10-11 Mass crowd

Participants gathered for Mass with Bishop Donald Kettler during Diocesan Ministry Day Aug. 31 at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud . (Photo By Paul Middlestaedt / For The Visitor)

‘Courageous witnesses’ to Catholic faith gather for renewal, revitalization

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

Nearly 800 parish and Catholic school staff, volunteers, priests and others working in ministry packed the auditorium at the River’s Edge Convention Center Aug. 31 for Diocesan Ministry Day.

The day featured a keynote address by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who spoke on “Pope Francis: Prophet of Hope and Mercy.”

The event included Mass with Bishop Donald Kettler, workshops with local and internationally recognized speakers, a commissioning prayer service and about 40 exhibitors.

Encounter Jesus

Archbishop Kurtz outlined what he sees as the five major themes of Pope Francis’ papacy thus far (see box, right). He also touched on the importance of the three papal documents penned by Pope Francis — two encyclicals and an apostolic exhortation.

083115 SC Diocese 0017The archbishop explained that Pope Francis began his pontificate with a transitional encyclical started by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI titled “Lumen Fidei,” or “Light of Faith.”

“Our faith is a light that lights the path of darkness through the world,” Archbishop Kurtz explained. “Our life is a journey. In that journey, we are called to encounter God, not only to profess our faith but to build a just place on earth as we prepare for our heavenly home.”

The second document, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), is an apostolic exhortation Pope Francis released in 2013 on the “church’s primary mission of evangelization in the modern world.”

Archbishop Kurtz said “Evangelii Gaudium” calls all people to a new evangelization, a new chapter in the life of Christ’s presence. “Our job is to introduce Christ to each generation,” he said.

He also urged Catholics not to “turn in on themselves.” He said: “The missionary option always means we have to look out beyond … to look at the effect you are having in your ministries beyond the church for the salvation of the world.

“That’s what we’re about,” he said. “We can only evangelize because God first loved us, and then one must accept that truth into their lives.”

He referenced the most recent papal encyclical “Laudato Si’,” or “Praised be to you, on the Care of Our Common Home,” released in June.

“Basically, this document calls us to be concerned for our neighbor from the womb to the tomb, from the poor to the rich and to be concerned for our common home, our environment,” he said.

Regarding Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to the United States, Archbishop Kurtz said the pope will come as both a pastor and a prophet.

10-11 anointing

Beth Neville, director of the St. Cloud Mission Office, anoints Crosier Father Virgil Petermeier during a missioning service to end the day. (Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Visitor)

“He is coming as pastor to walk with people, to love people as Jesus would,” he said. “And he is going to come as a prophet — like the old saying, ‘to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.’”

He said Pope Francis might also “ruffle some feathers.”

“If Jesus is not at the center of our lives and if you and I are not called to conversion, then we need to hear certain things,” he said, “and it might not be easy for some to hear.”

Archbishop Kurtz left participants with a closing thought — and a challenge.

“If you want to warm hearts and heal wounds, encounter Jesus,” he said. “Secondly, go deeper and away from self-absorption toward others, especially those who are poor. You are the center of this conference, not because it is all about you, but without your commitment, your desire to encounter Jesus and to allow that encounter to touch the lives of others, the church will not grow and that means that Christ’s presence will not reach those who desperately yearn for it.”

State of the diocese

Following the keynote, participants celebrated Mass, shared a meal, attended workshops, visited vendors and regrouped for a closing missioning ceremony where they were blessed with oil and “sent forth.”

Bishop Donald Kettler provided closing remarks, giving a “state of the diocese” report.

“You cannot carry out your ministries,” he told the crowd, “if you are not connected with Jesus Christ personally. You have been called by God to be witnesses and models of Jesus Christ in whatever ministry you are presently practicing. We must be connected with Christ and, through that, connection is made with one another.”

He advised attendees to work on their relationship with Jesus through prayer, listening and in service to their families, parishes and schools. Then he identified three of his own priorities for the coming year:

n to develop greater cooperation and support among the Catholic schools regionally;

n to help Catholics get to know and work together with Christian and non-Christian newcomers to the diocese especially in the coming Year of Mercy; and

n to strengthen the Annual Diocesan Appeal by helping people understand the essential programs it provides.

He also thanked all those who attended the day.

“What a gift that we want to be stretched, to learn a little more, to grow in our relationship with the Lord and to care a little more about one another,” Bishop Kettler concluded. “It is an important thing to share our faith with others and if we can do that well, we will be doing all that God asks of us.”