BAND OF BROTHERS
It is Monday afternoon and the bishops of Florida have just finished their quarterly meeting of The Florida Catholic Conference. The seven diocesan bishops and one auxiliary bishop (Bishop Felipe Estevez, Auxiliary Bishop of Miami is in his native Cuba for the ceremony of beatification of that nation’s newest “Blessed”, Brother Jose Olallo Valdes) met for three hours to discuss matters of mutual concern which affect our lives in Florida. The agenda is usually quite full and our chair, Archbishop Favalora pushes us to complete our work expeditiously. The “talky” bishop of St. Petersburg is usually his special challenge at these meetings.
The Florida Catholic Conference is our office in Tallahassee which relates to state government and represents the seven dioceses on the life and death issues, social concerns for the poor and the elderly, on matters relating to health care in the state and on education. We are wonderfully served by our Executive Director, Dr. Michael McCarron and his very professional staff. Every time the legislature gathers, one or more of these issues about which we as a Church have a strong and/or vested interest will come up and the Conference speaks for and represents us. At this meeting we approved public policy statements on abortion and Catholic Education which will be released in coming weeks. We planned for the annual Red Mass in Tallahassee on March 11, 2009 and discussed three hours worth of issues.
But the best part of these gatherings occurs when the band of bishop brothers gathers more informally to discuss our own lives and our own ministry. I learn from my brother bishops what works and what does not work in their dioceses, new initiatives, and sometimes even the heartache of seeming failure. Archbishop Favalora has been particularly a gift to me in his seeing that we gather in fraternity and mutual support and I think my brother bishops would say the same thing. We are very faithful in attending, participating and praying as well as relaxing during these usually two nights and one day gatherings. Sometimes only bishops can appreciate the burdens of bishops and most of the time we need one another to keep both our senses of perspective and humor.