Posts Tagged ‘Archbishop Timothy Dolan’

500th “ANNIVERSARY”

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Typing this 500th blog entry.

This is the 500th “anniversary” of the beginning of this blog, FOR HIS FRIENDS. “Anniversary” is in quotation marks because obviously the blog is not 500 years old but the server which handles this blog informed me that this would be the 500th entry since my first offering in October of 2008. I have been reflecting on this in recent days and thought I would dedicate the “anniversary’ post to what has been, is now, and is to come.

Three things drove me to consider beginning to write a blog. First was the decision to leave the family of the Florida Catholic. As Bishop of St. Petersburg I had at my disposal two ways of communicating with the people of the diocese: my occasional column in the Florida Catholic entitled “Out of the Ordinary” and a five minute spot daily on SPIRIT-FM, the diocesan radio station which we called “On the Air with Bishop Lynch.” In the early days, when I was a lot younger and far more energetic, meeting the weekly deadlines for the paper and recording two weeks of five minute radio programs with Mary Jo Murphy were relatively easy. In the latter case she would pick the topics and I would talk non-stop for five minutes whether I knew much about the subject or not. As time wore on, I sort of wore out. The deadlines for the paper and the recording sessions for the radio program became burdensome. By way of parenthesis, I am an avid listener on SIRIUS/XM radio to Archbishop Dolan’s weekly one hour program entitled “A Conversation with the Archbishop.” Though he probably would not admit it I can tell that there is already some stress in scheduling the time for recording his show and there are now many more “Best of Archbishop Dolan” than originally. I feel his pain.

While I was growing weary I became acquainted for the first time with two places in the “blogosphere”, a place where I had never dared to venture. The first was the “mother of all ecclesial blogs” called Whispers in the Loggia. Every day would conclude with a visit to Whispers where I learned not only things which were about to happen but a very reasonable interpretation of things that had happened. Rocco Palmo, the author of “Whispers” wrote only when he had something to say and did not have to meet deadlines or expectations (I sense life has gotten worse for him as well as he sometimes apologizes for not posting anything for several days). I like to write and I thought to myself, I could do that and only when I want and when I have something I want to share. The second blog to which I was hooked and still am is radically different from the first. Albert VanSchoonderbeek is the Master or Captain of a Holland America Cruise Line ship and for the three months in which he is on duty, he writes an entry in Captain Albert’s Blog each day about life in charge of a vessel. It has lots of nautical information in it which always intrigues me and through his eyes, I feel I have visited almost all of the great ports, oceans, and seas of the world. I don’t know how he does it every day he is on board but he does and I love it. I thought to myself, lots of people might like to know what it is like to be a bishop in today’s Church. Both fountains gave birth to this child. It also helped to have in our employ an incredibly gifted young man, Walter Pruchnik, who worked with the server and was forever at the end of a phone call from me which began with “help.” Walter left diocesan employment and is now in the formation program for the Congregation of  Holy Cross. His place has been taken by Maria Mertens who is also a gift in this endeavor.

I know I will never be a saint recognized by the Church and do not deserve such. But when a bishop writes as much as I have written, there is a lifetime of “fodder” for a devil’s advocate. Initially I received a lot of comments but when it became clear that this blog was to be a positive place and not another source within the Church for disputatiousness, calumny, slander, internecine warfare within the Church, the comment opportunity is now utilized mainly by people who express their gratitude, support, and occasionally a proper correction. It was a good decision to keep the comments private. Today’s Church does not need another outlet for complaints and criticism.

Most of what I write about pertains to our situation in this diocese and does not have national interest. One blog entry on the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin made it into Origins and other Catholic publications and a number have been used by other authors in the blogosphere, including the “mother of all ecclesial blogs.” I write for the people I love and serve and not for a larger constituency.

