The first three weeks of June will be great adventures for me. This week at Saint Meinrad, I join brother priests from throughout the Archdiocese at our annual Presbyteral Assembly. Next week brings the semiannual meeting of the U.S. Bishops in St. Louis. The third week, I will make a fraternal visit, along with Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, to Ukraine. I hope to write later this month about this visit to the bishops in Ukraine.
All three of these adventures involve fraternity and learning. At Saint Meinrad we will be engaged in “intercultural competency skill-building.” As increasing numbers of our faithful and our priests join us from various cultures and continents, this assembly offers a time to step back and reflect upon the experience of diversity. We seek to appreciate the richness and address the challenges of how various cultures can meet in a way that will make the Pentecost experience of many languages but one Holy Spirit come alive.
The meeting in St. Louis will focus on many topics, with a highlight being the opportunity for us bishops to hear from married couples as they witness to the beauty and challenges of marriage.
In Ukraine, the fraternal visit involves supporting the bishops and faithful in a troubled and divided nation, as well as seeing the great work being supported by the annual national collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe. There will be a lot to learn during these trips, but the fruit of these experiences will be much more than learning.
These are not simply pragmatic learning events where business coworkers get together to sharpen skills at a convention. While the joy of friends meeting always brings about relaxation and a renewal of spirit, in all three of these meetings, there will be an experience of fraternity borne of a theological foundation called communio. These gatherings will reveal a deeper invisible bond that unites us in the service of others in the name of and through the power of Jesus Christ.
I was thinking of this invisible bond during the month of May. On May 5, I ordained Bishop John Stowe as the 3rd bishop of Lexington and then last Saturday, May 30th had the privilege of laying hands upon and anointing as priestly servants Fathers Peter Bucalo, Shayne Duvall, and Jason Harris.
In the “Prayer of Ordination” I said: “And now we beseech you, Lord, in our weakness, to grant us these helpers that we need to exercise the priesthood that comes from the Apostles.”
The sacred bond of bishop and priests is necessary because of the “weakness” and need for help that I as a bishop experience, but it also is a bond that comes from the Apostles … from Jesus’ first “ordination” at the Last Supper. The prayer continues: “Grant, we pray, Almighty Father, to these, your servants, the dignity of the priesthood; renew deep within them the Spirit of holiness; … may they be worthy co-workers with this Order (of bishops); … may they be faithful stewards of your mysteries.” Just as Bishop Stowe was ordained not only for a specific jurisdiction in the diocese of Lexington in which he serves but also for the universal church in union with Pope Francis, so too every priest is called to serve all in the diocese and not only those in the parish in which he serves. He is to serve all the faithful and in a sense to serve those with whom he works, his fellow priests.
Earlier in the Rite, I asked them, “Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors?” This is not simply a juridical or administrative question but rather a deeply spiritual one – for one who becomes a true co-worker with a successor of the Apostles. At that point, it is an act of great humility and trust for all, bishop and priest alike.
Please pray for the priests who serve you, “your priests.” Pray for those in your parish and for all priests that we might deepen the communio in Christ Jesus and together serve Christ and His people.
Pray also for the bishops of the United States. There are about 400: some of whom are retired and auxiliary bishops and about half of whom are diocesan bishops who are charged with the care of the faithful within that diocese. Pray that we might see the spiritual bond or communio that unites us as we seek to serve Jesus well.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz