Thanks to all those who gave prayerful support to the United States bishops during our recent meeting (Nov. 14-16). Below is a summary of our meeting and discussion.
➤ 1. The United States bishops sent greetings to Pope Francis and assured him of our prayers and solidarity.
➤ 2. USCCB president Archbishop Joseph Kurtz said he had written to President-elect Trump and expressed a willingness to work together for the common good. We are eager to work with Congress for the dignity of human life including the poor, immigrants, refugees, pro-life issues and social justice concerns.
➤ 3. The Committee on Migration Services made a statement of support for those in the United States who are seeking religious freedom and security with the assurance of our prayers.
➤ 4. The new apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, addressed the bishops. He reflected on the visit of Pope Francis last year to the United States. He echoed the message of Pope Francis, “Mercy changes the world.” As we prepare to conclude the Year of Mercy, the bishops need to give witness to hope in this challenging time in the United States. He reminded us that the family is the first place to teach and practice mercy. He referenced the Holy Father’s exhortation, “The Joy of Love,” and his care for families, youth and young adults. The next synod will be on youth, their faith formation and vocations. The Church does not exist to condemn people but to offer God’s mercy to all people. He discussed at length the need to reach out to our youth and provide faith formation, guidance and accompaniment. As a church, we must listen more closely to our young people.
➤ 5. In his president’s address, Archbishop Kurtz focused on the Year of Mercy and our ministry to make that present to our people. He reviewed his several visits throughout the world and the hunger of people for mercy. We must be instruments of God’s mercy and hope. He called us to work with U.S. government officials and seek mutual respect and to work for the common good.
➤ 6. The National Advisory Council, composed of bishops, clergy, religious and laity, gave its reflections on specific items on our agenda.
➤ 7. A very positive report was given on World Youth Day 2016 in Poland. More than 40,000 youth and young adults from the United States attended.
➤ 8. A report on Catholic Relief Services (CRS) was given by the chief executive officer. CRS provides humanitarian support throughout the world. It has served 107 million people in 101 countries. The CEO spoke about CRS’s continual efforts to serve others and to do so rooted in faith and in the teachings of the church.
➤ 9. Cardinal Timothy Dolan spoke about “Courage Ministry,” which gives pastoral care for those of same-sex orientation.
➤ 10. An ad hoc committee gave a report on its work promoting religious liberty in the United States and throughout the world.
➤ 11. In recalling the events in Dallas, Baton Rouge and other cities, the USCCB now has a task force to “Promote Peace in our Communities.” A National Day of Prayer was called this year on Sept. 9. The task force will continue to help us address the sin of racism and violence in our society.
➤ 12. The bishops finalized and passed the strategic plan for 2017-20: The plan is entitled, “Encountering the Mercy of Christ and Accompanying His People with Joy.”
The five priorities are:
I. Evangelization: Open wide the doors to Christ through missionary discipleship and personal encounter.
II. Family and marriage: encourage and heal families; inspire Catholics to embrace the sacrament of matrimony.
III. Human life and dignity: Uphold the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death with special concern for the poor and vulnerable.
IV. Vocations and ongoing formation: Encourage vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, and provide meaningful ongoing formation to clergy, religious and lay ministers.
V. Religious freedom: Promote and defend the freedom to serve, witness and worship, in the U.S. and abroad.
➤ 13. A financial report was given by the treasurer. There was a discussion (inconclusive) that the diocesan assessment to the USCCB be increased by 3 percent in the next year.
➤ 14. The bishops voted in favor of extending the Retirement Fund for Religious for 10 years. The fund helps religious communities to care for the retired religious. It supports 98 communities of women religious and 29 communities of men religious.
➤ 15. A report was given on “V Encuentro,” which is to be held in Ft. Worth, Texas, Sept. 20-23, 2018. It is a national gathering to celebrate Hispanic ministry and to move forward in evangelization. There will be special emphasis on ministry to youth and young adults. (Our Hispanic Ministry Office in the Archdiocese of New Orleans is very involved in the planning for “V Encuentro.”)
➤ 16. There was a discussion on a CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) report on the multi-cultural church in the United States. The global church has come to America.
➤ 17. The president of Catholic Charities USA gave a report on the work of Catholic Charities in the United States.
➤ 18. Bishop Gregory Monsour (an Eastern Rite bishop) gave a presentation on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. For example, two bishops were kidnapped in 2013, and their whereabouts are unknown. Christians suffer daily in the Middle East from torture and a lack of religious freedom. Many have fled from their country for safety. Simply making the “Sign of the Cross” can invite persecution.
Questions for Archbishop Gregory Aymond may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.