There has been a lot of affirmation along the way and I know that many people of different ages read the blog. We have a limited access to information on the number of hits, how often and how long they stay on, and where they are from. All encourage me to keep at it. I find writing cathartic but only when I am in the mood. Thus, a blog which has no deadlines and sets no demands is perfect for me. There have been 1138 days since my first blog entry in 2008 and today marks the 500th entry so the well is not running dry, yet. Tomorrow there will be a posting about my Mass with judges and attorneys in Tampa this noon but today I am merely waltzing through 500 posts. Thank you to the readers, thanks to the inspirers, thanks also to my colleagues in IT over the last three years. But the greatest thanks are reserved today to you wonderful people of the diocese wh0 are often the inspiration for these random thoughts about life in our Church today. It is a great Church. It is a great diocese. It is great to be your bishop. Now it is on to 1000.

+RNL

USCCB FALL MEETING, DAY ONE

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Archbishop Dolan speaking at the Catholic Foundation Dinner in Tampa in 2009.

Who says AMTRAK can’t rise above its reputation once in a while. The “Silver Meteor” from Orlando with myself on board made a truly meteoric run from Orlando to Baltimore arriving in this city thirty minutes early this morning and allowing me to be present for the start of this year’s annual meeting about which I wrote yesterday. Whatever inhibitions or doubts I had about making the trip were somewhat and quickly erased by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York’s first presidential address to his brother bishops. It was what I have been waiting a long time in this Assembly to hear, a call to get back to inviting people back to Church. I strong suggest that you read the text in its entirely by clicking here. With his customary wit and command of history, Archbishop Dolan squarely confronted the reality that as a Church we have been losing membership and suggested that our task as bishops is to go “fishing” to win them back and bring others in. One might say, well what else is new but for a number of years we have focused on our disagreements and disputes and little time and attention has been given to what Blessed Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI term “the new evangelization.” Any effort to recover ground and membership must begin with an admission that the Church, the bride of Christ is not always beautiful and at times it and we bishops sin. He captured the ground work necessary for a successful evangelization effort very well, I felt.  It buoyed my spirits and my brothers gave him once again a long affirmation through a standing ovation, often reserved for any President’s last address at the end of his term and less frequently for one’s first attempt. He concludes his first year in office with a classic Archbishop Dolan talk delivered in his own inimitable style. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed listening to it.

Archbishop Vigano's photo from Google Images

Also speaking to us for the first time was our new nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano who arrived to begin his ministry of service in this country only last Saturday. Recalling his personal loss of a good friend of forty years in our recently deceased nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Archbishop Vigano promised to work with the bishops of this nation in building a stronger Church. He was warm, measured as any diplomat always must be, and greeted with the respect that is due his office. He will now resume the process of seeking new bishops for service in the many dioceses of the United States. At one time the United States was the second largest hierarchy in the world, behind Brazil and Italy was also a large national Church. The role of the papal nuncio is an important one as he represents the Holy Father and the Holy See to the government of the United States as well as the Organization of American States which is also located in Washington, D.C. With just shy of 190 dioceses and eparchies (the Eastern Rite name for dioceses), many of which have auxiliary bishops,just keeping up with the inner-Church workings is a major task. We wish Archbishop Vigano well in his mission and will pray for him.

The morning ended with a long address by Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport on the erosion of religious liberty in our beloved nation. He heads a new Ad Hoc Committee to help the Church in the US respond aggressively and effectively to this new reality.

Our agenda was indeed so light that the afternoon session came to an end approximately forty-five minutes before the scheduled conclusion. There just is not that much happening in our conference these days. We still managed to raise our assessment in support of the USCCB by three percent, however. One interesting matter which was dealt with in an introductory fashion this morning by Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, chair of the Committee on National Collections, is a new document on how these collections should be treated by the dioceses. It may generate some lukewarm heat tomorrow when it is presented for final consideration. In Florida, it is true that the Diocese of St. Petersburg is the third largest diocese in the state (we used to be second) behind the Archdiocese of Miami and the Diocese of Orlando yet, in all but one collection, it raises and remits significantly more in the national collections than either of its two larger (arch)dioceses. One has to wonder and I have been wondering for fifteen and a half years now.

There was a general reception for the new Apostolic Nuncio to the United States following the conclusion of the afternoon session and Archbishop Dolan has invited me to join the Nuncio and a few others for dinner this evening. For this one member, the highlights of the sessions today were Archbishop Dolan’s talk and getting to know the Holy Father’s new representative to our country. Tomorrow we should be done by noon with our public business and executive session will begin and perhaps end tomorrow afternoon. These meetings use to consume three and one half days.

Finally, today is the anniversary of the death of my mentor and friend, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago. He was a true “prince” of a man and I and this conference still miss him.  Those of you who were present for my ordination and installation as a bishop may recall that he preached the homily on that occasion although already in great discomfort from his cancer and broken ribs. Every year after the Chrism Mass, I replay the disc of his homily and remind myself that his counsel to me at the time was to always be myself in the service of others. He died fifteen years ago today, eight and one half months after being present in our Cathedral of St. Jude at the age of 68. Even in death he still suffers from occasional slings of outrageous revisionist history at the hands of some but the people of Chicago still love him in death.

All for now from the inner workings of the bishops’ conference on the banks of the Inner Harbor of Baltimore, the first diocese in the United States.

 

+RNL

SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

My brother bishops trying to stay awake at times. Photo furtively taken by me.

Today (Wednesday) is the first full day of the Spring meeting of the United States Conference of Bishops and we are in Seattle this year (Atlanta next year in June, then San Diego, then New Orleans). I had a ten hour meeting yesterday involving Catholic Relief Services and find that I am falling asleep around 830pm every night and waking up around 430am. I am not unhappy with that since I hope to somehow “trick” my b0dy into thinking it is still operating on Eastern Daylight Time for my return trip early on Friday morning (a 545am departure).

There are about 200 bishops present for the Spring meeting and the weather has been, well rainy, what else? We are not exactly meeting in Seattle but in a suburb called Bellevue which is the home of Microsoft. Lots of tall buildings, high end shopping stores, and not a McDonalds in sight. There is no view of Puget Sound to be had from Bellevue and no view of Mt. Ranier which has not been available since I arrived from any vantage point due to the very cloudy and overcast weather. So what else is there to do but sit in a meeting room, listen intently and look at one’s watch for the next break.

We passed a few items this morning which did not allow for amendments and listened to some oral reports. One of the more interesting was led by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, who has been appointed to work with communities of Episcopalians in the United States who wish as a congregation, including their priests, to come over to the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Benedict has reached out to these communities and their priests and will allow them to come into full communion, their priests to be ordained as deacons and priests and they can bring with them the treasured aspects of what is called the “Anglican Rite.” I listened with interest even though I know of no such movement of any parishes or communities in the Diocese of St. Petersburg wishing to come over.

There is one more hour of public session tomorrow and then we dive into the rest of the day in Executive Session which means I will not reveal any of the discussions which take place under that rubric. Overall it is a light agenda and to have come such a long way. Tonight I am invited to a farewell dinner for the departing General Secretary of the Conference, Monsignor David Malloy who will be returning to his home Archdiocese of Milwaukee after completing five years as the chief operating officer of the episcopal conference. Monsignor Malloy is the fourth occupant of that position since my own departure in 1995 (the term is for five years and it can be renewed as it was in my case but annually after five). It is customary that there is a dinner for the departing GS and all living former General Secretaries are invited. By my count there are exactly six of us remaining on this mortal coil. Monsignor Malloy has a priest brother who is residing and working in our diocese as a Chaplain at Bay Pines Veteran’s Hospital, Father Frank Malloy. His successor was elected last November and will assume office on Friday with the closing gavel of this meeting.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, our new President, is chairing quite efficiently and we are considerably ahead of our meeting agenda’s schedule going into the Executive Session.

So from the shadow of the Cascade Mountain range, greetings to all back home, leave the light on as I will return on Friday.

+RNL

PROPHECY

Monday, October 4th, 2010
Division Championship Round +Lynch (426,000 Catholics) vs. +Vann/+Farrell (1,688,000 Catholics)
AL Championship Round +Lynch (426,000 Catholics) vs. +Dolan (2,577,000 Catholics)
World Series +Lynch (426,000 Catholics) vs. +Rigali (1,458,000 Catholics)
2010 World Champions +Lynch (426,000 Catholics)

Remember faithful ones: David vs. Goliath! But in the end +Dolan using his vast access to wealth will take our beloved Carl Crawford away from us so indeed he may end up winning “the rest of the story.”

+RNL

Update: Today at the convocation, I received a new miter, and I thought I’d share photos of it with you here.

Miter with Rays LogoNumber 1 Miter

VENERUNT, VIDERUNT, VICIMUS

Monday, June 21st, 2010

No, this is not a blog getting you ready for the coming changes in the texts we use at Mass! I am not even sure how much Latin I remember but I am playing off the words attributed to Julius Caesar after conquering Gaul, when he imperially pronounced Veni, Vidi, Vici or “I came, I saw, I conquered.” If I have the case endings correct in the title to this blog, what I meant to say in Latin, is “they came, they saw, we conquered.” The “they” are the bishops of the United States who came and spent the better part of last week with us.

"For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies..."

After some of them had been here a while and enjoyed the beauty of the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront and its parks, and the area’s finest gelateria on Beach Drive (four night average of 100 bishops a night prior to going to bed went to get an ice cream), they began to inquire about my health, how old I am, and who do they talk to about succeeding me. More than one referred to our city as “the last stop on the path to paradise.” I could not have been more proud.

The diocesan Worship Office assisted the national team in preparing morning and evening prayer, a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament, and an hour-long penance service plus the daily celebration of the Eucharist. Michelle Rego of old St. Mary’s arranged for the superb musicians and our seminarians served the Masses and helped as lectors at many of the liturgical services. I am proud of them all – boasting like a proud parent, “they’re mine.”

As I mentioned earlier in a blog, this was one of those special assemblies which we hold every four years (the next one will be in San Diego in 2014) and there was practically no business conducted. Thus, we were absent the media, the TV lights and cameras, the staff from Washington and the many observers who attend our business meetings. It was just us, wearing “civies”, enjoying both the topic and the fraternity.

The main speakers were outstanding. Archbishop Dolan began the week with a keynote address giving the history of relations between priests and bishops throughout the centuries. Archbishop Collins of Toronto spoke about the relationship of the spirituality of priests and bishops. Archbishop Carlson spoke of the role of bishop with his priests, father, brother or friend. Finally, Archbishop Niederauer of San Francisco spoke of the communion between bishops and priests. To each presentation there were respondents, table discussion and floor discussion. I liked what I heard and hope to incorporate much of it which may have been missing in my ministry as bishop in these remaining years.

On Saturday as we came to a close, more than one bishop came up to thank me, for the hospitality, the hotel and their meals, for the experience, for the weather (humidity and afternoon thunderstorms right on time between 3-5pm) and many said it was the best assembly yet. St. Petersburg conquered the misgivings about coming to Florida in June and what they saw when they came, they surely liked. It will be several generations before they return to the area again – it was only the second time in the history of the conference that they had come to Florida but we set the bar very high. Members of my diocesan family, priests, deacons, religious and laity would have been very proud. I know I was.

