Pope Francis today accepted the resignation of Bishop John Kinney, 76, of the Diocese of Saint Cloud, and appointed as his replacement Bishop Donald Kettler, who until today had led the Fairbanks diocese.
“I am very pleased to be here, to be your bishop, and I hope I can do that task well … it's going to just really be a blessing for me to be here,” Bishop Kettler said Sept. 20 at a press conference introducing him to the people of Saint Cloud.
“Thank you for taking the time to be with me this morning,” he added.
Bishop Kettler's comments were focused on gratitude: he opened saying, “I'm so very pleased to be here; that's the number one and most important thing.”
He reflected that when he was asked 11 years ago by Blessed John Paul II to serve as Bishop of Fairbanks, “I said yes to that request, that invitation. Certainly fearfully, but also with a lot of gratitude.” He has said yes to Pope Francis to move to Saint Cloud again “gratefully, and with some trepidation of course.”
“But I say this because when the Holy Father calls you to this position, this ministry, we believe deeply that the Holy Spirit is actually working behind all of that. And because of that, why should we be afraid … the Holy Spirit is the one who's going to enable you to do all this work.”
Bishop Kettler said he enjoys being a pastor, “being out, meeting people” and forming relationships. “I like visiting parishes, I like visiting schools, nursing homes, retired people, that's what I've been about.”
Responding to the questions of journalists, Bishop Kettler added that he is impressed by the Saint Cloud diocese and “doesn't want to mess up anything,” but support and encourage initiatives already in the diocese. He mentioned his desire to foster evangelization, vocations, and life issues
Bishop Kettler wants to “get to know people first, and try to fit in where we can.”
Having led the Fairbanks diocese through bankruptcy proceedings in 2008 following sexual abuse claims which dated from the 1950s to early 1980s, he commented that the experience taught him “the value of listening” and hopes that it can help the Church to “become better healers for other things that come,” be it problems with addiction or economic insecurity.
Bishop Kettler said that regarding Minnesota's recent legalization of same-sex marriage, “I stand for and I endorse what the Church has said about same-sex marriage, both in the Catechism and the teaching of the Catholic conference of bishops, but that's not where I begin.”
He cited the importance of “forming relationships” first, before beginning difficult conversations on particular issues.
“I want to be a form-er of relationships,” Bishop Kettler explained.
He explained the importance of first establishing relationships, and that after having done that, conversations about specific moral issues can be developed. He also said it is important to remember that “the Church is for everyone” and that “everybody has a right to the presence of God and the Church for them.”
Bishop Kettler was born in Minneapolis in 1944, and grew up attending Catholic schools in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He then entered Crosier Seminary in Onamia, Minn., for the Diocese of Sioux Falls, and later studied at Saint John's University in Collegeville – both of which are located in the Saint Cloud diocese.
He was ordained a priest in 1970, and served at several parishes and as director of Sioux Falls' diocesan chancery and as judicial vicar. He obtained a licentiate in canon law from the Catholic University of America in 1983.
Bishop Kettler was consecrated as Bishop of Fairbanks in 2002, and served there 11 years until his appointment today. His Mass of installation will occur Nov. 7.
He takes over the governance of the Saint Cloud diocese from Bishop Kinney, who had led the diocese since 1995. The diocese covers over 12,000 square miles, and 24 percent of its population of 562,000 are Catholic.
Since Bishop Kettler's appointment renders the Diocese of Fairbanks vacant, Pope Francis also appointed Archbishop Roger Schwietz of Anchorage to be Fairbanks' apostolic administrator.
In addition, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Anthony Burgess of Wewak, in Papua New Guinea, who had turned 75 in July.