In the Heartland With Bishop Pates: A Heart Filled With Gratitude

by Bishop Pates | August 21, 2019

Bishop Richard Pates

My good friends,

As  I experience the waning days of my service as Bishop of Des Moines, my heart overflows with gratitude for the endless blessings I have received during my service with you, the faithful of this diocese.  In the struggle to adequately express my sentiments, the simplicity of thank you perhaps best conveys the authenticity of my feelings.

When I first undertook my ministry here in May, 2008, at the behest of Pope Benedict XVI, the two individuals whom I had familiarity with were Bishop Joseph Charron and Monsignor Stephen Orr.  Since then, I have been privileged to come to enjoy friendship, ministry, and service with you, the Church of Des Moines, whose numbers in the most recent analysis now stand at 165,000 souls or 19% of the population of southwest Iowa.

Quickly, I became an Iowan by choice. It is stabilizing to identify with the classic Iowan, grounded in common sense faith who is neighborly and whose character is embedded in “Iowa nice.” At the same time, I feel fortunate to be a part of the legacy of Bishop Maurice Dingman, Gov. Robert Ray and Ambassador Kenneth Quinn who witnessed to the world that Iowa also means openness of hearts and doors to those fleeing for their lives, fleeing from oppression.

And thus, it is the hybrid nature of the contemporary Iowan that I also cherish.  We now share the journey with the Vietnamese, Cambodians, South Sudanese, Eritreans, Burmese, Mexicans and others from Central and South America and other countries, as well as our priests from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Sudan, Columbia, El Salvador, Mexico and India.  They have embraced our faith, our culture and enriched it immeasurably by integrating their remarkable personal gifts, culture and can-do spirit.  Together, we are about our mission of making Jesus Christ known and loved in our times by how we choose to live together in his name.

As I return to Minnesota I will do so as a missionary.  It will be a challenge to share the character of me, a converted Iowan, with the folks to the north.  Admittedly, I anticipate a bit of a struggle when it comes to whom to cheer for in the Hawkeye-Gopher contests.

People often scoff when I tell them that as a residential bishop my boss is the Pope.  In this arrangement, I have happily served under St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis.  I also readily concede that an annual “job evaluation” was not conducted by the foregoing.  It came as a total surprise to me, that one day in the course of opening the mail I came upon a letter from Pope Francis congratulating me on the 50th anniversary of my ordination as a priest.  The authenticity of the letter is guaranteed by his now famous miniscule signature and the embossed seal of his pontificate.  I share it with all in the diocese because he instructs me to solicit your prayers on his behalf and sends his specific greetings to those in our diocesan community.  As you might well surmise, it was also a consolation to me.  I am grateful to Monsignor Larry Beeson for the translation from Latin to English.


To my Venerable Brother

Richard Edmund Pates

Bishop of Des Moines

We are attentive to all of the Pastors of the world, by whose help we are able to enjoy heavenly favor, now to you in a singular way, Venerable Brother, we wish to express our benevolence toward you because on the twentieth of this month of December, you will celebrate the Golden Jubilee of your priesthood, and, looking at the exercise of your pastoral zeal, by this letter we wish to congratulate you and to display he value of your works, including the excellence of your apostolic zeal.

For in your ministry, we judge that you were solicitous for the spiritual good of all those fellow believers in your care announcing with diligence the doctrine and heart of the Gospel, by the grace of which the Bishop knew you to be an excellent and prudent priest when you first began to work in The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in Minnesota, in which presbyterate you have gone forth. Considering your gifts and merits, it pleased St. John Paul II in the year 2000 to name you Bishop and give you the title of Bishop of Suacinesem and Auxiliary of St. Paul and Minneapolis, in Minnesota from which work Benedict XVI, our illustrious predecessor, transferred you to the ecclesial community of Des Moines in the year 2008, where you still continue as Pastor.

We cannot fail to mention the works in the great areas of education, evangelization, and the fostering of justice and peace, which you also carried out excellently in the Conference of Bishops of the United States of America. From the great efforts that you make, we see that you truly share an exceptional sense of ministry. We are pleased to remember all things, which in these passing years made your ministry a mirror of Our Lord’s gentleness and spirit in persistently caring for the necessities of the clergy and people of God.

Receive, therefore, Venerable Brother, our congratulations, while we invoke the Lord, who rendering your anniversary day most joyful, grant to you, that, walking faithfully in the truth of the gospel, you may feel Christ present and through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, you may always turn toward his grace and mercy in the difficult work of charity.

We desire finally to bestow our Apostolic Blessing, which we extend to you, to those who are around you, to the sons and daughters of the flock in Des Moines and to all those participating in the celebration of the jubilee and also to those you hold dear in your heart. It is to be communicated, we earnestly ask they pray, so that we might fulfill our Petrine ministry diligently and wisely.

From the Vatican offices, November 27, 2018, the sixth year of our Pontificate.


Bishop Pates

Since his installation on May 29, 2008, Bishop Pates' priorities have been to build up an inviting vocation culture, reach out to newcomers and the Spanish-speaking community, educate and experience evangelization, and to engage youth and young adults as vibrant and valued members of the faith community.