February 15, 2023 at 4:30 p.m.
Neary installed as 10th bishop of St. Cloud Diocese
After years of waiting, the Diocese of St. Cloud welcomed its new shepherd, Bishop Patrick Neary. The rainy weather outside the packed Cathedral of St. Mary in St. Cloud could not dampen the smile of the new bishop during his Feb. 14 episcopal ordination and installation Mass, a smile shared by the concelebrating archbishops, bishops, priests and deacons, as well as the congregation of religious and laity, family and friends, some coming from as far away as Oregon, Peru and Africa.
The principal ordaining bishop for the Mass was Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The co-ordaining bishops were Bishop William Wack of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, and Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith of the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon.
“It is a wonderful sign of the Father’s love for the church that he would be providing such a fine shepherd for this diocese with just the right gifts to continue the work of spreading the Gospel that has long been central to the Diocese of St. Cloud,” Hebda said.
As he succeeds Bishop Donald Kettler as the 10th bishop of the St. Cloud Diocese, Neary will be adopting the motto of his order, the Congregation of Holy Cross: “Ave Crux, Spes Unica” – “Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope.”
An Indiana native who comes to Minnesota from Holy Redeemer Parish in Portland, Oregon, Neary has enjoyed getting to know his congregation. In one instance, he attended the Holy Spirit Annual Breakfast on Feb. 12; although he wore his pectoral cross, the sign of his episcopacy, he did not tell anyone who he was.
“I just sat down at different tables and got to meet people of all ages,” Neary said in an interview with Star Publications, following the solemn vespers service Feb. 13 at the Cathedral of St. Mary in St. Cloud. “They were so warm and welcoming. This is what I love, just getting to know the flock and the people, so that was a great thing.”
Neary is also eager to get to know the priests, deacons and religious of the diocese. He also looks forward to celebrating the Sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Orders.
Some of the issues Neary plans to focus on include the role of women in the church, as well as gay and lesbian Catholics and how the church can help them feel loved and welcomed. As for the problems the diocese has had with sexual abuse in the clergy, Neary wants to reach out with compassion and provide the resources needed to heal.
“I read the synodal report the diocese put out, which was superb, and they identified the strengths and weaknesses of the diocese and the church in general,” Neary said. “Bishop Kettler said, ‘Listen to those groups of people who feel alienated or judged or dismissed and welcome them.’”
As part of this process, Neary wants to bring people together and continue the collaboration between the clergy, religious and laity.
“The church does talk about the sense of the faithful, and it’s an important thing in the church; the Holy Spirit speaks to the faithful,” Neary said. “Pope Francis, by initiating the synodal process, opened a channel of communication and a font of wisdom I don’t think we were used to tapping into. Even in my parish in Portland, we have a very multi-racial student body, and we were able to have a listening session along the synod model. All the parents came, and we learned so much.”
Neary thanks the people he has met in the St. Cloud Diocese for their warmth and receptivity to their new bishop.
“I’ve received so many cards of support, love and prayer, and I felt so welcomed and loved that I feel uplifted by that,” Neary said. “I’m grateful Christ called me to this. The faithful people of this diocese, they’re just so grounded and humble and genuine, so I think it’s going to be a good fit for me.”