Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Nov. 5, 2001

Newly installed New Ulm Diocese Bishop Nienstedt visits Winsted

By Ryan Gueningsman

Bishop John C. Nienstedt visited students, staff and parishioners of Holy Trinity Thursday.

This visit marks the second visit of the newly installed bishop to the area.

While at the school, he took time to personally visit with each grade level in the high school, doing a question and answer session with each class, and allowing people to get to know him better.

Bishop Nienstedt is originally from Detroit, Michigan, and had what he calls "a typical Catholic childhood" growing up.

"I was born to Catholic parents, and grew up in a household with three girls and three boys, and we did a lot of things together, went to church together every Sunday, and we all went to the parish school," said Bishop Nienstedt in an interview.

"After high school, I decided to go into the seminary, because, honestly I wanted to be a priest all my life."

Following four years in the seminary, and after making many good friends, he was chosen to go to Rome for four years to do his studies there.

"The four years in Rome were great. I made good friends, and interestingly enough, when you're in Rome, you're cut off completely from everything from before ­ not only from family and friends, but you're cut off from the language. Culturally it's all different, so it's quite a different experience. The community really becomes your family. I really enjoyed my four years there," said Bishop Nienstedt.

Following his time in Rome, he worked as a deacon for a year in Michigan, and was ordained a priest in 1974.

He served a few small towns in the area holding several different positions.

The cardinal of where he was located at the time told him to go back to college and get his Masters degree, and following that, Nienstedt was offered a job as secretary for the cardinal.

"I was his secretary for four years, and he was a cardinal in the church. I think he was the smartest man I've ever met. I admired him completely, and he took me to Rome for the election of Pope John Paul I and John Paul II, so I was there for both of those, and that was a great experience," said Bishop Nienstedt. "A year later, I was invited to come back to Rome and work for five years.

"Over those years, probably a dozen times, I was speaker for the Holy Father in Saint Peter's Square. At the general audience, I would make the announcements there.

"A year after we were there, we were invited up to his apartment to have lunch with him one day, and that was kind of neat."

Now that he is in our area, and serving the Diocese of New Ulm, Bishop Nienstedt hopes to take a year to travel the diocese, and get to know the priests and people.

The main thing Bishop Nienstedt is focused on, to begin with, is getting young people to think of the religious life.

"I believe that every diocese should be united in faith, hope, and love, and I think that's going to be another strong emphasis of mine. When I became a bishop, I was asked to choose a motto, and I chose 'That all might be one,'" said Bishop Nienstedt.

Following the events of Sept. 11, the bishop feels the reaction and the return to church has been phenomenal.

"Lots of people are going to church, and some are forming prayer groups, and doing things like that. It seems like people are looking for some kind of help, some kind of answer to this tragic event," said Bishop Nienstedt.

As far as the community of Winsted itself, Bishop Nienstedt feels that it is in a beautiful location.

"I was overwhelmed the first time I saw it, sitting by the lake and all that. I drove through the town today, and it's a lovely old town, with nice shops and everything. I haven't seen a lot of it yet ­ but what I have, I really like," said Bishop Nienstedt.

"I'm also looking forward to experiencing Winstock. I'll make a point of making that. I was very impressed, from what Father Paul told me about it, and apparently it's a great money raiser. People have a good time, too, I guess. I think it's pretty awesome ­ I look forward to doing that."

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