Let us be men and women of hope

| March 27, 2014

NienstedtBlMy brothers and sisters in Christ, it is good to be back in full, public ministry during this Lenten season of reflection, repentance and reconciliation.

In light of recent events, the following passage from the Scriptures of the Second Sunday of Lent made an especially powerful impact on me:

“Bear your share of the hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God” (2 Timothy 1:8B-10).

As you know, in response to the allegation made against me last December, I withdrew from public ministry until a police investigation could take place. The findings of that investigation were announced two weeks ago and the case against me was dropped.

As you might suspect, stepping down from public ministry is a particularly difficult hardship for any priest, and that was certainly true for me.

I will have been ordained 40 years this July. I have loved everything about being a priest. I particularly relish teaching RCIA classes, instructing parents about the baptism of their first born, and absolving the sins of penitents in the sacrament of penance/reconciliation, especially of those who have been away from that sacrament for a number of years. Here is where a priest serves as a bridge between God and his people, here is where God brings light and healing to the people he has called his own. Here is where we find the foundation of a true and lasting hope — the cross of Jesus Christ and his triumph over sin and death.

I tell people that I was not ordained a priest or bishop to sit behind a desk. While the duties of these offices do demand countless hours of answering mail and tending to the responsibilities of administration, that is not where I find joy or fulfillment in my vocation.

Rather my joy and fulfillment are found in being among God’s people, including walking with them during their everyday concerns and challenges.

I have to admit that upon hearing of the allegation against me, I prayed for a quick resolution of the whole ordeal. But then, I began to think of people from all walks of life who do not have even the slightest hope of having their suffering ended, i.e., the child who has been abused, parents who have lost a child to a traffic accident or even suicide, women who have been raped, spouses who have partners with terminal illnesses. These people, and more besides, must learn to cope with their suffering with no end in sight.

So, as the days and weeks turned into months, I began to pray instead for patience and perseverance, asking the Lord to transform my suffering into a graced opportunity for me and for this local Church that I have been called to pastor. In that same letter to Timothy quoted above, St. Paul tells us that God has called us to a holy life “according to his own design.” This experience has taught me to trust in God’s mysterious ways.

I also reflected deeply on the victims of abuse, both in our archdiocese and in the broader world, and I developed an even greater resolve to address this issue with commitment and compassion.

I offer my sorrow for all the crimes of sexual abuse that have been committed by those in positions of trust in the Church, especially by clergy. I offer my apologies, as archbishop of this local Church, to all who have been harmed by these terrible offenses. I offer my prayers for all victims, their families and their communities. I am committed to reaching out to victims, desiring to hear their stories.

I know that these past months in our archdiocese have been as painful for you as they have been for me. I remain committed to the four goals that have guided our response to each situation that has arisen, namely:

1) Protecting the young and the vulnerable;

2) Caring for victims;

3) Restoring trust with the laity; and

4) Restoring trust with our clergy.

I pray that this experience will purify us in such a way so as to be more compassionate and understanding, enabling us to be better prepared to reach out, as Pope Francis says, to those who are on the periphery, on the margins.

I again wish to thank the countless number of Catholic faithful who have written or emailed me with their support, as well as the promise of their prayer. I am truly humbled by those who have stood by me as I faced this ordeal. I can never adequately say, “thank you,” except by pledging my continued service to them and a daily remembrance of them in my prayer and at the altar. For me, their fidelity is a great sign of hope for our future together.

I also see a real sign of hope in the appointment of Jeff Cavins as director of evangelization for our archdiocese. Jeff has already provided a dynamic witness to the beauty and truth of the Gospel with his successful efforts on behalf of the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute. His announcement reminds all of us of why the Church exists: to make the name of Jesus Christ known and loved.

Finally, last Saturday, 1,300

men — fathers, sons, brothers, friends — gathered at the University of St. Thomas for our annual Archdiocesan Men’s Conference. The Holy Mass, confessions and inspirational talks were offered as a means of helping those participants to reflect and even ponder the reality of God’s call to be a man in Christ, a man of the Church and a man for others. This, too, was a great sign of hope for the future of our archdiocese.

My friends, let us, too, be men and women of hope, trusting that God’s guidance will help us persevere through this and every period of challenge as a Church ever more prepared to share the joy of the Gospel.

May God bless you!

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Category: Only Jesus

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