SIOUX CITY | As snow fell outside his office Tuesday, Bishop R. Walker Nickless remarked that the cold, snowy weather reminded him of the day he was ordained bishop of the Diocese of Sioux City.
There were concerns whether his parents and siblings would be able to get to Sioux City in time. The weather held, and everyone was able to make it and witness the ordination and celebration.
On Wednesday, Nickless celebrated the 10th anniversary of his ordination and 10 years of leading the Catholic faithful in Northwest Iowa.
On Nov. 10, 2005, Nickless, a Denver native, was named the seventh bishop in the diocese's 114-year history, succeeding Bishop Daniel DiNardo (since elevated to cardinal), who had been appointed bishop in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
Two months later, on Jan. 20, 2006, Nickless was ordained at Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ Church in Sioux City.
On Tuesday, Nickless sat down for an interview with the Journal, reflected on his experiences in the past 10 years and looked forward to challenges the diocese will face in the future. A portion of that interview follows. The full interview can be heard at siouxcityjournal.com.
Q: How would you sum up your 10 years as bishop?
A: It's been a ride. It's been an adventure. It's been a grace. Some bishops get the opportunity to be an auxiliary bishop, an assistant bishop before they become the bishop of a diocese. I never had that chance. I went right from being a pastor at a parish in Lakewood, Colorado, to being bishop. There's no real training than on-the-job training, and you learn by doing. ... I look over the 10 years and I see a lot of changes, hopefully good, in the Diocese of Sioux City. I'm so much more comfortable.
Q: What's been the most rewarding part?
A: There's been many blessings in visiting the parishes throughout the diocese. I especially like the school visits. ... I love to go to the schools. I always wanted to be a pastor with a school because of the children, the parents, the activities are so exciting. ... I truly enjoy being with the young people in the parishes when I confirm them, giving them the sacrament of confirmation.
Q: Has Sioux City become home now?
A: It has. Especially when I go back to Denver and see the traffic and the huge amount of people and the consternation of getting anywhere, it's a blessing to be back in Iowa and Sioux City. It's perfect for me. I love being here because it's just the right kind of place for me.
Q: Moving forward, what are the main issues facing the diocese that you'll be dealing with?
A: Some of the difficult things are, first of all, the changing demographics of Iowa. We all know that our population is steady if not declining and that includes Catholics and obviously the implications for the future about difficult decisions about what parishes and churches can we keep open, which do we need to consolidate, what do we need to do to make sure that our priests do not get overworked and the people get served. We're in the midst of a pastoral planning project right now that will take us to 2025 to look to the future, to see what we need to do and make the necessary changes and adjustments along the way. I'm worried about that. Nobody likes to change, and it's going to be a difficult several years as we put the plan into place, but I hope with positive aspects because we're trying to make viable, exciting Catholic parishes and communities, and we're going to try to do our best to make that happen.
Q: Probably the most important question: As a Denver native and probably one of the biggest Bronco fans in Sioux City, are they going to win Sunday and go on to win the Super Bowl?
A: Absolutely, and I'm glad that I'm converting a lot of Siouxlanders to be with the Denver Broncos. Everywhere I go, I notice people that have the orange Bronco paraphernalia on, and I'm always complimenting them for that.