Diocesan Pastoral Council discusses cooperation among parishes, ‘Year of Mercy’

Categories: Around the Diocese,Year of Mercy

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

The Diocesan Pastoral Council met Nov. 14 to report back to Bishop Donald Kettler regarding what he requested at their September meeting — to provide feedback on what they have heard about the Catholic Community School system in the St. Cloud metro area as well as whether there are greater ways for cooperation among rural schools and parishes, particularly those in cluster relationships.

Memebers of the DPC, which serves in a consultative role to the bishop on matters of pastoral concern, took turns sharing their findings. Most reported favorable comments from parishes on the new school system, while a few from rural areas reported that it didn’t pertain to them or they hadn’t heard much about it. Bishop Kettler expects a proposal from the CCS committee in the coming weeks as its December deadline approaches.

“I expect to be able to move forward unless I see something that makes me think we are not ready,” he said. “And I don’t anticipate that. It’s going to be a lot of work and there are some challenges … but hopefully some of the things we learn in the bigger St. Cloud metropolitan area, we might be able to share regionally about what others might be able to do together.”

Regarding cooperation between parishes, members shared ideas such as the possibility of combining resources, committees and parish groups like the Knights of Columbus. DPC member Evelyn Otto reported that in two of the clusters she spoke with, parishes are already doing some of these things, including exchanging volunteers.

“When one cluster is hosting a volunteer appreciation event, the other cluster sends its volunteers to help cook and serve the meal,” Otto said. “It’s a nice way for the volunteers not to have to cook their own meal and it’s also a nice exchange between the parishes.”

Miranda Petrich, a member of St. Agnes Parish in Osakis and one of two youth representatives to the DPC, reported that she attended a confirmation retreat in Browerville this fall. The message she heard there was that parishes in clusters need to “stop thinking just about themselves but to think about the church as the Universal Church and that would help us all to be one.”

In his remarks, Bishop Kettler said he was pleased with the feedback the members provided and encouraged the council to keep trying to find ways to make connections in their parishes and parish groups.

Year of Mercy

Additionally, five people representing the Merciful Jesus Committee of Sauk Centre shared the history and testimonies surrounding the Divine Mercy shrine located inside St. Paul Church in Sauk Centre.
Paul Theisen, one of the founding members of the committee, explained that when they first started talking about creating the shrine, they “didn’t have the foggiest idea” what they we were getting into. Over the last 36 years, he said, they have been “planting little seeds of mercy that has had a magnitude of impact that we won’t even be able to measure in this lifetime.”

The guests recounted the story of St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish Sister of Our Lady of Mercy. She had visions of Jesus saying he would show mercy to those who prayed for it and shared it with others.

The shrine holds an image of the “Merciful Jesus” — a carving made by Deacon Lawrence Kaas. The community was dedicated to the Divine Mercy in 1982 by Bishop George Speltz. The Merciful Jesus Committee invited everyone to make a pilgrimage to the shrine during the Year of Mercy.

“When you look at this work of art, your eyes are drawn to the top and you work your way down. There you see the words, ‘Jesus, I trust in you,’ ” Theisen explained. “But don’t stop at the carving, pass through it. We don’t worship the image, we pass through it to what it represents.”

Bishop Kettler urged DPC members to help spread the message of Divine Mercy that the Sauk Centre group shared.

“Talk about the message we heard here about Divine Mercy,” he said, “not just about the shrine, not just about the program, but talk about the importance of mercy and how we can show that and share that. This is the Year of Mercy and it is really an important time.”

The Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis begins Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In addition to sealing a Holy Door at the Cathedral of St. Mary in St. Cloud Nov. 12 which will be reopened Dec. 13, Bishop Kettler announced that he is working on a pastoral letter on the topic of mercy which he hopes will be completed as early as December or January.

His plans include a study guide to encourage individuals, families, schools and religious education program to discuss topics in the letter.

He also indicated that discussions are underway to celebrate a “Festival of Forgiveness” during Lent.

“This is an attempt to bring people who have been away from the sacrament of reconciliation, to welcome them back,” he said.

Next steps

The next assignment for the DPC includes addressing questions about the Year of Mercy. Bishop Kettler asked council members to connect with parish leaders and liaisons and to report back to him at the January meeting.

  • What are parishes, parish groups and organizations doing for the Year of Mercy?
  • Who most needs the Year of Mercy?

The Diocesan Pastoral Council meets again Jan. 23 in St. Cloud.