Priests’ council considers ‘festival of forgiveness’ for Year of Mercy

Categories: Around the Diocese

The Visitor

An ad hoc committee formed by the diocesan Presbyteral Council will explore whether the diocese should organize a 24-hour “festival of forgiveness” during the Holy Year of Mercy as a way to promote healing, mercy and the sacrament of reconciliation.

At the priest council’s meeting May 12 at the chancery in St. Cloud, members also discussed the need to clarify the diocese’s policy on cremation and burial of cremated remains, and they gave their support to an effort to bring Catholic radio to the western part of the diocese.

The priests discussed whether it would be better to organize a “festival of forgiveness” at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud during Advent or Lent, or to celebrate the event in designated churches in each of the diocese’s seven deaneries. The ad hoc committee will report back to the council with its suggestions and recommendations.

The Archdiocese of Chicago held a similar event last Feb. 27-28 during which the sacrament of reconciliation was offered in 24 parishes for 24 hours. An initial report about the gathering compiled by the archdiocese noted that the turnout was good, with “a number” of confessions coming from people who returned to the sacrament after many decades.

In addition to a “festival of forgiveness,” Bishop Donald Kettler is considering other ways the Diocese of St. Cloud could observe the Year of Mercy, which Pope Francis declared would begin Dec. 8 and run to Nov. 20, 2016.

Father Virgil Helmin, pastor of St. Marcus Parish in Clear Lake and St. Lawrence Parish in Duelm, said one reason Chicago’s event was successful was that the archdiocese invested in widespread pre-event publicity. The St. Cloud Diocese would need to devote sufficient resources for advertising and promotion to ensure people are aware of the event and encouraged to participate, he said.

In other business, council members:

  •  agreed that the diocese’s policy on cremation and the burial of cremated remains needs to be re-explained to clarify what is and isn’t permissible.

The diocese’s policy, which dates back to 1997, requires that cremated remains be buried in a grave or tomb. However, council members said that sometimes people want to keep the cremated remains of loved ones at home or scatter them over lakes or fields.

The proper teaching needs to be promoted within a pastoral context that explains why cremated remains are to be buried or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium, Bishop Kettler said. “I don’t want a battleground at the time of a loved one’s death,” he said.

A few priests suggested publishing articles that explain the church’s teaching and the diocese’s policy in The Visitor and in the clergy bulletin, which is distributed to priests monthly, and sending the policy to funeral homes.

Council members decided to discuss with priests in their deaneries how the current policy could be promoted or rewritten to clarify what the church teaches and why.

  •  voted to support an effort by Real Presence Radio, a daughter network of EWTN Radio, to broadcast Catholic programming from a tower in Wadena, contingent on Bishop Kettler’s support of the plan. Network officials met recently with the bishop to discuss their intention and seek his approval, and the bishop asked the Presbyteral Council to consider the proposal.

Bishop Kettler said his biggest concern would be if Real Presence Radio’s coverage area overlapped too much with KYES AM-1180, a Catholic radio station based in Sauk Rapids that is an affiliate of Relevant Radio.

Father Aaron Kuhn, pastor of St. Ann Parish in Wadena and St. John Parish in Bluffton, said, however, that the signal from KYES drops off near Wadena. The new station would serve to further the church’s evangelizing mission in the northern and western parts of the diocese, he said.

  •  continued its discussion on Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel.”
  •  reaffirmed the value of the annual clergy conference at Arrowwood in Alexandria and the need to continue the gathering.
  •  agreed to spreading out the Presbyteral Council’s meeting dates. Starting in 2016, the council will meet in February, May, August and November.