Messages of import in the bishop’s pastoral letters

Categories: Around the Diocese

From liturgy to youth, from AIDS to penance, from marriage to social justice, Bishop John Kinney wrote thoughtful pastoral letters to his flock.

The letters highlight issues of concern and explain concepts for the people of the dioceses.


“The Mystery of Christ Present: A Pastoral Letter of Liturgy,” was Bishop Kinney’s first pastoral letter to the Diocese of Bismarck, N.D., in 1984. The bishop encouraged people to read and study Scriptures daily and meditate on the significance of the words in their lives. Doing so, he said, would help them listen to the readings during the liturgy.

Bishop Kinney encouraged and validated everyone’s role in the church. “The liturgy is an expression of the body of Christ, a body made up of many parts,” he said. “Each individual is unique and brings something very special to the church.”

He described ways to help make the worship more meaningful and prayerful. He said that people should be recruited, trained and involved in various roles in liturgy.


With full-color drawings and photographs, “Come & See: You Have a Place, A Pastoral Letter to Youth,” published in 1985, is an engaging and easy-to-read document. It begins with a series of short writings from youths’ point of view with headings such as “I’m glad I’m not a nerd.”

Bishop Kinney told youth, “In a world that prizes individualism and private choice, I invite you to the Christian life, the lifestyle of Jesus which is rooted in relationships of community,” he said. He invited youth to be active participants in the liturgy and encouraged them to serve others.


Less than four pages long, “More Like Christ: A Pastoral Letter on AIDS,” is Bishop Kinney’s shortest pastoral letter. Published in 1988 and revised in 1994, the letter was the result of a recommendation from a task force he formed on ministry to AIDS victims.

Bishop Kinney urged Catholics to be informed about AIDS in order to prevent it and alleviate unreasonable fears. He assured the people who are afflicted with AIDS that the church supports and loves them.


In “From the Hand of Christ: A Pastoral Letter on the Sacrament of Penance,” published in 1993, Bishop Kinney reflected on the process and value of reconciliation.

He asked readers to look at themselves honestly in the light of the Gospel to recognize the things that keep them from God and others.

Bishop Kinney described the process of the sacrament of penance. The letter ends with an examination of conscience.

Social justice

“As I Have Done for You,” published in 1998, was the bishop’s first letter on social justice, and his first to the people of the St. Cloud Diocese.

“My three years in the Diocese of St. Cloud convince me that the people of central Minnesota do care about their neighbors and are willing to help one another,” he said. He described aspects of the church’s social teaching including dignity/sacredness of the human person, rights, responsibilities, charity and justice, option for the poor and solidarity.


“Marriage In Christ: The Sacrament of Faithful, Lifelong Love,” published in 1999, is primarily written to engaged couples. Bishop Kinney encouraged couples to see how Christian sacramental marriage is different from the notion in popular culture. He said that cohabitation distorts the understanding of marriage.

Bishop Kinney encouraged couples to reflect on the meaning of the vows and Scriptural readings for their wedding. He spoke of the commitment of marriage, the necessity of communication, the challenges of finance and infertility and the importance of prayer.

Social justice updated

“As I Have Done for You . . . So You Also Should Do,” published in 2011, updated Bishop Kinney’s first pastoral letter on social justice. It provides more recent facts and examples of people living out Catholic social teaching. It highlights each theme of Catholic social teaching.

— Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully