My dear friends in Christ,
In the retreat I made prior to my 1977 ordination as bishop, my good Jesuit spiritual director guided me in praying the scene in John’s Gospel, Chapter 21: the appearance of the Risen Jesus to the seven disciples at the Sea of Galilee. They had returned, discouraged, sad and guilt-ridden, to their fishing boat and, too often, empty nets. In that remarkable scene, you will recall, it is the Beloved Disciple, John, I call him, who through the mist begins to recognize the familiar figure standing on the shoreline and he proclaims with faith, “It is the Lord!”
It is the abiding work of a bishop of the Church to continue making the same faith announcement and proclamation, the presence of the Risen Christ in our world, in our Church and in our sometimes lonely and isolated lives.
It is this proclamation of Christ present to us that is at the very heart of my vocation as bishop. Sometimes I have proclaimed the Good News well; at other times over these thirty-five years, I have been timid, weak or have even failed miserably. It is only the loving grace of God, the constant embrace of Christ through thick and thin, and the fiery power of the Spirit that has allowed me to keep at it.
It is the people of the Church, so many dedicated priests, deacons, consecrated religious and the many lay men and women and staff, who have stood at my side to encourage me, to lift me up, to challenge my weak spirit, and to remind me of the long term impact of my vocation. It is you who have kept me “casting out into the deep for another catch!” So often you have helped me recognize the many signs of the Resurrection of Christ and his presence. You are witnesses in every parish community and in each Diocese I have had the privilege to serve. Today I thank you for helping me stay the course and remain faithful to my calling.
I know I have hurt or offended some of you. I am deeply sorry and beg your forgiveness.
We have all been through a lot together. I won’t take the time to list all of the successes and challenges that we have faced. You know them well! But it has been through these very successes and challenges that we have grown together in faith.
A recent quote from Pope Francis struck me deeply:
“I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”
September 9, 2013
My friends, I ask you now to continue to trust in God as the Church and our Diocese moves into the future. Join me in embracing Bishop Donald Kettler as our new and ninth bishop of Saint Cloud. He is truly a gift to us from God and the Church. Be for him, as you have been for me, joyful, dynamic, faith-filled people dedicated to loving God and serving Christ’s people, planting the seeds of faith for future generations.
Let us love one another. Let us pray for one another. May God bless you and may the Holy Spirit continue to stir into flames our strong proclamation, “It is the Lord!”
+John F. Kinney
Bishop of Saint Cloud