National Catholic Register
October 8-14, 2006
CITY — You could call it a “Bishops 101” course
— an intensive week of seminars aimed at equipping recently
consecrated bishops to face their new challenges.
Held Sept. 17-25
at the Regina Apostolorum University, the Legion of Christ university
just outside Rome, the course provided an opportunity for 132
newly minted bishops — some no more than two weeks
into their ministry — to meet each other, share experiences
and get an overview of their new service to the
The week, which is the brainchild of Cardinal Giovanni
Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, has been
a yearly event since its inception in 2001. The Congregation
for the Evangelization for the Peoples also provides a similar
event for new bishops mainly from Africa and Asia.
say that it’s been like going back to school,” Cardinal
Ersilio Tonino told the Italian bishops’ newspaper Avvenire Sept. 22.
“Here, they have lived the experience of collegiality; they’ve seen
their soul broadened; they’ve understood that the bishop is not
an ‘employee’ of the Pope but with the Pope in
the service of his diocese, sharing the concerns of the
Brought in as one of the “old bishops” to
offer his juniors a helping hand, the cardinal was joined
by experts and heads of Vatican offices who offered instruction
on a wide variety of issues ranging from health care,
bioethics and liturgical practice to the handling of priests and
the merging of parishes. The presentations revolved around the three
main roles of a bishop: to teach, sanctify and govern.
But although bishops found these talks helpful, the highlight of
the week was simply being able to share each others’
experiences and to absorb a sense of fraternity with their
“These new bishops feel like my classmates,” said
Bishop Alexander King Sample of Marquette, Mich. “I’ve been struck
by the different problems bishops have to face in different
parts of the world but also the many things we
have in common.”
Along with this sense of communion, the
bishops also treasured experiencing the universality of the Church that
came through meeting their counterparts from all over the world.
Praying at the tomb of St. Peter, celebrating Mass there
and meeting Pope Benedict XVI were other aspects of the
week that gave participants encouragement to face the challenges ahead.
Bishop Frank Dewane, co-adjutor of Venice, Fla., said such events
served to “deepen our experience.” Particularly encouraging was that the
Pope, although running late, took time to greet each of
them and present them with a gift.
For bishops such
as Auxiliary Bishop Frank Caggiano of Brooklyn, N.Y., this was
their first trip back to Rome since they studied there
“Just being here gives me a sense of
history that I can easily forget, coming from New York
where we measure history in terms of days,” he said.
The Church has gone through many challenges in the past,
such as the Reformation, but bishops have always met to
find a way forward, Bishop Caggiano noted.
Said the bishop,
“People could have said then that the world was ending
but it didn’t, and even though we may have enormous
challenges, the world will not end here either — the
Church will endure because of the apostolicity and guarantee of
the Holy Spirit, and that gives me a tremendous sense
In his discourse to the bishops at
his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo Sept. 21, Benedict urged
them to “follow Christ’s example,” to nurture their flocks, to
become “all things to all men,” to present the truth
of faith and to bear witness to the Lord’s charity.
the Holy Father said, should be in “constant contact with
God,” adding that “living in intimate union with Christ will
help you to strike that vital balance between inner meditation
and the exertions required for the multiple occupations of life,
avoiding the danger of excessive activism.”
He also reminded the bishops
they are called to “judge and discipline the life of
the people of God entrusted to their pastoral care, with
laws, indications and suggestions, in accordance with what is laid
down by the universal discipline of the Church.”
Father called this duty “absolutely vital” so that the diocesan
community is “internally united” and able to “progress in profound
union of faith, love and of discipline with the Bishop
of Rome and with the entire Church.” Building ecclesial communion,
he stressed, “must be your daily duty.”
Benedict’s message resonated
with the participants. Engaging and confronting a culture of secularism
and relativism, said Bishop Sample, requires unity. If that is
lacking, he said, “then we’re not really able to evangelize
In particular, Bishop Sample alluded to obedience to
“Our people have a right to receive from
the Church and her pastors the liturgy of the Church
that is authentically, beautifully, reverentially and faithfully celebrated,” he said.
“It’s an act of obedience because it makes present the
obedient will of Christ. When we’re disobedient to liturgical norms,
we contradict what we’re celebrating.”
Many of the bishops praised
the clarity of liturgical instruction from Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect
of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of
|Newly appointed Bishops in Basilica of San Pedro|
given high marks was the hospitality provided
by the Legionaries, who have hosted the event since its
inception. The bishops slept in beds vacated by seminarians at
the Legionaries’ seminary, the Center for Higher Studies, located adjacent
to the university.
“It’s been phenomenal,” said Bishop Sample of the
hospitality extended by the Legionaries. “They’ve tended to every little
detail — we’ve been well taken care of.”
enjoyed the occasion, too.
“We’ve done whatever we could to serve
them and it’s been an honor for us to be
able to do it,” said Legionary Brother Mark Haydu. “It’s
a great grace and a great chance to have such
a gifted group of people of such spiritual quality in
your house and to be able to deal with them
on a day-to-day basis.”
Reprinted with permission from the issue
of National Catholic Register, October 8-14, 2006.