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!

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