Reflections on my retreat with the preacher of the papal household

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

In January, I was among the U.S. bishops who attended a weeklong retreat at Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake near Chicago. We bishops were there to ask for forgiveness for our failures in not adequately and justly responding to sexual abuse in our Church and to pray that we might give a better response in the future.

Our retreat director was Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, who has served as preacher of the papal household for nearly 40 years. He was there at the suggestion of Pope Francis, not to talk directly about the abuse crisis or offer solutions, but to help us bishops reflect more deeply on our mission and ministry of serving Christ and the Church. In addition to the retreat talks, we spent time in prayer — at daily Mass, in eucharistic adoration and at vespers.

Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Orange, Calif., and Bishop Donald J. Kettler of St. Cloud, Minn. attend a prayer service in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at Mundelein Seminary Jan. 2 at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Illinois, near Chicago. The U.S. bishops began their Jan. 2-8 retreat at the seminary, suggested by Pope Francis in September, which comes as the bishops work to rebuild trust among the faithful as questions continue to revolve around their handling of clergy sex abuse. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

In his talks, Father Cantalamessa challenged us to grow closer to Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit in our own vocations. He spoke about how he was greatly influenced in his own faith journey by the working of the Holy Spirit. We felt that same Spirit at work during our gathering. I have been a bishop for more than 16 years, and I have never felt the unity and camaraderie with my fellow bishops as I did during our retreat.

The messages we heard reaffirmed for us the need to have better accountability measures for bishops and additional initiatives to protect all church members from sexual abuse. Father Cantalamessa also called on us bishops to respond better to the Church’s other needs at this time.

I want to share some of the other points made during the retreat that I have been reflecting on these past weeks:

• As Christians, we must be open to the working of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is God’s highest gift to us and the Church, and this gift is alive in us. The Holy Spirit creates unity, but it needs our cooperation. The work of the Holy Spirit is for the common good. The Holy Spirit brings the new commandment of love to the Church. This love makes following the law possible. Without the Holy Spirit, God is far away. With the Holy Spirit, the Church is alive.

• Prayer is essential to our lives as Christians, and we must be committed to it.

Pay attention to the value of an hour before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, Father Cantalamessa told us. The best way to meet Jesus, who is always with us, is in the Eucharist. Turn to God in prayer. With God, “Abba,” all things are possible. Even when there seems to be no possibility left, we can still pray. This prayer will never be in vain. The Our Father can be a prayer for every situation.

• Beware of idolizing material things, including money.

Behind every evil is money. Never let money, power and other temptations steer us away from God and his teachings. Rather, follow the riches of Christ. The Church should be the Church of the poor, Father Cantalamessa said. The idolatry of money must be attacked as much as the idolatry of sex.

I continue to reflect on the talks and messages that I heard at the retreat. We have much to be proud about regarding our Church here in the Diocese of St. Cloud. But we also face some challenging issues now and as we look to the future.

I am thinking especially of our diocesan pastoral planning efforts and our upcoming bankruptcy reorganization (although no date for filing has been set yet).

Please pray for me, so that I make good and wise decisions regarding these issues. Please also pray for all of us bishops as we work to maintain and improve safe environments and accountability measures for all, including bishops. I am praying daily for all the people of our diocese.

May God bless you and your loved ones.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+Donald J. Kettler

Author: Bishop Donald Kettler

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