December 27, 2022 at 2:35 p.m.
Area pastors excited to work together under his leadership
The Rev. Patrick Neary, CSC, a member of Congregation of Holy Cross, was introduced as the bishop-elect of the Diocese of St. Cloud Dec. 15 at a press conference at the diocesan pastoral center in St. Cloud.
Neary will be the 10th bishop in the history of the diocese. He is currently in his fifth year as pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish in Portland, Oregon.
Local parish pastors are excited to welcome Neary.
“We will be looking for the first opportunity to have him visit the parishes in the Harvest of Hope Area Catholic Community,” said the Rev. Edward Vebelun, pastor of this Catholic community, serving parishes in St. Anthony, Avon, Albany and St. Martin. “We will do our part to give him a warm welcome and work together under his leadership to be the hands and feet of Christ in the Catholic church of central Minnesota.”
Neary was born in 1963, and is the oldest of six children, including five daughters, raised by Jacob and Marybelle Neary of La Porte, Indiana. Following his 1981 graduation for La Porte High School, he attended undergraduate seminary at the University of Notre Dame. He also studied in Mexico City, where he learned Spanish, and Chile, where he practiced his Spanish. He professed perpetual vows in 1990 and in 1991 was ordained a priest. He has served as a seminary rector, parish priest, ROTC chaplain and was a superior in the CSC order. His studies and assignments have taken him across the country, including Kenya and East Africa.
“That’s part of the realism he is bringing to the diocese with all his former experiences at Notre Dame or as a pastor in Portland,” said the Rev. Marvin Enneking of the One in Faith Catholic Community, serving parishes in St. Rosa, Spring Hill, Meire Grove, Freeport, Melrose, New Munich and Greenwald. “His experience in Africa, in the world of mission, all those things seem to be so in harmony with much of the work of our diocese.”
Current bishop, the Rev. Donald Kettler, who has served in this capacity since 2013, introduced Neary at the press conference saying he was tremendously qualified.
“I am very appreciative that he said yes to the call to serve the people of this diocese as their bishop, and I welcome him warmly to central Minnesota,” Kettler said.
Leaving another positive impression with Enneking, Neary delivered part of his presentation in Spanish.
“His Spanish is very good,” Enneking said. “That will be a great help with us and the Hispanic community.”
The Rev. Greg Mastey, pastor of Two Rivers Catholic Community comprised of parishes in Holdingford, St. Anna and St. Wendel, was impressed with Neary’s gratefulness expressed during the press conference.
“Everything he talked about he was thankful. He seemed very humble. I thought that was good,” Mastey said. “I wrote to him and said, ‘Welcome and thank you.’ And I pray he will be a holy and courageous bishop. He will be about relationships.”
Neary said it was fitting that it was snowing during the news conference since he will be serving in Minnesota, but he is not completely unfamiliar with the state. He recalled in his youth, “I cheered for the Vikings. I am glad to be back in the Midwest and love we are getting snow. I’m excited to be in the land of 10,000 lakes. I love to fish.”
During his introduction, he said he is studying the history of the diocese. Kettler will serve as apostolic administrator until Neary’s Feb. 14, 2023, ordination and installation as bishop. Neary said he will be calling on Kettler and reviewing the history of the diocese as he prepares to lead it.
“He is clearly working hard already to learn about our diocese,” Vebelun said.
Neary is familiar with some of the concerns. He has reviewed the report of the recent synod listening session and the diocesan policy on clergy abuse.
“I am impressed with your synodal website,” Neary said. “Almost every important issue was also in the report of the Archdiocese of Portland.”
He talked about the need for the church to reach out to all people. Without elaborating what would be done, he acknowledged there are concerns that need to be addressed.
“At this time of unprecedented challenges for our church, nation and the world, we need to take inspiration from Pope Francis. In his 2016 Easter Vigil, he proclaimed, ‘The Paraclete does not remove evil with a magic wand, but he pours into us the vitality of life. It is not the absence of problems, but the certainty of being loved and always being forgiven by Christ, who, for us, has conquered sin, conquered death and conquered fear.”
That attention to the Holy Spirit also caught Mastey’s attention. He said the bishop-elect has asked priests and people to pray for him.
Neary, for his part, said he had never expected to be called – and jokingly admitted he almost missed the opportunity.
“Over 10 days ago I got four calls from Washington, D.C. There was no message,” Neary said. “I get spam calls every day and blocked the caller, not knowing it was the apostolic nuncio (an ambassador to a country from Vatican City). He got hold of me on an app and asked me to call him.”
Kettler summed up the introduction saying, “We are happy to have you here. Thanks for joining us and being our bishop.”