Approximately every five years bishops throughout the world are invited to Rome on a scheduled basis for an “ad limina” visit with the Holy Father and members of various congregations. Bishops are required to submit detailed documentation on the state of their respective dioceses, in the form of a Quinquennial Report, prior to their visits in accord with Canon 399 of the Code of Canon Law. The report serves to promote the relationship of communion between dioceses and the Holy Father.
Archbishop John C. Nienstedt submitted the Quinquennial Report for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis prior to his “ad limina” visit in March 2012. Below is the letter he received recently from Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops in Vatican City, regarding his “ad limina” visit.
Vatican City, September 17, 2012
Prot. N. 129/2012
At the conclusion of the Visits ad limina Apostolorum of the Bishops of the United States of America in 2011-2012, I write to thank Your Excellency for your Quinquennial Report of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, 2004-2010, sent to this Congregation by the Apostolic Nunciature. I am grateful for the great care you and your collaborators took in preparing the Report, which was very helpful in assessing the actual situation of the local Church entrusted to your care.
It was a pleasure to meet with you and your brother Bishops from Region VIII in this Dicastery last March, and I found our discussion informative and fruitful.
It is evident from your Quinquennial Report that the local Church of Saint Paul and Minneapolis faces significant challenges to the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ in a culture which is becoming increasingly secular and even hostile to the Church, and where there are also grave threats to religious liberty. Your Excellency will undoubtedly recall the exhortation of His Holiness intended for you and your brother bishops of the United States, to see the present moment “as a summons to exercise the prophetic dimension of your episcopal ministry by speaking out, humbly yet insistently, in defense of moral truth and offering a word of hope” (Address to the Bishops from the United States of America on their “ad limina” Visit, 26 November 2011). Your courageous and insightful leadership, especially with regard to the protection of marriage in the State of Minnesota, is important and appreciated.
Moreover, since Saint Paul is the seat of civil government for the State of Minnesota, the importance of having committed lay Catholics involved in politics takes on special significance in your Archdiocese. As our Holy Father has stated, “We see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society” (Address to the Bishops from United States of America on their “ad limina” Visit, 19 January 2012).
Such challenges present the opportunity to respond to Pope Benedict’s invitation “to recognize, in the light of a dramatically changing social and religious landscape, the urgency and demands of a new evangelization” (Address to the Bishops from the United States of America on their “ad limina” Visit, 26 November 2011). Vigorous engagement in the new evangelization takes on even greater importance due to a decrease in the number of Catholics and a lower participation in ecclesial life within the local Church. I would like to congratulate Your Excellency for making evangelization a top pastoral priority and for continuing to promote sound doctrine and liturgical practice. Your recent pastoral letter on the Sacred Liturgy will undoubtedly help in this regard.
I was happy to learn about the robust vocation program in your Archdiocese since “the ability to foster vocations is a hallmark of the vitality of a local Church” (Message for the 48th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, 15 May 2011). It was encouraging to read that Saint John Vianney Seminary and Saint Paul Seminary enjoy the reputation of forming seminarians according to the mind and heart of the Church.
It was reported that, due to changing demographics and increasing costs, the Archdiocese closed not only some parishes, but also some parochial schools in recent years. While such school closures present challenges and pastoral difficulties for the families and parishes involved, they also provide an opportunity to strengthen the schools that remain, ensuring that they provide good academic formation and a solid formation in the Catholic faith. These schools, in fact, as the Holy Father stated, “remain an essential resource for the new evangelization” (Address to the Bishops from the United States of America on their “ad limina” Visit, 5 May 2012).
You report that in recent years the number of Hispanics in the Archdiocese has increased notably. These new immigrants bring with them great promise for the future of the Church, but they also present the pastoral challenge of providing them spiritual care and charitable assistance, including helping them to regularize their situation and keep their families together. Our Holy Father has said, “The Church in America is called to embrace, incorporate and cultivate the rich patrimony of faith and culture present in America’s many immigrant groups. . . . The immense promise and the vibrant energies of a new generation of Catholics are waiting to be tapped for the renewal of the Church’s life and the rebuilding of the fabric of American society” (Address to the Bishops from the United States of America on their “ad limina” Visit, 18 May 2012).
Your Excellency, in sharing these brief reflections with you regarding your Quinquennial Report, I want to assure you of my prayers and encourage you in your episcopal ministry. The Holy Father also, with these same sentiments, cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing to Your Excellency, extending it also to the Archbishop Emeritus, Auxiliary Bishop, priests, consecrated men and women, and laity of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.
With sentiments of fraternal esteem and prayerful best wishes, I remain
Faithfully yours in Our Lord,
Marc Cardinal Ouellet