of the Diocese of Sioux City receives many letters of correspondence from members of his flock, but was particularly moved by this one, carefully hand-printed.
“Bishop Nickless, thank you for thinking of me on my first Communion.” (Signed) Dominic Aljets, Pomeroy, Iowa.
“I think that this young man took the time to write this was amazing,” Bishop Walker Nickless said. “And he sent a picture with it.”
Dominic’s thank-you note was in response to a first Communion congratulations card the bishop gives to all first communicants in the diocese.
The inside of the card says, “Jesus loves you and comes to you in your First Holy Communion. May God always bless you and keep you faithful to the Holy Eucharist. Congratulations!”
The cards were originally the brainchild of Bishop Daniel DiNardo in 1998, the year he became Ordinary, explained Father Brian Hughes, pastor of St. Mary Parish, Spirit Lake.
“Bishop DiNardo suggested the idea and together we brainstormed on how to plant the seeds of a vocation in our young people,” said Father Hughes, who at that time was vocations director. “The message on the inside of the card encouraged the young people to always ask the Lord to lead you to where you want to go in your life and asked them to pray for their vocation and ultimately, promote a possible vocation to the priesthood and religious life.”
When Father Brad Pelzel became the vocations director seven years ago, he supported the idea behind the program of using the occasion to remind young people to consider the possibility that God is calling them to a religious vocation. The bishop also provides a congratulations card to those being confirmed.
“My thoughts in supporting, and expanding, the program is that the reception of the sacraments of the Eucharist and confirmation are pivotal sacraments in the life of our young people and occasions where they profoundly learn about and reflect on their relationship to God,” he said.
Annually, each parish is asked to send in to the vocations office the number of second graders – Catholic school and religious education – who will be receiving their first Communion. The vocations office order and prepares the cards, then sends them to the parishes, to be included with the child’s first Communion certificate. The cards are available in English and Spanish.
“During these occasions, parents, families and parishes encourage these young people to grow in their faith lives and it is my hope that those same parents and parishioners, and other people of influence in their lives, are also actively encouraging them to consider the possibility that our Lord is using their reception of the sacrament to foster the seed of a religious vocation in their life,” Father Pelzel explained.
It was a perfect time for Nancy Helvig of Sioux City to have a chat with her daughter Elise, who received her first Communion on May 4 at Blessed Sacrament Church, Sioux City.
“Elise was in the car and opening up cards and she exclaimed, ‘Mom, I got a card from the bishop!’,” she said.
“I was pretty excited,” Elise acknowledged, and then confessed she wasn’t quite sure who the bishop was.
“It provided us with an opportunity to discuss the responsibilities of the bishop,” her mother added. “Elise also showed the card to her grandparents and that gave us another chance to talk about the bishop.”
Bishop Nickless felt the cards not only provide him with an opportunity to congratulate the young men and women in the diocese on their reception of the sacrament, but also an invitation to them to consider the possibility that God is calling them to a special vocation of following him as a priest or vowed religious.
“I think one of the best benefits of doing this is that the kids see the bishop is trying to keep in contact with them at significant sacramental moments,” he said. “My hope is it spurs a vocation or at least, a sense that the church is there for them.”
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