Family, friends illustrate new bishop’s leadership style

Categories: Around the Diocese

Sept. 27, 2013, edition
By Kristi Anderson
For The Visitor

What kind of leader is the bishop-elect of the St. Cloud Diocese?

Bishop Donald Kettler’s family and friends provide insight as to what may be in store for central Minnesota under his guidance.

Anchorage Oblate of the Mary Immaculate Archbishop Roger Schweitz, also a native of Minnesota, has worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Bishop Kettler since his appointment to Fairbanks in 2002.

“St. Cloud is fortunate,” Archbishop Schweitz said. “Bishop Kettler is a very pastoral man who has worked hard with the issues of Fairbanks, specifically with the bankruptcy crisis in 2008 and with clergy abuse. He spent a lot of time in villages to foster healing and listening to the people. He also has extremely good administrative skills.”

According to Archbishop Schweitz, Bishop Kettler has been collaborative in many ways, such as in getting priests together for the annual convocation and working together with the three dioceses to take 50 people from Alaska to World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro.

“What he brings to St. Cloud is pastoral experience,” he continued. “People in the St. Cloud Diocese will warm up to him right away. He has a great spirit and a good sense of humor. He is from the area, and has connections that will help him get started.”

Local ties

Bernie Evans, Virgil Michel Ecumenical Chair in Rural Social Ministries and associate professor of pastoral theology at St. John’s School of Theology Seminary, was a classmate of Bishop Kettler.

“I remember him as a humble and serious student,” said Evans, “down to earth and likeable. He was a people person. When he was announced bishop for St. Cloud, I thought, ‘We are so fortunate.’

“I ran into him most recently at a Crosier reunion last year in Onamia. He had hardly changed at all — still very approachable.

“Of course it is a blessing for the School of Theology, but it really a blessing for all of the people of the diocese. I am reminded of Pope Francis’ call for the church to become a little more pastoral and a little less dogmatic. Someone like Bishop Donald Kettler comes to mind when you hear a quote like that.”

Jeanne Ranek and her husband John are excited about Bishop Kettler’s impending move to St. Cloud. The Ranek’s are members of Christ the King Parish in Sioux Falls, S.D.

“Even before he became our pastor at Christ the King, we got to know him well,” said Jeanne. “I was impressed by his caring manner toward all the people and his gratitude towards volunteers.

“I grew especially fond of his habit of crossing to the other side of the church after funerals to thank musicians and the consolation choir,” she added. “That support is extraordinary.”

A privilege to work with him

Mary Gore most recently worked with Bishop Kettler as the director of the Alaska Catholic Conference.

“The Diocese of St. Cloud is so very lucky to have Bishop Kettler coming its way,” she said. “The most important thing to know about Bishop Don is his wonderful sense of humor. He is quick-witted and loves to laugh.”

“For those who will have the privilege of working with him, Bishop Kettler is a wonderful listener, very thoughtful and deliberate in his actions,” she added.

“He is one of the most collaborative people I have ever worked with. Those he will shepherd will find him very approachable.”