Bishops share bond of ministry - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Bishops share bond of ministry

Last week, I wrote about our Holy Father’s health issues and the questions that naturally arise in such circumstances. Interest in the ministry of Peter’s successor always intensifies in times when the possibility of succession seems as real as it does now.

After Pope John Paul II was released from his first hospitalization in February, I read on Zenit news service that he had resumed his practice of meeting with the bishops who are in Rome for their ad limina visits. That remains one of his strong commitments, even though health pressures have forced him to cut back on the very generous amount of time he was once able to spend with them.

I was very happy to read that he was well enough to start seeing the bishops again. To keep such a schedule can be grueling. But I think that Pope John Paul knows how much such opportunities mean to the visiting bishops. And I have a sense that such encounters bring some strength and encouragement to our Holy Father.

Throughout his pontificate, he has spoken often and warmly about his relationship to the College of Bishops of which he is the head and with whom he shares pastoral concern for the bonds of faith and charity that make us one. Occasions such as the ad limina visits allow the Holy Father and the bishops to pray together, offer mutual encouragement and give visible expression of their solidarity in ministry.

As I write this evening, I am mindful of the ways in which being a member of the College of Bishops finds its expression when we return from our ad limina visits to take up day-to-day ministry at home. We are responsible for the pastoral care of our individual dioceses, but we live our bonds with our brother bishops in a variety of ways.

One of those ways is participation in the activities of the Province of New York. The province comprises the eight dioceses of New York state. Chaired by the archbishop of New York, now Cardinal Edward Egan, the bishops of Rockville Centre, Brooklyn, Albany, Syracuse, Ogdensburg, Rochester and Buffalo gather three times a year to work on matters of common pastoral interest.

Last week we spent a day at the archdiocesan Pastoral Center in midtown Manhattan. We spent time on a range of issues — health insurance, Catholic schools, public-policy concerns, etc. It is always good to come together. It is helpful to share our experience and whatever wisdom we may have. Such gatherings always offer an opportunity to know and understand one another as brother pilgrims and friends.

Tomorrow, I am leaving for an overnight trip to Dallas for a meeting of our U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Women in Society and the Church. I am pleased to be beginning a three-year term on that committee at the invitation of Bishop Joseph Pepe of Las Vegas, the newly elected chairperson. I had the pleasure of chairing that committee 15 years ago and am delighted to have another opportunity to work on a question of great importance.

I have accepted another invitation, this to serve on the USCCB’s Committee on Vocations. Bishop Blase Cupich of Rapid City, South Dakota, a former student of mine at the North American College, chairs this group. It will be a pleasure to serve with Blase and a good opportunity to be in touch with other bishops as we work on a major theme that presents a difficult challenge to all of us.

Please pray for the work of these committees. I will be happy to update you from time to time on our activities.

Peace to all.

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