+RNL

THERE’S A PONY DOWN HERE SOMEWHERE

Monday, May 31st, 2010

There is an old story which probably most of you know about the kid feverishly shoveling his way through a huge and high pile of compost. When asked what in the world he/she was doing, the child replied, “with all this, there has to be a pony down here somewhere.” Today in Rome, the Holy See announced the expected pontifical visitation to the Church in Ireland in light of the horrendous revelations of sexual abuse of minors by priests, religious brothers and religious sisters which has devastated the faith in that country. Some must ask why now? Is it not too late? Is the horse not already out of the barn? Of course, it is never to late to confess one’s sins, personal and institutional, amend one’s life, personal or institutional , and agree to commit the sin no more, as a person or an institution. The Catholic Church in Ireland has basically asked the Holy Father, send us “good confessors” to whom we can confess our sins and who will guide us on reclaiming moral high ground we seem to have lost. The Apostolic Visitators to the four archdioceses in Ireland and to the dioceses are all from outside of Ireland but all have born the heat of the day in their own dioceses and can be good confessors to a Church seeking healing and redemption. From the United States, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston has been appointed by the Pope to perhaps the toughest of situations in the Archdiocese of Dublin and its related suffragan sees (ecclesiastical talk for the dioceses outside of Dublin which come under the loose supervision of the Archbishop of the capital city). At the same time as the whole Church in Ireland will be visited, there will also be a visitation to Ireland’s remaining seminaries led  by our Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York. Archbishop Dolan spoke last week at Ireland’s major remaining seminary, St. Patrick’s in Maynooth and I encourage all of you to take the time to read his lecture by clicking here. Quite frankly, I think he has found the pony! It is a great synthesis of how I think my priests have suffered but made it through the last decade here, in St. Petersburg. Archbishop Dolan’s talk is lengthy but illuminating.

The bishops of the United States, some 210 strong, will be assembling in St. Petersburg starting Monday, June 14, 2010 at the Vinoy Hotel. 212 bishops have registered for an “assembly” which we hold every four years. It is not a business meeting so the media and observers will not be attending. It is closed to all but bishops. It is relaxed and informal. It is something like five days of continuing education and this year the general theme is “the bishop and his priests.” Archbishop Dolan will give the keynote address on Monday night to start us off. It has been my special privilege to be a part of every committee planning the agenda and topics for these assemblies since I was made a bishop and I was chair of the committee which planned the Assembly held in Tucson, Arizona, in June of 1998. We always invite a cardinal from outside the United States to spend the days with us and deliver the homilies at morning and evening prayer throughout the days and at daily Mass, lead our Hly Hours, and our Reconciliation and Penance Service. This year, our “spiritual father” will be  Cardinal Peter Turkson who is from Ghana and was recently asked by Pope Benedict XVI to leave his archdiocese and come to Rome to head the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. I look forward to the Cardinal’s wisdom and insights into being a bishop in the Church and world today. He too will help us try and rediscover the “pony.” Our assemblies are  as I mentioned relaxed. Evenings can be spent in informal conversation with others, there are even new or relatively new movies which the Hollywood studios make available for bishops to see in the evening. If you happen to be in downtown St. Petersburg from Monday, June 14 through Saturday, June 19th and see a group of men in the evening walking through Straub or Vinoy Park, it will likely be some of us.

Relationships between bishops and priests is an important topic because it has changed for the worse since the sexual-abuse controversy of 2001 and following. In many places priests don’t trust their bishops any longer and are terrified that they will receive a call and be asked to come and see the bishop for fear it might be a complaint or something of that nature. Priests and bishops need to search together for the “pony” that remains down there somewhere, as it was before.

I ask your prayers for our Assembly which is being held in our diocese in two weeks. May it be five days of grace, wisdom and insight for those of us who have been asked to lead the Church at this moment in history.

+RNL

LAYING FOUNDATIONS FOR THE FUTURE

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Saturday night last (the 20th), the Catholic Foundation which has as its goal among other things providing tuition assistance to needy families so that their children can attend Catholic schools held its annual fund raising dinner at the Grand Hyatt in Tampa. 527 people were in attendance for the dinner.

Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York gives the principle address at the 2010 Catholic Foundation Gala

Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York gives the principle address at the 2010 Catholic Foundation Gala

The principal address was given by my friend, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York. I was h0nored that he would fly down here to be present on this important occasion on the eve of the First Sunday of Lent and his own archdiocese’s Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion later on Sunday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He spoke about the year of priests which has been declared by the Holy Father and the importance of Catholic schools in helping priests transmit the Gospel and make Jesus real and alive to our young people. The archbishop is a brilliant Church historian but in casual conversation and in formal presentations, he presents a wit and charm which makes all listeners see and hear a man of hope. He flew back right after his talk and I heard him at 1015am the next morning celebrating Mass and preaching at his St. Patrick’s Cathedral (You can listen to the Archbishop in a special one hour program he does every week entitled “Conversations with the Archbishop” on Sirius or XM satellite radio (Thursdays at 1pm, Sundays at 8am and 6pm and at other times). I am so grateful to the Archbishop for accepting my invitation and I have not met or heard from anyone yet who did not enjoy and gain from his presence.

We presented a special award to a husband and wife who have worked hard all their life for Catholic education, Darcie and JoAnn Cleary of St. Paul parish in St. Petersburg. JoAnn was principal for many years of Transfiguration elementary school and then taught at St. Petersburg Catholic High School.  Darcy has been the administrator of the Mary C. Forbes Foundation which makes tuition scholarship grants to Catholic schools to area students.

The “A-Train”, aka Mike Alstott was present to autograph a football auctioned off and the event probably cleared $135,000 for next year’s tuition scholarships.

My thanks to those who worked hard in planning the evening and to the over five hundred who purchased tickets, tables, etc. and attended. It was a sparkling evening for a good cause.

+RNL

YOUR GIFTS AT WORK

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Please excuse my absence from this blog but I am having a challenge focusing my eyes after all the surgeries. This too will pass. What follows is a report to the Board of CRS about our work the last week in Haiti. It is for precisely this that I sought your generous assistance last week and this.

+RNL

NEW DEVELOPMENTS:

On the morning of January 20th, a 6.1 magnitude aftershock hit off the coast of Haiti, about 6.2 miles deep, about 35 miles west-southwest of the capital of Port-au-Prince (PaP).  The Caritas PaP team reported that it was not strongly felt, though further structural damage is a possibility, and further assessments closer to the epicenter are still needed.

Highlights from Situation Report #8.1

  • The Government has devised eight zones for the distribution of humanitarian assistance.  Each zone will receive direct support by a national minister to coordinate the relief effort.
  • A UN assessment team reported that Leogane and Gressier are the most severely damaged areas west of Port-au-Prince.  Road access west of PaP is generally good (two lanes paved in most parts).  Power remains off in all areas assessed, although the electricity distribution system appears mostly intact.  Numerous makeshift camps have been established near the main road west from Port-au-Prince.
  • A sufficient number of water treatment systems have been reported in metropolitan PaP.  However, the USAID/DART anticipates greater need for water treatment centers outside metropolitan PaP, a prediction that the humanitarian community is working to assess.
  • In addition to being the lead agency for the Petonville Club camp (golf course in PaP), CRS has been designated as lead agency for coordinating relief efforts in the town of Legoane, due west of PaP.  CRS will primarily be responsible for basic needs (food, water, non-food items, including nurse/doctor teams as available).
  • Staff continues to assess needs and coordinate with Church partners and other agencies to plan larger and more organized food distribution activities.  Yesterday, CRS loaded three 2-ton trucks of food to be distributed by the National Catechists’ Committee in areas of PaP.
  • The Haitian Ministry of Health has defined three levels of healthcare:  mobile health centers, fixed health centers (minor health problems) and hospitals with surgical capacities. CRS and the University of Maryland are continuing collaboration to respond to medical needs, prioritizing the mobilization of shock trauma staff.
  • CRS continues to work with the USCCB to develop and provide materials for US constituents eager to get involved and staying abreast of advocacy issues such as interest in adoption of Haitian children and temporary protective status for Haitians already in the US.
  • The search and rescue team working through the Caritas team recovered two women from the Cathedral.  Sadly, they also found the body of the Vicar General of PaP, Monsignor Charles Benoit.
  • The funeral of Msgr. Joseph Serge Miot, the Archbishop of PaP, will take place on Saturday, January 23rd.  Archbishop Dolan, Ken Hackett, Annemarie Reilly and Msgr. David Malloy will join the senior CRS staff in country to attend the funeral and to bring medical supplies.

