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Striving to bring light and love of Jesus Christ to all

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

On Jan. 20, I celebrated my 8th anniversary of ordination as a Bishop. These eight years of shepherding our Diocese of Sioux City have been a privilege beyond belief. The joys and sorrows, the blessings and challenges of being a bishop have changed my life. Thank you for all your support and prayers.

The Church here is strong, with deep roots and many healthy branches. I’m thinking in particular of holy and dedicated priests, a continuing stream of new priestly vocations, a flourishing permanent diaconate, faithful and prayerful families living the vocation of marriage with great devotion, our Carmel and the valued presence of other religious communities, our Catholic schools, and many other signs of our still-vibrant life together. These things are a source of hope and conviction for us, and are well worth new sacrifices from us, so that they will be here for our children and grandchildren in the future.

I work here at the Chancery with a wonderful group of men and women who care deeply about the Church in our diocese. I thank them for their hard work and service given to all of you. My heart is filled with gratitude for so much. Please keep me in your prayers that I may serve you in holiness and wisdom.

The fact that the Denver Broncos won the American Football Conference Championship game and are now on to the Super Bowl is one of the best anniversary gifts I have received. Go Broncos!

Yet, there is also much that challenges our faith, and some areas where we must strive all the more to bring the light and love of Jesus Christ to bear. I noted five of these areas in my 2009 pastoral letter, and with your prayers and hard work, I think we are making progress; but more is needed.

First, Holy Mass is being celebrated with due reverence and devotion, and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is increasing, but we could still be more faithful and complete in our liturgical life, especially with access to and attendance at the beautiful Sacrament of Penance.

Second, our catechesis has been growing, and our schools and parish programs are quite strong. Our catechist training is very good, in general. Moreover, we are putting into place this year some additions to our marriage preparation. But we can all do still more, especially for adult catechesis.

Third, our family life is strong throughout the diocese, but we face grave challenges in defending the vocation of marriage, in lessening the realities of divorce, in protecting our children from our culture’s aggressive sexualizing agenda aimed at them, and in resisting all the evils that afflict spouses, children, and families in today’s world.

Fourth, we are receiving vocations to religious and clerical life, but we can do more to cultivate and protect these vocations, both before and after ordination or the taking of vows.

Lastly, our Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults programs are rich and faithful opportunities for people attracted to our Catholic faith, but we can all do much more to evangelize.

It is particularly difficult that so many of our cultural and political leaders claim to be Catholic, but make decisions and pursue agenda that are so clearly in contradiction with the Faith. Their false witness damages and discourages many.

Therefore, I urge you all again, rejoice in what is so strong about our life together in the Church and let that inspire each of you to work more diligently in just one of the areas where our faith needs to increase and spread. Our homes, our towns, our laws, and our culture are the vineyard, and, because of our baptism, we are the workers God sends to bear His light and hope to those in need.

Of course, the gravest evil today, and the most obvious contradiction of our faith, is the scourge of abortion. This week, the annual March for Life will be held in Washington, D.C. My prayers and so many of yours are with all those, including many of our own parishioners, who are willing and able to make this prayerful pilgrimage to testify to the dignity of every human life, even in the womb. Those of us who are not able to march in person are certainly there in spirit, and there are other events in Sioux City, Des Moines and elsewhere, which perhaps we are able to attend. It is certainly very important that our public voice defending the most vulnerable and defenseless of all not be silenced, and that our witness and ministry be offered to those most in need; but the most important of all is prayer.

Abortion is an evil of demonic inspiration, and our constant and humble prayers are the most effective weapon against this idea, and for the good of all mothers, fathers and babies. Especially effective for this battle is the Rosary, since our spiritual mother in Heaven is particularly grieved by the deaths of these poor children and the spiritual deaths of those who murder them.

Dear brothers and sisters, such crimes and obstacles to faith may seem very daunting, but we must have hope. Our hope comes from the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. He has conquered all sin and evil, even death itself. In Him alone can we share that final victory. In Him, we have sure and lasting hope, for we know that nothing can force our separation from Him, nor overcome Him. Even in the midst of the darkest night of this life, His light shines and cannot be dimmed. We see Him clearly with the eyes of faith, and therefore we have hope and joy.

May Christ our Savior always build up in you these incomparable gifts!

Your brother in Christ,

Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City

P.S. Have no doubt that the Broncos will enjoy Super Bowl victory!

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