Bishop Donald Kettler told members of the diocesan Presbyteral Council that more research was needed into the pros and cons of allowing outdoor weddings before he would make a decision about whether to allow them in the Diocese of St. Cloud.
Father Joe Herzing, the pastor of Christ Church Newman Center who represents the St. Cloud Deanery, brought the issue forward at the council’s March 19 meeting at the Chancery in St. Cloud. Allowing outdoor weddings might be one way to keep young couples connected to the Catholic Church who might otherwise turn to another denomination that allows such ceremonies.
He pointed to outdoor wedding policies in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Diocese of Helena, Montana, as resources for potential guidelines for such liturgies.
Council members reported varying degrees of support and non-support for allowing outdoor weddings. Several priests noted that, if such ceremonies were allowed, they would need to be governed by clear guidelines about what is, and isn’t, permissible. Questions that would need to be answered, they said, include what kinds of locations are suitable to the dignity of the sacrament, whether the Eucharist should be celebrated or not, and how much discretion pastors should have to individually grant or deny outdoor wedding requests.
Bishop Kettler asked for more study of the Baltimore and Helena policies before giving more consideration to the possibility of outdoor weddings locally.
In other council news:
• Bishop Kettler updated members about the diocese’s plans to enter bankruptcy reorganization. The diocese has not filed yet for reorganization and remains in discussions with insurance companies and attorneys for clergy abuse survivors, the bishop said. The hope is to reach a consensual agreement on a plan before filing so that the maximum amount of resources can be distributed to survivors rather than to legal costs.
• Council members heard a report about the formation of Area Catholic Communities (ACCs) from Rita Clasemann, chair of the Diocesan Planning Council. Feedback regarding the decision to move forward with ACCs has generally been positive, she said, adding that many people are anxious to begin the process. Formation days for ACC planning councils will be held in April and May. More information about the planning process can be found on the diocesan Planning Office’s website at http://planning.stcdio.org.
• Bailey Ziegler, director of human resources for the diocese, provided an update on Regional Ministry Gatherings (RMGs) and Diocesan Ministry Day (DMD), slated for Monday, Sept. 30, at St. John’s University in Collegeville.
RMGs are opportunities for parish leaders and volunteers for ongoing education on various ministry topics, faith sharing and fellowship. Feedback from the three RMGs already held has been positive, Ziegler said. Eight more are scheduled around the diocese between April and September. More information about RMGs is available at http://stcdio.org/regional-ministry-gatherings.
The RMGs and DMD share a common theme focused on baptism: “Called to Be … Prepared to Do …” Laura Kelly Fanucci, director of the Communities of Calling Initiative at the Collegeville Institute at St. John’s University, will be the keynote speaker for Diocesan Ministry Day. The first part of the day will have a spirituality/prayer focus, while the second part will feature practical, ministry-focused learning sessions.
Also, two pre-DMD events will be held Sunday, Sept. 29: “Discerning Our Baptismal Call,” a retreat led by Franciscan Sister Michelle L’Allier at the St. John’s Abbey Chapter House; and “Beer, Brats and Bishop,” a social gathering hosted by Bishop Kettler at Brother Willie’s Pub on the St. John’s campus.
For more information about Diocesan Ministry Day and the pre-DMD events, visit http://stcdio.org/dmd2019.