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 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.

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