Bible and cross

Bishop John LeVoir and a delegation from the Diocese of New Ulm will depart for Rome on Jan. 10, returning Jan. 18, for an “ad limina apostolorum” visit to the Holy See, the Vatican.

Through the Office of the Bishop, the Catholic Church is connected to the universal church throughout the world. Every five years that connection is strengthened through a visit from the local bishop to the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. The Diocese is part of Region V in the U.S., which includes Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota.

The Diocese of New Ulm was established Nov. 18, 1957, carved off of the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis. The diocese is home to 53,000 Catholics. It comprises 15 counties in south and west central Minnesota and is one of the most rural diocese in the U.S. Currently we have 72 parishes, our Diocesan Plan for Parishes is suggesting 50 parishes in the near future. We have 18 pastors with 12 senior associate pastors.

The ad limina apostolorum — “to the tomb of the apostles” — visits are the meetings that groups of bishops from each ecclesiastical region in the world have with the pope every five years. On such occasions they also visit and celebrate Mass at the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul.

St. Peter's tomb is a site under St. Peter's Basilica that includes several graves and a structure said by Vatican authorities to have been built to memorialize the location of St. Peter's grave. St. Peter's tomb dates between about A.D. 130 and A.D. 300. St Paul's tomb is a site under St. Paul’s Basilica. The tomb dates back to at least A.D. 390.

Before meeting the pope, the bishops from the region will visit all the Vatican dicasteries (offices of the Holy See) and possibly schedule personal meetings with the head of each dicastery to discuss topics such as the state of the Diocese, decreasing population in rural Minnesota, consolidation of parishes, “Chapter 11,” steps taken for greater supervision of diocesan personnel and priests, evangelization and goals for the coming five years.

During such visits, bishops' conferences prepare exhaustive reports for each dicastery, describing the status of the Church in the country or region. The meeting of the bishops with the pope includes an exchange of speeches: The president of the bishops’ conference delivers a speech to describe the state of the region, and the pope delivers a speech in his turn that provides pastoral recommendations and priorities.

After the exchange of speeches, the pope holds a short conversation with each bishop individually. Since the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has chosen a format of an open conversation with the whole group of bishops. All of them are allowed to ask questions, and the pope responds off the cuff.

Pope Francis has made an additional, recent change: The bishops now have a meeting presided over by Pope Francis with many heads of the Vatican dicasteries.

The visit is filled with a great amount of preparation and work. It also includes a time of prayer and visiting of the sites of Rome. The Diocese of New Ulm is looking forward to direction and revitalization from this “ad limina apostolorum” to Rome.

The Rev. Paul Wolf is pastor at St. Anastasia Catholic Church in Hutchinson and St. Boniface Catholic Church in Stewart.

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