The Rev. R. Walker Nickless, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sioux City, spoke to the Greater Sioux City Press Club over lunch on Friday. It was an informal conversation that ranged widely, from his enjoyment of gardening and yard work to the church's views on human sexuality.
Nickless, the oldest of 10 children, left his native Denver earlier this year and was installed on Jan. 20 as Sioux City's seventh bishop. Prior to that, he served in a number of roles, all in the Archdiocese of Denver, most recently as its vicar general.
Nickless laughed as he remembered his surprise at being named a bishop and at being assigned to Iowa, which he had never visited. "I got three or four packs of long underwear," he confessed, "but I haven't had to use them.
"He said he has visited nearly every school and every corner of the diocese and recently met with all 125 priests for the first time.
Nickless said he has been moved by the "vibrant faith, openness and goodness of the people here" and that he was excited to see the enthusiasm of 800 Catholic youth at a recent gathering in Le Mars. "That, to me, is a real sign of vitality and growth." At the same time, he said, special attention must be given to the elderly faithful.
He said raising up new priests is a real need and noted that the vocation must be suggested to boys who may be hearing the call, but aren't sure about it. The bishop said priests come from healthy Catholic families and that boys "need to see happy priests. We've had so much bad publicity."
Nickless was asked why services in Spanish are not offered regularly in other Sioux City churches, but only at the cathedral, where Hispanics are assigned and make up 41 percent of the congregation. He acknowledged that "people must pray in their own language" and called the Hispanic members "a great asset to the church." The biggest challenge, he said, is finding enough Spainish-speaking priests.
In general remarks, the bishop said he is open to new ideas, new ways of doing things and new faces around him. [...snip] Sioux City Journal