Bishop Kettler writes pastoral letter on mercy

He encourages faithful to reflect on how they experience God’s mercy and extend it to others

In his first pastoral letter to Catholics of the St. Cloud Diocese, Bishop Donald Kettler calls on individuals, parishes and schools “to identify at least one thing you can do this year to extend and make present in the diocese the openness, the welcome and hospitality of God’s mercy.”
The letter, coming during the Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis, is titled “Be Merciful, Just as Your Father is Merciful.” It is featured as a pull-out section in the center of this issue of The Visitor

“The pope’s declaration of a Year of Mercy is important, and I wanted to tie it in a little more to our diocese,” Bishop Kettler said Jan. 23 in an interview with The Visitor.

“I wanted us to look at what the Scriptures and the popes have said about mercy, and for people to understand that, although this is a Year of Mercy, mercy is foundational to the beginning of the church,” he said. “It’s not a brand new theme, but Pope Francis is certainly emphasizing it.”

Bishop Kettler said he hopes people will study the letter during this special jubilee year. It includes a list of questions for reflection and discussion.

The letter is divided into five sections:

  • “Popes and Mercy,” which examines teaching on mercy by Popes Francis, Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II;
  • “A God of Mercy,” which explores the Bible’s teaching on mercy in the Old and New Testaments, including the parables of the Prodigal Son, Good Samaritan and Workers in the Vineyard;
  • “Mercy, Unconditional Love and Justice,” which looks at the relationship between mercy and justice;
  • “A Church of Mercy,” which examines the work of mercy in the church, as both an institution and community of believers; and
  • “A Year of Mercy,” which addresses topics such as holy doors, pilgrimages, prayer and reconciliation, indulgences and the corporal and spiritual Works of Mercy.

In this last section, Bishop Kettler encourages families, parishes, classes and Catholic organizations to make a pilgrimage to one or more of the diocese’s designated shrines and religious communities. The visits are good occasions to pray and talk about the place of mercy in our lives, he said.

He also calls on “all people of the diocese to prayerfully consider the Works of Mercy and discern specific activities you can do to show mercy to your neighbors, to make ourselves and our church more an instrument of God’s mercy in our diocese. I encourage you to do this individually, in families, and in parish study groups that I hope will be formed around the theme of divine mercy.”

The letter mentions the Festival of Forgiveness to be held in the diocese on Friday, March 4, when the sacrament of reconciliation will be celebrated in
designated churches from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. He urges the faithful to extend an invitation to this Lenten event to “those who may have not received the sacrament for some time or who may feel alienated from the church for any reason.”

Pilgrimage sites
• Shrine of St. Peregrine, Martyr, St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville
• National Shrine of St. Odilia, Crosier Priory, Onamia
• Assumption (Grasshopper) Chapel, Cold Spring
• Divine Mercy Shrine, St. Paul Church, Sauk Centre
• The Shrine of St. Cloud, St. Mary’s Cathedral, St. Cloud

Religious communities
• Benedictine sisters, St. Joseph
• Benedictine monks, Collegeville
• Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls
• Crosier Fathers and Brothers, Onamia
• Poor Clare Sisters, Sauk Rapids

Works of Mercy

Corporal Works of Mercy
• Feed the hungry
• Give drink to the thirsty
• Clothe the naked
• Welcome the stranger/Shelter the homeless
• Visit/heal the sick
• Visit the imprisoned
• Bury the dead

Spiritual Works of Mercy
• Counsel the doubtful
• Instruct the ignorant
• Admonish sinners
• Comfort the afflicted/sorrowful
• Forgive offenses
• Bear wrongs patiently
• Pray for the living and the dead

Read Bishop Kettler’s pastoral letter


Author: The Visitor

The Visitor is the official newpaper for the Diocese of Saint Cloud.