Parishioners across the diocese appreciate wit and compassion of their gentle shepherd

Categories: Around the Diocese

If you could diagram Bishop Kinney’s 18-year travel log, you would see hundreds of spokes going back and forth between St. Mary’s Cathedral and the 131 parishes of the St. Cloud Diocese.

Bishop Kinney has traveled mile after mile to celebrate holidays, sacraments, festivals and anniversaries. He has shared countless meals, honored military veterans, consoled grieving parents and even blessed the doors of a remodeled church.

Along the way, he has made many lasting, personal connections with people of the diocese.

Confirmation memories

The sacrament of confirmation triggered many of the bishop’s road trips. Instead of celebrating every confirmation Mass at the cathedral, Bishop Kinney often preferred to travel to parishes.

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In his journal, Bishop Kinney kept track of his activities, including administering the
sacrament of confirmation at 572 ceremonies in the St. Cloud Diocese. In this 1997 photo, Bishop Kinney congratulates Matthew Tschida, who was just confirmed at St. Stephen Church in St. Stephen.

Vera Malone, who recently wrapped up 20 years of service as the director of religious education at St. Hubert Parish in Blue Grass, looked forward to the bishop’s annual confirmation visits. She describes Bishop Kinney as a “gentle shepherd” who has a charming smile and an “openness with the youth.””When the bishop met with the confirmation students each year, they were prepared for big questions,” Malone said. “They were nervous — picturing an interrogation. But Bishop Kinney always spoke to them in a conversational style that did not intimidate them. He challenged the youth to be strong in their faith, but he also challenged parents, sponsors and the community to support the students on their journey.”

Patrick and Marcia Cunningham, members of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Isanti, met Bishop Kinney on the day their son should have been confirmed. Marcia remembered Bishop Kinney’s compassion on that difficult day.

“Our son, Ryan, died in a car accident on March 3, 1997. He was supposed to be confirmed several days later. We went to the confirmation Mass, and, just as it was supposed to start, the bishop asked to see us. I don’t remember his exact words, but he was very compassionate, very kind. When we brought up the gifts during Mass he said, ‘You are bringing much more than bread and wine’ — meaning our sorrow and sadness and our son.”

A few years later, Patrick was called to serve on the diocesan pastoral council. Patrick, a police officer at the time, has fond memories of working with Bishop Kinney on the council. “He was a serious man but he was very personable and liked to joke, too,” Patrick recalled. “I would say to him, ‘You and I have the same credentials — we both hear confessions.’ “

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Bishop Kinney chats with senior citizens.

Bishop Kinney made two trips to St. Lawrence Parish in Rush Lake. In 2000, he came to bless the new doors of the remodeled church and in 2011 he helped celebrate the parish’s 125th anniversary. St. Lawrence parishioner Patty Doll remembers Bishop Kinney asking the children to join him for the blessing at the doors of the church. “It was just wonderful,” Doll recalled. “They followed him, like sheep following a shepherd.”

Doll also remembers the children presenting gifts to the bishop. One gift was a baseball cap — he wore the hat backwards while joking and talking to the kids.

“Bishop Kinney encouraged people to be happy and joyful Catholics, serving the Lord with gladness,” Doll said. “It’s a time of thanksgiving. He has been a blessing to us.”

Compassionate and caring

Bishop Kinney truly appreciated the homemade sauerkraut and pork regularly served at the home of Don and Rita Kainz from Annunciation Parish in Mayhew Lake.

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As his baby sleeps, a dad strikes up a conversation with Bishop Kinney after Honoring Marriage Day.

Don, owner of Donlar Construction, became friends with Bishop Kinney through their shared work on the St. Cloud Hospital Board and the Diocesan Building Commission. Over the years, Don and Rita have shared several meals with Bishop Kinney. Their evenings together have been filled with laughter and lively discussions about how to live life more fully.

Kainz described Bishop Kinney as compassionate and caring as well as witty and charming. “He is a person who loves God and Jesus and did his best to serve God as bishop of this diocese.”

On many Memorial Days since 1995, Bishop Kinney joined the Knights of Columbus at Assumption Cemetery in St. Cloud to preside at the Memorial Day Mass. The Knights have been hosting the annual event for more than 50 years and they appreciate the bishop’s participation.

“The bishop is so gracious in saying ‘yes’ and coming out to celebrate Mass,” said Gene Reichensperger, vocations director for Knights Council 961 and member of St. Paul Parish in

St. Cloud. “People in the community always look forward to the bishop being with us.”

A shared history

Long before Bishop Kinney came to St. Cloud, Bonnie Winkleman, from Sacred Heart Parish in Sauk Rapids, remembers meeting him during a reception in the church basement at Annuciation Parish in south Minneapolis in early 1977.

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In 2004, Bishop Kinney read to fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at St. Wendelin School in Luxemburg as part of the school’s annual Reach for the Stars read-a-thon fund-raiser. He read an excerpt from the book “Facing the Lion: Growing up Maasai on the African Savanna” by Joseph Lemasolai-Lekuton. He chose the book, about a boy growing up in Kenya, because of the diocese’s relationship
with the Homa Bay Diocese in Kenya, Africa. The read-a-thon raised $3,000 for the school library.

“He graduated from my grade school at Annunciation,” Winkelman said. “He only went there for a few years, but when he was ordained as a bishop, the parish honored him with a reception. It was delightful — so special that someone from my grade school became a bishop.”

When he was installed as bishop of the St. Cloud Diocese in 1995, Winkleman attended the public celebration. The image Bishop Kinney described that day has stayed with Winkleman for 16 years. “He compared Christians to a candle. He explained that we are called to be consumed,” she said. “No matter what the cost we are supposed to live lives of sacrifice.”

Eva Koep, a member of St. Edward Parish in Henning, got to know Bishop Kinney through her many years of service on the St. Cloud Diocesan Council of Catholic Women. She enjoys his “precise and spiritual” homilies and is inspired by his challenge to be faithful and make time for prayer.

One specific call to faithfulness and prayer came on a mission trip with Bishop Kinney in Kenya. Eva and her husband Allen were tired after several days there and decided to sleep an extra hour instead of going to morning Mass.

“We were eating breakfast that morning,” Koep recalled, “and Father came in and said, ‘Hmmm, I didn’t see you at Mass this morning.’ Needless to say we didn’t skip Mass again.

“Bishop Kinney is a wonderful, thoughtful shepherd. I wish him the best. My prayers are with him and I ask God’s blessings for him.”

— Jennifer Janikula