Meet the 10th bishop of the Diocese of St. Cloud

On a snowy morning just 10 days before Christmas, Catholics across the Diocese of St. Cloud awoke to news they had been long awaiting. Pope Francis had chosen St. Cloud’s newest bishop: Father Patrick Neary, C.S.C., an Indiana native and priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross.

The announcement was made Dec. 15 in Washington, D.C., by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Bishop-elect Neary’s episcopal ordination has been set for 1 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 14. He has been serving since July 2018 as pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish in Portland, Oregon.

On the same day of the announcement, the pope accepted the retirement-resignation of Bishop Donald Kettler, 78, who has led the diocese since 2013 and will serve as apostolic administrator until Bishop-elect Neary’s ordination.

Bishop-elect Patrick Neary, C.S.C. (photo by Gianna Bonello)

“I have to be honest,” Bishop-elect Neary, 59, said at a press conference Dec. 15 at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in St. Cloud. “Over 10 days ago I got four calls from Washington D.C.; there was no message, so I thought, ‘I get spam calls every day.’ I blocked the caller, not knowing it was the apostolic nuncio. So, he somehow got through to me on WhatsApp, and [said] ‘Could I please speak with you.’ I thought, ‘Oh boy.’ So, I think he’s forgiven me for blocking him.”

Bishop-elect Neary was born March 6, 1963, in La Porte, Indiana, to Jacob and Mary Neary. He was the oldest of six children. He and his five sisters attended St. Joseph Grade School in La Porte. After graduating from La Porte High School in 1981, Bishop-elect Neary entered undergraduate seminary for the Congregation of Holy Cross at the University of Notre Dame.

He professed perpetual vows in Holy Cross in 1990. Ordained a priest in 1991, he served at a parish in Goodyear, Arizona, before being assigned to Notre Dame, where he worked as a campus minister and R.O.T.C. chaplain. In 2000, he was appointed assistant rector of Moreau Seminary at Notre Dame, and from 2004-2010, he served as rector.

In 2010, he was sent to Nairobi, Kenya, to train a new formation team at the congregation’s seminary before being elected as district superior a year and a half later, where he served in Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya. In July 2018, he was assigned as pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish. Bishop-elect Neary speaks Spanish fluently.


The following interview was conducted Dec. 15 and has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. How and when did you discern your vocation to the priesthood?

Bishop-elect Neary: My vocation really starts with my parents because I knew that, for them, faith was the most important thing. We were always at Mass, always involved in the parish. The idea [of a vocation to the priesthood] came to me when I was in my last year of high school. For some reason, it just made itself present to me, and I kind of resisted it, but I finally decided my senior year to look into different seminaries. When my father’s co-worker mentioned his uncle was a priest at Notre Dame, a Holy Cross priest, he asked that this priest write to me, and he did. So I got to learn about Holy Cross and their undergraduate seminary.

A few years after my ordination [to the priesthood], I was at the golden jubilee of my first-grade teacher, Sister Estelle, and I was sharing my vocation story with the sisters who taught me at school. I said, “Yes it was really my senior year of high school.” And Sister Suzanne said, “No no, in second grade, you came up to me on the playground and said ‘One day I will be a priest.’” I have no recollection of that. But I also credit the wonderful Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration with my vocation, along with Msgr. Witte, my pastor, with whom I served as an altar server for many years.

Q. What do you do to relax or in your free time?

Bishop-elect Neary: I usually grab a novel and have it with my breakfast so I can get in a good 20 minutes of reading; reading is something I thoroughly enjoy. When I have my free day, my preference is to go play golf. I also have a bicycle, and Portland is really geared toward cyclists, so I often ride my bike for a couple hours when I can get the time. Music as well; sometimes just listening to music for a few minutes to unwind.

Q. How do you like to pray?

Bishop-elect Neary: I prefer to pray at night when things are still, when there’s no email to answer, no phone calls to take, nowhere else to be, and sit in silence in our chapel, often in the darkness, and just be with the Lord. It depends on what I’m feeling — I may take the Bible, and pick a Gospel or a psalm. Sometimes I enjoy Ignatian prayer, or centering prayer, or the Jesus prayer. But it’s mostly just withdrawing from the day and being in the Lord’s presence.

Q. What did your family say when they learned the news?

Bishop-elect Neary: One of my sisters joked, “You’re really setting the bar for the rest of us!” My mom and dad were stunned and rejoiced and were proud.

Q. What is one thing that you want people to know about you?

Bishop-elect Neary: Gosh, that’s a hard thing! My passion for Notre Dame and Notre Dame football; I love Manchester United and soccer; I loved my time in East Africa; I love the Chicago Cubs, even though [they’ve] suffered over the years…

I know one [more] thing: I’m a beekeeper! I became a beekeeper [after being in Cub Scouts] and loved it. I did that most of high school until I went to college, and then I had to give it up, but I miss it! I don’t miss getting stung, but it wasn’t that often. Bees are like people — they’re temperamental; if the weather’s nice, they’re happy, if it’s not nice, they’re kind of grumpy.

Q. What is the charism of Holy Cross?

Bishop-elect Neary: Our charism is that we’re educators in the faith, and that primarily is to make God known, loved and served. But it’s also to teach the basics of our faith and everything that we hold central, especially the Eucharist. It really takes shape in different ways, depending on whether we’re talking about a university, a high school, a grade school, RCIA, etc. The idea that we really are helping people to know and love and serve God through this formation in faith. It really is education in the fullest sense of the word.


You can view the Dec. 15 press conference announcing Bishop-elect Neary’s appointment and his remarks at:

For more information about Bishop-elect Neary and the latest updates regarding his episcopal ordination Mass, including livestream links when available, visit Updates also will be provided in the magazine’s February issue and in the Monday Morning Update e-newsletter. To subscribe to the newsletter, visit and click on “Subscribe Now” at the top of the page.

Author: Gianna Bonello

Gianna Bonello is a multimedia reporter for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

Leave a Reply