ST. CLOUD (WJON News) - Bishop Neary is ready to celebrate not only his first Easter in St. Cloud but also his first as a Bishop. Since his ordination mass in February, Neary has been busy getting to know the details of his new job and the people of the diocese.

Looking back at the last year, he says he couldn’t have imagined the role he has now just a year ago. In fact, many of his close friends and co-workers probably knew about his consideration before he did. Last summer, several parish priests and office workers received a confidential questionnaire from the Papal office asking about Neary’s work ethic, values, and personality.

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Bishop Kettler, the previous Bishop of the St. Cloud Diocese, submitted his resignation on his 75th birthday, in accordance with the rules of the church, and has waited for the Pope to announce a replacement.

Bishop Neary says he thought the calls from the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington, D.C., were spam calls and blocked the number.

His Excellency Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio, eventually reached out to another bishop in Florida with ties to Neary to make contact.

His appointment was announced in Rome on December 15th, and he was ordained in St. Cloud on February 14th. He says it’s been a whirlwind few months.

St. Cloud is an amazing town. It reminds me of a town like South Bend, Indiana, almost the same size. But I'm amazed at how vibrant it is; how much retail is available. I like the look of it. I like the feel of it. I like that it's so close to St. John's University in Collegeville, the College of St. Benedict, the School of Theology, and even St. Cloud State.

He says he’s most comfortable in the rural parts of the diocese.

I grew up in LaPorte, Indiana, which is about 22,000 people, mostly a town with factories and industry, but surrounded by farms. So a number of kids I went to school with in my grade school were farm kids. I'm familiar with the rural vibe, and I kind of like it. It's just more laid back. It's more rooted in nature and animals, and everything that goes into a farm. So I think there's something healthy about that. And so beautiful, that I love it.

A history major in college, he enjoys learning about the history of the small towns in the diocese. He has used fish fry’s as an excuse to visit parishes as far away as Fergus Falls.

Bishop Neary says he sees himself as the ‘face of the church’ in the area, but believes he’s been charged with stewarding the entire community, regardless of their faith.

So for me, can I put a positive face on the church, a friendly face, a welcoming, warm face, and be open to people of all faith traditions, I think that's one thing as a shepherd, not just of the Catholic Church, but in a sense, praying for the spiritual welfare of everyone in my diocese. I feel like a shepherd for all of them. I see myself in the sense of spiritual Shepherd, even of those who are not Catholic but live here. And that's just for me to pray for them and be concerned for their welfare and to stand up for their rights when they're violated. But I want to be a joyful face of the church for the community here.

Originally from La Porte, Indiana, Neary was previously the parish priest at Holy Redeemer Church in Portland, Oregon.



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