From Monday, Nov. 15, until Thursday, Nov. 18, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will be in Baltimore for our fall meeting.
As always, I look forward to the session. It provides a rich opportunity to renew friendships, meet new members of the conference and to reflect together on our common pastoral experience. That sharing occurs in its own way on the floor of our general sessions, but even more rewarding are the one-on-one small-group exchanges that happen at meals, during breaks or in the evening.
The conversation might touch on pastoral planning or Catholic schools. They could be more personal: Are you feeling better? Is there anything I can do to help? Could I have a moment just to blow off steam about such and such? Whatever the subject or the circumstances of a particular conversation, I find that such encounters always carry a measure of encouragement and a sense of solidarity with others whose experience is very much like my own.
From all that I have heard and observed through the years, I have a sense that bishops are not the only ones who appreciate comparing notes with others whose daily lives are much like their own. Witness the popularity of a wide range of organized supports and the more informal networking that takes place in a range of vocational and career lives. It’s good to know that others understand us and the challenges, joys, disappointments and hopes that are a part of all of our lives.
In addition to that interaction with my brother bishops, I look forward to an evening with our seminarians who study at the Theological College at the Catholic University in Washington, D.C. (Andrew Montanaro, Mark Ciampa and Sergio Chavez) and St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore (Jorge Ramirez). All four of these men are in their first year at their respective seminaries and seem to be doing very well. I am looking forward very much to hearing them reflect on their experience in their new environments. And, if they are anything like me and my peers in the seminary and seminarians I have known through the years, they will be glad to have a visitor from home.
My strongest curiosity about the meeting to come will be the election of our officers for the next three years. Last month we received a list of 10 bishops who are candidates for election. Their names were prominent in a polling of all of the members who were asked to identify apt candidates for a conference office. The 10 all agreed to stand as candidates.
The first ballot in Baltimore will be for a president to succeed Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, whose term is expiring in January. Upon election of his successor a vice president is chosen from the remaining nine candidates. We follow the same process through the election of a secretary and a treasurer.
It is my opinion that during my tenure as a bishop, the conference has always chosen talented, well-respected members for positions of leadership. I am quite confident and hopeful that this will be the case once again.
I ask you please to pray for God’s blessings on all the USCCB’s deliberations — and most certainly for like blessings on all of our wonderful seminarians.
Peace to all.