BISHOPS PLENARY – FIRST DAY

Monday, November 16th, 2009

After an opening Mass in the hotel, the bishops began their annual Fall plenary assembly by spending the morning in what are called “regional meetings.” Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina are all in “Region XIV” so the bishops of the twelve dioceses of those four states comprise the regional grouping. I know that one of the topics which the bishops were asked to discuss is the number of seminaries spread across the United States at this time. This discussion comes at a moment when it appears that vocations are on the rise and seminary enrollment is increasing. As I mentioned earlier here, St. John Vianney College Seminary opened in September with about 80 seminarians (the highest ever) and St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach opened with about sixty seminarians but a total enrollment of eighty is not more than a year or two away. Seminaries are expensive operations but there are strong regional arguments to be made for them (training future priests for ministry in Spanish to Hispanics, for example.) No one wants to close their seminaries in this country so I wonder tonight what suggestions may have come from the regional meeting discussions this morning.

The Plenary opened with an hour and twenty minutes of formalities including an address by Cardinal Francis George, our President, and the papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi. These two talks have always been a part of the opening “ritual” for the meetings. Cardinal George began by speaking about the importance of priests to the ministry of bishops and painted a fine picture of what the Church might be like if there were no priests. He did this largely in the context of this being “the year for priests” as declared by Pope Benedict XVI. It was a fine reflection for we bishops about how important and vital our priests are not just to the Church which is obvious to all of our people, but to our own ministry as bishops.

The Papal Nuncio’s talk spoke about the qualities needed of the bishops in light of love for the Church. He opened with a long quotation from Pope Paul VI prior to his death about the gift of love from Christ to the late Pope in the Church. He then outlined three necessary qualities for bishops: fidelity (allowing here for some application of creativity in addition to preserving the treasury of the faith), prudence, and hope. He paid special tribute to a national meeting of Diocesan Vocation Directors recently held in Newark, finding the Directors to be impressive, resourceful and full of hope. Our own Father Len Plazewski is the President of the National Vocation Directors and God knows he reflects all those adjectives. The Nuncio ended his remarks by sharing a letter which he received from a priest asking for the appointment of “more positive” bishops. “Check, Archbishop. And thanks for your remarks.”

The rest of the afternoon was given over to the introduction of the “action items” which the bishops will begin to debate and vote tomorrow morning. The assembly had only ninety minutes, max, to submit formal amendments to the Action Items.

Finally, my successor as Chairman of the Board of Catholic Relief Services, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, gave the assembled bishops a wonderful picture of CRS today, along with a stirring four minute video. The archbishop noted that only 22% of Church-going Catholics could identify CRS as the Church in the US’s overseas disaster relief and development agency.

Cardinal George asked the bishops assembled to support a statement which he wished to make on health care reform. We’ll download that statement for you here as soon as it is available.

+RNL

Update: Cardinal George’s Statement is now available at the USCCB website for this year’s November meeting, or you can access it directly.

CALLING IT LIKE IT IS!

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Many of the appointments of new bishops in this country this year have been long on pastoral experience and wisdom and not so much academic types,  bureaucrats, or men lacking in practical pastoral experience. Almost all of them exude a witness to hope that I believe our beloved Church needs at this moment in history. Now let me say up front, that I doubt if I would meet the template which presently seems to be driving the Holy Father’s appointments. There is no question in my mind about the appointment of Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan as Archbishop of New York, though. I believe that the Archbishop will soon be one of the most credible spokespersons for the Church in the United States and one to whom we U.S. bishops will turn to help us out of jams. His placement in the media capital of the world, New York, gives him ample opportunity to speak to many issues and his background as a legitimate Church historian gives him a very unique perspective. To whit, I encourage all of you to read his latest blog entry. All I can say, is right on, Archbishop Tim. If you have Sirius radio you can hear the Archbishop live every Thursday for one hour beginning at one o’clock.

+RNL