Bishop's Column

From our Ranks, Fargo Receives a Faithful Servant of the Gospel

Monday, April 8, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, was a high point of the Easter season for me, and the Diocese of Lincoln. As we marked the transferred Solemnity of the Annunciation, we celebrated the appointment of our seminary rector, my friend Monsignor John Folda, as the ninth Bishop of Fargo, North Dakota.

Bishop Bruskewitz and I traveled to St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward early in the morning on the 8th to offer Holy Mass for the solemn Marian feast and to "announce" the great news to the seminarians. We looked forward to their rector’s elevation to the episcopate, as we honored the Blessed Virgin’s courageous "fiat" – her yes to God.

I thought it was quite fitting to celebrate the Annunciation with the seminarians. Like Christ’s holy Mother, these brave men have said "yes" to God’s will, allowing themselves to be set apart for a sacred purpose.

Monsignor Folda’s appointment as a bishop added further significance to the day, causing me to reflect on the ways in which we should imitate the Archangel Gabriel. The archangel’s appearance to Mary teaches us to be bold and fearless in our announcement of Jesus and his Kingdom.

I am sure Bishop-elect Folda will take this lesson to heart and always remember that special day, as he takes up his new mission to preach the Gospel in Fargo.

It is not easy to say goodbye to our seminary rector, who has done so much for the Church in Lincoln. A priest of the diocese for nearly more than a quarter of a century, Bishop-elect Folda has guided the work of St. Gregory the Great Seminary since 1999. Our seminary’s strong and stellar reputation is due, in no small part, to his dedicated work.

Bishop Bruskewitz chose wisely in appointing him as rector, and our Holy Father Pope Francis has done likewise in naming him a bishop. I have no doubt he is the right choice to continue Archbishop Aquila’s legacy in Fargo.

I value Bishop-elect Folda’s work here, and I treasure his friendship. Though I came to Lincoln late in his career as rector, I have known Fargo’s future bishop personally for more than 20 years. We have vacationed together with other brother priests over the years and so his departure is bittersweet. I hosted a reception for Bishop-elect Folda at my home for his family and close friends the day after he returned from Fargo, and the outpouring of love and affection for him was a marvel to behold.

At the same time, I eagerly anticipate the day when I will greet my longtime friend as my brother bishop. And I know our loss will be a great gain for the faithful in North Dakota, and the whole Church.

We should all pray for our outgoing seminary rector, as he prepares to join the episcopate as a Successor to the Apostles and take possession of the See of Fargo. We can thank him for his good work here in Lincoln by asking God to bless and strengthen him for his new his new responsibilities as the Shepherd of Fargo.

I pray, in a particular way, that Bishop-elect Folda will be guided by the prayers of St. Gregory the Great, the sixth-century Pope and Doctor of the Church who is our seminary’s patron saint.

St. Gregory taught that a pastor’s first task is to live the Gospel of Christ, so that others may learn from his example as well as his words.

Gregory was also the first Pope to use the title "Servant of the Servants of God" – a term which applies to each bishop in his diocese, just as it does to the Pope in the universal Church. 

As Bishop-elect Folda leaves St. Gregory the Great Seminary, I pray that he will follow the example of its holy and humble patron. Through the prayers of St. Gregory himself, I trust that he will.

As our seminary nears the end of its academic year, we look forward to a new year under the guidance of a new rector. In the coming weeks, we will seek a worthy successor to carry on Bishop-elect Folda’s work. Please pray for me as I discern this most important appointment.

At the same time, we will also be looking for new applicants to train and form for the priesthood at St. Gregory the Great beginning in August 2013. This will be my first year to welcome a new class of seminarians, and I am looking forward to it – especially during this special Year of Faith!

Our seminary is accepting applications from now until July 15. As we look to the beginning of the next academic year, I want to encourage discernment and openness to God’s will among the young men in our diocese, as well as their family and friends.

We shouldn’t hesitate to speak with good and eligible Catholic men about the priesthood, encouraging them to ask God – and our vocations office – for guidance. This is part of what the New Evangelization is all about. We all have a role to play!

Likewise, any man who thinks he might be called to the priesthood, should consider himself called at least to make that initial inquiry. God will honor and bless this effort to seek his will.

The Diocese of Lincoln has the distinction of having the highest number of seminarians per Catholic in the United States. Let’s build upon that strength and take it the next level! There is still so much work to be done in the Lord’s vineyard.

Each of us has a "vocation," a role in God’s plan. We are all messengers of the Gospel. But some men are meant to bear the message of salvation in a special way.

Are you one? Or do you know one? If you think so, do not be afraid, like Mary and Bishop-elect Folda, to courageously say: "Yes."

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