PO BOX 5079 (51102)
SIOUX CITY, IA (51105)


Summer brings a time of change, for better or worse

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

This Sunday, the eighth Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Pentecost. It has been fifty days since the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord from the dead. Now we wait in joyful anticipation for the coming of the Holy Spirit. After the Ascension of our Lord into heaven, He promised that he would not leave us alone, he promised to send us the Advocate, the Helper and Comfortor, whom we know as the Holy Spirit.

The Church has always looked upon the Feast of Pentecost as a birth, the birth of the Church herself. So, happy birthday to the Church of the Diocese of Sioux City! We have always believed that it is the Spirit who gives life and so the Spirit has touched us and gives us new life and his sevenfold gifts of wisdom, knowledge, right judgment, piety, counsel, understanding and fear of the Lord. We received these gifts at our Confirmation and we are called to let them come alive again as we celebrate Pentecost. May the Spirit come into our hearts and renew the face of the earth. To all those young people I have confirmed this year, thank you for opening up yourselves to the power and grace of the Holy Spirit.


As all of you know, we here on the western side of our diocese are worried about possible damage due to the expected flooding of the Missouri River. I ask all of you to continue to pray for the many people here in our diocese and in the Diocese of Sioux Falls and the Archdiocese of Omaha who are and will be affected. Let us put our hope and trust in our loving God. May he protect us and all those we love. I know I join many others who are so grateful for all the volunteers, friends, neighbors and strangers who have stepped up to help. It is obvious that we are a community who cares for one another. We pray that any damage may be slight and for a full recovery after the flooding has ended.


On the first day of June, I had the privilege of spending some time with our Totus Tuus teachers and celebrating Mass with them at Corpus Christi Church in Fort Dodge. What a fantastic group of young people! Those parishes in our diocese who have invited them to share a week of teaching and evangelization for the youth of the parish are in for a special treat. We have a group of sixteen young college students (including three of our seminarians) who will travel in teams of four around our diocese and share their faith and witness to the love of the Lord. I am impressed by the enthusiasm and joy present in these young people. They are truly alive in the Holy Spirit and ready to set the world on fire with the dynamic power the Spirit gives. I want to thank Sean Martin and Karmen Bower who have helped so much this year in bringing Totus Tuus to our Diocese again this summer. And I want to also thank Father Bernard X. Gorges from the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas who gave the training to these young leaders. His fatherly care, solid teaching and joyful spirit impacted all who work with him.


Each year, I call together our priests and deacons for our “general meetings.” Our last gathering was held at St. Joseph Parish in Milford this past Thursday. Our speaker was Father Roman Paur, OSB. He is a priest from St. John’s in Collegeville, Minnesota. No one should be surprised about the dangers of internet pornography. It can be very addictive and it can lead to the breakup of marriages, troubles in family life and loss of jobs. Our personal spiritual life also suffers as a result of the use of pornography. People who are addicted need help and the Church is often one place they eventually turn to for help. Priests, especially in the Sacrament of Confession, need to be skilled in helping those who come to confess this sin. Father Paur shared with us the scope of the problem and how destructive it can be to individuals, families, marriages and to society as a whole. When we lose a sense of the dignity of each and every human person, we can so easily end up simply using others for our own pleasure. Unfortunately, pornography is big business in our society and we all need to be aware of what we can do to help those who suffer from this addiction. I want to thank Father Jerry Feierfeil and our Priests Continuing Education Committee for arranging this program for us.


As you notice in our Catholic Globe coverage this week, the Church of our Diocese of Sioux City has reason to rejoice over the recent ordination of Deacon Pat Behm from St. Mary’s Parish in Storm Lake. Pat is completing his seminary formation at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver and, God willing, will be ordained a priest of our diocese June 2, 2012. Pat’s deacon ordination is one of the final steps in his journey to follow the call of the Lord. It has been almost three and a half years since I have had the privilege to ordain a “transitional” deacon (one on the way to ordination as a priest.) With Pat’s family and friends and several brother deacons and priests, our Cathedral was alive with the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. I know you will join me in thanking Deacon Pat for his courage to follow the call to priesthood that he heard. I appreciate his willingness to ask the Lord for what He wanted in his life. An added joy for me was to see as many of our seminarians as were able to be present at the ordination. These seminarians and potential seminarians are so important to the future of the Church. We currently have twelve men already studying for our diocese and we expect to accept at least six more this summer. I want to thank our vocation director, Father Brad Pelzel, for his excellent work in recruiting and sustaining our seminarians. Let us continue to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. May this Spirit touch the hearts of young men who are called to be priests and may parents, families and friends encourage all those who are called to serve the Church as priests, deacons and consecrated persons.


All of us who live in Iowa are aware that our population keeps changing. It is no secret that we have fewer family farms and fewer people living in rural areas. Families are smaller than in the past and many people, young and old, move to other parts of our country. Where once there were many parishioners at our parishes, now there are a lot less. To be good stewards of our resources, both financial and in terms of priestly personnel, we have to make some difficult decisions. As you know, the pastor and people of St. Joseph Parish in Neptune recently made a recommendation to me that their parish be closed. This decision was not made without a lot of prayer and discussion. Last Sunday, I had the sad duty to celebrate Mass at the parish for the last time. It was certainly a bitter-sweet experience. We all knew it was the right decision, but the sadness of finally saying farewell was an emotional moment for all of us. Many former parishioners and friends joined us for the final Mass. I am grateful to Father Dan Greving and his leadership in the painful process of “letting go.” I thank the people of the parish for their understanding. It is a sad day for all of us whenever a parish closes. We all know it will continue to happen in the future as our population continues to decrease.

The closure of parishes gives us all a chance to think about the results of the “contraception mentality” that surrounds us and the lack of encouragement for priestly vocations. I am convinced that we need to do more in promoting family life and the blessing that children bring to each marriage and family. It is an undisputed fact that when families had more than one or two children, more vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life resulted. Let us pray for our newly married couples and help them in any way we can to be open to God’s blessings and His will in their lives.


As summer and warm weather are upon us, I would just like to give a gentle reminder to us all to examine the way we dress for Sunday Mass. There is nothing more important than the worship we give to God each week. We believe that we encounter the Living God in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is at Church that we meet the Divine. Going to Mass on Sunday or Saturday evening is not the same as going to a sports event or a visit to the store. The respect we show to our gracious God and to each other when we worship is somewhat signaled by the way we dress. Please take time to think about how you will dress for Mass. Who are we going to meet at this and every Mass? It is none other than the Lord of our lives. It is a sign of respect for our God and our fellow Mass-goers to dress appropriately.

May these summer days give us time to relax when we can and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. Once again, let us hold up in prayer those among us who are worried and fearful of what major flooding may mean. May God continue to bless us all with His peace and may the Spirit of Pentecost fill us with joy and hope.

Your brother in Christ,

Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City

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