Day One at the Bishops’ Meeting
Ritual is something that Catholics are particularly good at and it should come as no surprise that even our twice yearly meeting take on certain aspects of ritual. It takes about an hour and fifteen minutes of ritual for the bishops to get down to business. After the introductions of the new bishops named since our last meeting, the retired bishops who still come to the meetings even though they have no vote (they do have voice, however), the reading of a message sent to the Holy Father and addresses from the National Advisory Council (something like a Pastoral Council for the Church in the United States), the President of the USCCB and the papal nuncio to the United States, it is only after the morning coffee break that ritual ends and the true work of the meeting begins.
I do wish to note, however, that our Conference President serving his first year of a three year term, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, gave a masterful, carefully nuanced address on the reality of post-election life in the United States. I will have more to write on this tomorrow when I have his text in front of me.
The first morning finds most all of the “action items” to be voted on during the meeting being presented, not for debate but for questions which might assist the membership should they wish to amend the proposed action. We have until five p.m. tonight to submit amendments for the consideration of the sponsoring committee and I have known said committees to work long after midnight handling amendments which come in on the first day.
We do not have a lot of action items on our agenda and this year’s meeting is going to end in two and one-half days. Sometimes it is beginning to seem like it might not be worth the expense of traveling to these meetings any more.
It is always good to see old friends among the bishops and about half remember my eleven years of service to the Conference which is now more than thirteen years ago. Many of the bishops I served are now with the Lord and a new group is assembled every time we meet. It is fun getting to know them.
I spent my afternoon in a workshop dealing with encouraging vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. We concelebrated Eucharist here at the hotel at 5:30 p.m. and I took our own Father David Toups out to dinner. He is in his second year of working for the Bishops’ Conference and his efforts are admired and appreciated by many, many bishops. Time for bed now. Tomorrow we will start to vote on the matters before us and we should be finished by noon on Wednesday and I will head home.