Bishop-elect Neary’s Solemn Vespers: ‘Together, we will be a heart of mercy, voice of hope, hands of justice’

Story by Kristi Anderson

With hundreds of witnesses waiting inside, Bishop-elect Patrick Neary, C.S.C., knocked at the door of St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud Feb. 13 where Father Scott Pogtachnik, rector, welcomed him as the new pastor.

Bishop-elect Patrick Neary, C.S.C., knocks at the Cathedral of St. Mary’s doors to begin the vespers service Feb. 13. The doors were opened by Father Scott Pogatchnik, rector of the Cathedral, who welcomed him as the new pastor. (Gianna Bonello / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

As is tradition, this act signified the beginning of Solemn Vespers, a prayer service held on the evening prior to an episcopal ordination. Bishop-elect Neary will be ordained St. Cloud’s 10th bishop Feb. 14.

Delivering the homily was Little Falls native, Father William Lies, C.S.C., who currently serves as provincial superior of the Congregation of Holy Cross in the United States, the community from which Bishop-elect Neary hails.

“For generation upon generation, Christ, our Good Shepherd, has sent shepherds to provide guidance, protection and inspiration for the people of God,” Father Lies said. “The one who has been chosen for this diocese, his name is Patrick — a beautiful soul and a wonderful man.”

During the service, Bishop-elect Neary made a Profession of Faith and took an Oath of Fidelity, which he and his predecessor, Bishop Donald Kettler, signed. A ring, pectoral cross and crosier were also blessed and will be given to him at his ordination.

“Pat lives humbly and simply,” Father Lies said. “Pat has been an amazing priest and a faithful religious. He has said yes to every assignment asked of him, most of which have drawn him closer to the cross and to life at the same time. Pat loves his family — his mom and dad, his five sisters. He loves his Holy Cross confreres. He’s so very good to his friends, he can’t help it. … He will love his people, his priests, deacons and religious. The most important thing about Pat is he is a holy man who prays, he loves the Lord, and he loves the Church. He loves the way a shepherd loves his sheep.”

This bilingual event was attended by lay people from across the diocese, Bishop-elect Neary’s family, friends and confreres from his religious community, visiting bishops, priests, deacons, religious, seminarians and students from area Catholic schools. It also was live-streamed and is available to view at

Father William Lies, C.S.C, a Little Falls native and provincial superior of the U.S. Province of Priests and Brothers, Congregation of Holy Cross, delivered the homily. (Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

Adrian Gallagher-Mancini, 12, a seventh-grader at St. John’s Prep School in Collegeville, greeted people on the steps as they arrived at the cathedral.

“My favorite part was how peaceful it was. I also really liked being in hospitality and getting to see all the different people who came,” he said.

His sister, Lilly, 11, a sixth-grader at the prep school, handed prayer cards to guests.

“I really loved all the cultures involved and especially when they started speaking Spanish for those who speak Spanish and/or English.”

Dignitaries from the diocese’s Ecumenical and Interreligious Commission and the Greater St. Cloud Faith Leaders group came forward to welcome the bishop-elect. Representatives from the Ecumenical and Interreligious Commission included: Franciscan Sister Helen Rolfson, chair; Benjamin Durheim; Rev. Andrew Jaye, pastor of Holy Myrrhbearers Orthodox Church in St. Cloud; and retired Rev. Peter Lundholm of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Greater St. Cloud Faith Leaders were represented by Benedictine Sister Eunice Antony, Ayan Omar, member of the Christian-Muslim Dialogue Group; Ron Marotte, Bahai Spiritual Assembly of St. Cloud; Bishop Dee Pederson, bishop of the Southwestern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and Rev. Darin Seaman, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in St. Cloud.

Bishop-elect Neary is greeted by Sister Helen Rolfson OSF, chair of the Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Commission. (Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

“We are blessed a hundred times over by our former Bishop Donald Kettler,” Sister Rolfson said. “And it has been worth the wait to have Bishop Neary. I’m excited about working with the new bishop and grateful to God for the example of Bishop Kettler.”

“This is a very exciting, spirit-filled time,” Sister Antony added. “I have great trust in Bishop-elect Neary. I feel that God has given us the right person at this time.”

Omar echoed that she, too, is grateful for Bishop Kettler’s model and is hopeful about Bishop-elect Neary’s leadership.

“Bishop Kettler was rooted in faith, rooted in community, rooted in love. I am very hopeful for our new leader to carry the torch forward and allow us to continue our interfaith dialogue as well as with the Muslim community, the immigrant community, the refugee community to work together so that we can go even further,” Omar said.

Father Lies was touched at how quickly and easily Bishop-elect Neary has embraced the Diocese of St. Cloud’s mission statement, to be Christ’s “heart of mercy, voice of hope and hands of justice.”

“This is the flock you have been called to shepherd,” Father Lies said in his homily. “Together with them you will build the Kingdom of God on this fertile soil, on this holy ground that is the Diocese of St. Cloud. Lead us, Bishop Pat, to the abundance promised us, to the green pastures, to the still waters, to the table that is set, to the cup that is overflowing. … Together, with you as our shepherd, we will be a heart of mercy, a voice of hope and hands of justice.”

Top photo: Bishop Donald Kettler presided at the vespers service. (Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

Note: To view a recording of the Solemn Vespers service, go to:

Author: Kristi Anderson

Kristi Anderson is the editor of The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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