This week has been extraordinary. Fr. Michael Gorman and I had the chance to meet the Holy Father on Friday – before the snow started, again. Then, we bishops of Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana had the opportunity to meet privately with the pope and discuss various aspects of the life of the Church in our particular dioceses. Each one of us couched our comments to the Holy Father in the light of his own writings or public statements. The Holy Father was deeply engaged in our dialogue and responded with characteristic wisdom and humor. We certainly felt comfortable with him and it was clear he enjoyed our visit as well. In spite of the trappings of the Vatican Palace, we all felt quite comfortable around our Chief Shepherd!
A visit to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints was also very enlightening for me. As you know, I am eager to launch the cause for the beatification and canonization of Fr. Joe Walijewski, one of our great diocesan priests, who worked tirelessly in Bolivia and Peru and established our beloved Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II orphanage just outside of Lima. Well, I found out so much about the initiation of causes. As I figured, the cause must start in Lurin, Peru with the bishop there. I have already sent two letters to the bishop and have not heard back. So I will try phoning Fr. Sebastian and setting up a time when we can all get on the phone together and get this very important task moving!
Other important Curia offices are still on our lists and the bishops are enjoying each other’s company and trying to keep warm. It is cold in Rome and more snow than I have seen back home! Preparation is underway for Saturday’s Consistory. Fr. Gorman and I have ring-side seats!
I am closely following the events back home regarding the assault on our First Amendment rights. Do not be misled, folks, this is a basic constitutional matter that affects the liberty of all Americans and, in our case, particularly Catholics. This is not a “contraception controversy” as the Administration would have it spun. Keep to the facts and stay informed. Keep close at www.usccb.org for the most complete and accurate responses from the bishops. Please let our representatives in Congress know that we are aware of the significance of this issue for the future of genuine American justice and liberty. We have a voice.
You are all, especially the sick and homebound, remembered at daily Masses celebrated in all the major basilicas of Rome and in our Masses at the seminary! Frs. Gorman and Burrill join me in sending our greetings back home. God be with you.
…and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass.
Here I am sitting at O’Hare International Airport in my old hometown of Chicago. I always used to enjoy flying into Chicago because it meant I was “home” and only had to get out of the terminal as fast as possible! Not anymore. I am just one more passenger along with all the others on our way to “someplace.” Well, this time I really am on my way to someplace – Vatican City and my first ad limina visit to the pope. For me, this is very exciting and a little nerve racking, to be quite frank.
I love Rome and I love the Holy Father. When you put them both together and tell me that I am going to be in Rome with the Holy Father – even for a little while – it is a big deal. I sometime think that many Catholics have lost the sense of what our name is all about: the Roman Catholic Church. I often hear some people refer to us as the American Catholic Church. This is a little misleading. More correct would be the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. That would help us to clarify and more clearly identify some basic points that are being debated in the media, in the courts, and in the houses of Congress these days. But I have already addressed some of those issues with you.
Today, I think it’s just important for you to know that I am en route to Rome and looking forward to taking you with me in prayer and in thought. I have already received word from Father Jeff Burrill, one of our fine priests from the diocese, who is currently serving on the staff of the North American College, where Father Michael Gorman and I will be staying for the next two weeks. Father Burrill has told us that we will not be missing our Wisconsin home too much because Rome currently looks like a winter wonderland! And he sent pictures! Almost a foot of snow – and for Rome that’s enormous! They haven’t had that much snow in the last 22 years, and longer before that. I am not looking forward to this Roman winter… But it won’t last, probably be gone by the time Father Gorman and I arrive.
The exciting thing is meeting with the other 18 bishops from Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana, who make up Region VII of the central part of the United States. We are all prepared to report about our dioceses, all excited about our work, and happy to let the Holy Father and the Roman offices know about it. I don’t know what day we will meet with the pope. I will keep you posted about that and try to stay connected this way for the time of our visit.
Please know that you will be with both Father Gorman and me as we make our way to be with the pope. There are many good things to report about our diocese. This is the first time that I will have to report and I sure look forward to it. I am grateful that Father Gorman is with me since he knows everything about our diocese. Father Burrill will join us for some of the sessions since he lives in Rome and knows the system and the language. He will be an asset.
I am starting to get a cold and cough – not a good sign. But I sure do plan to participate in all of these exciting spiritual and historic events. Please keep us in prayers and be assured of mine. God be with you – and across the miles…
I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!