The Virtual Fall General Assembly

Hello and welcome!

Instead of gathering in Baltimore as we usually do for our Fall General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, this year, we held our meeting virtually.USCCB-Logo

Our plenary session began on Monday, but Friday, Saturday and Sunday were taken up with meetings of the various committees. On Friday, I participated in a meeting of the Committee for the Church in Africa. This committee is in charge of assigning funds that come from the annual Solidarity Collection for the Church in Africa. The present chairman is Cardinal Joseph Tobin who, when he was Superior General of the Redemptorists, had a chance to become very familiar with the work of the Church in Africa. Saturday, we had a meeting of the Committee for the Church in Latin America, which has a similar function to the Committee for the Church in Africa, in distributing funds from the special collection. Bishop Octavio Cisneros is the chairman of that commission.

The pandemic has made this a very challenging year for all the national collections but, of course, the needs continue to be very grave. The Catholics of Boston are always very generous in supporting these collections, and the projects that are made possible because of their generosity are vital for the Church throughout the world.

Saturday, we were happy to host a vocations retreat at the cathedral for college men and recent college graduates. About 40 men participated.IMG_7477

I celebrated Mass with them and, afterwards, heard talks, including one by Bishop Bob Reed.IMG_7465IMG_7462

Saturday evening was the 27th Annual Bishop James Augustine Healy Celebration of the archdiocese’s Black Catholic Community. Like most such events this year, it was held in a virtual format. IMG_7472

Robert Gittens was the emcee of the evening. Lorna DesRoses of our Office for Black Catholic Ministries gave the greeting, and she also presented a very beautiful memorial tribute to Father Russell Best and Mrs. Mamie “Mimi” Jones. Both were beloved figures in our Catholic community who have gone home to God in this last year.Healy20-Memoriam-2

The music for the evening was provided by Byron Wratee and, of course, Meyer Chambers.IMG_7458Byron Wratee singing

The keynote speaker of the evening was Gloria Purvis, the host of the EWTN Radio program “Morning Glory.” She has served on the National Black Catholic Congress’ Leadership Commission on Social Justice and the Archdiocese of Washington’s Pastoral Council. She gave a very beautiful talk and witness of her faith.Healy20-Gloria Purvis-v2

Several months ago, when the celebration was planned as an in-person event, they had asked Cardinal Peter Turkson to come and address them. Of course, because of the pandemic, he was unable to be present.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Cardinal Turkson used to come and help us out in the Virgin Islands during the summers when I was bishop there. IMG_2098

He was a young priest studying in Rome, and on his summer vacations, he would come help out in our parishes when our priests took time off. What a wonderful, beloved figure he was in our parishes in the Virgin Islands! We are very disappointed that he could not come this year, but we look forward to the day when he can join us in person for the Healy Celebration.

Sunday, I took part in an advisory council meeting for the Institute for Priestly Formation. IPF

This organization runs the wonderful course on spirituality that we send our men to between their pre-theology and theology studies. They also do a great deal of work preparing spiritual directors and formators for seminary programs. The work they do is very important, and so I’m happy to be able to support them.

Sunday afternoon, our USCCB committee meetings continued. Among the ones I participated in were meetings of the Committee on Migration and the Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

Migration, of course, is always a very important topic for the bishops’ conference. We are expecting to have more refugees involved in resettlement programs, and so this took up a lot of the discussion. We also heard from Sister Norma Pimentel about efforts to reunite children and parents who have been separated at the border.IMG_7455

During our meeting of the pro-life committee there was great concern expressed that some of the pro-life policies currently in place, such as the Mexico City Policy, could be reversed under the new administration. We also discussed the upcoming March for Life in Washington D.C. and how we can promote more local observances on the day of the March and the time leading up to it. There was also some discussion of having a virtual vigil.

There is a great deal of thought being put into the virtual program that will be put on at noon on January 29, the day of the March for Life. Our hope is that we can invite our high school students in the archdiocese to join us for that virtual program. Normally, we take nearly a thousand people from the archdiocese to the March each year, most of whom are young people. I have often said that I find participating in the March for Life has been a very important experience for the faith life of our youth. I think it helps them to feel very much affirmed in their Catholic faith, their sense of community, and in embracing a mission of social justice in the Church’s pro-life movement. Certainly, it’s quite a loss that we can’t have that experience this year, but I’m hoping that we will be able to get a large segment of our students to participate, at least virtually, in the March for Life.

Also, on Sunday, we had a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.COVID-POPE-ROSARY

The number of visitors to the basilica has been greatly impacted by the severe restrictions on places of worship in Washington — only a maximum of 100 people are allowed in a church at any one time, though the basilica probably holds about 4,000 people. Meanwhile, most of the pilgrimages that would normally make a stop there have also been canceled. If there is any good that has come out of this situation, it is that the viewership of the televised Mass from the basilica has been in the many millions of people.

Monday and Tuesday were the plenary sessions of the USCCB Fall General Assembly, which included two public discussions that I thought were very helpful.IMG_7453

On Monday, the bishops were able to share their reactions to the McCarrick Report. There were many interventions on the topic, and I was very struck by some that noted that this type of tragedy is a call to holiness for all of our bishops and priests. It is a moment for us to realize how central our relationship with the Lord is and the importance of living coherent and holy lives to enable us to be ministers of the Gospel.

On Tuesday, the bishops were able to share their experience of the pandemic in our dioceses. During that session, I offered remarks on the very positive experience we had with our COVID Response Team of priests here in the archdiocese.USCCB-Fall-_007_20112020_122517

During our gathering, we also had elections for new committee chairmen. Of course, we were very pleased that our own Bishop Reed was elected chairman of the Committee on Communications. Bishop-elect Robert Reed pictured June 10, 2016.
Photo by Gregory L. Tracy/ The Pilot

He is certainly eminently qualified for that post, and we are happy that his brother bishops recognized that and have given him this responsibility.

On Tuesday evening, we had a St. Andrew gathering via Zoom for young men considering a vocation to the priesthood. This particular gathering was with the students from Catholic Memorial High School and, once again, it was organized by Father Michael Zimmerman and Father Eric Cadin of our Vocations Office.StAndrews

We began by praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet together. Then Peter Schirripa, one of our seminarians who is in his second year of theology studies, gave a witness talk about his vocation. It was very eloquent, and I was delighted to hear him speak. I also addressed the young men and, afterwards, the group was broken up into different breakout rooms where they were able to have dialogues with the various seminarians who were accompanying them.

Thursday, I participated in a meeting of the Papal Foundation with His Beatitude Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which is the largest Eastern Rite Catholic Church.SYNOD-BRIEFING-OCT23

There are a number of projects that are being supported by the Papal Foundation in Ukraine, so several members of our foundation were happy to have this opportunity to speak with the Major Archbishop and his staff. Jim Coffey was the emcee for our meeting, and there were other trustees and stewards who spoke about their experience visiting some of the projects in Ukraine. It was certainly a very productive and informative meeting.

Until next week

Cardinal Seán

November 2020

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