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Reflections from the 2021 fall bishops’ conference

News of the Diocese

December 11, 2021

Reflections from the 2021 fall bishops’ conference

Father Don Oleksiak, vicar general for the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, wrote this essay after attending the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ meeting Nov. 15-18 as an observer for Region VI, which encompasses Ohio and Michigan.

I am not one to advocate “let’s have a meeting!” Every week, I’m up to my eyeballs in meetings and long for the day when my current schedule will be behind me.

So why did I agree to attend the recent 2021 plenary meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as an official observer for Region VI? That is a good question.

While on the plane heading to Baltimore, I pondered that very question. What was I thinking? Why would anyone in their right mind want to attend more meetings? What would I benefit by attending?

Well, God is indeed a God of surprises.

The annual fall meeting of the U.S. bishops in Baltimore proved to be a very worthwhile experience. I was overwhelmed with the sense of fraternity, genuine joy and a very palpable energy.

The bishops gather every year to discuss important issues that the national and international church are facing. (They haven’t gathered in person for two years due to COVID.)They attend to the business of the conference and they vote on a number of items that impact how the local church of the USA continues to preach the gospel and convert souls to Christ.

The ability to interact with the bishops during breaks, for meals and to observe the conversations, debates and presentations was inspiring. What I experienced was very different from what is portrayed in the media. These men, servants of the Church, are genuinely faithful and committed men of faith doing a yeoman’s job of managing the ministry of being shepherd, teacher and administrator – and leading souls to Christ.

The opening address by Archbishop Jose Gomez, USCCB president, focused on tending to the most vulnerable, reaching out to our brothers and sisters in need and leading hearts to Christ. Archbishop Gomez called for unity amongst the bishops working together to interpret and provide care for the faithful.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, continued this theme and encouraged the bishops to address the issues of the times by listening to the people, being close to them and working in unity with one another. He said that a divided Church would never lead people to where it should be. That set the tone for the rest of the week.

I found that almost every bishop who got up to speak talked about being attentive to the people, being a voice for those who do not have a voice and reflected a genuine love and concern for the faithful. The poor, the marginalized, the homeless, the immigrants, those who are victims of human trafficking, victims of abortion, widows, orphans, those who are wandering and lost, the unchurched, the lukewarm as well as the faithful in the pews every week – these are among the focus of the Church. Leading, teaching and sharing the incredible transformative power of the love of God is the challenge of the Church members and her leaders.

I came away from the meeting with great hope, restored respect and a deep admiration for the arduous task of being a bishop in a time of increased secularization and aggression against the Church.

Let’s continue to pray for our bishops. May their efforts to increase our awareness of the real presence in the Eucharist and the incredible transformative power of the Blessed Sacrament in our daily lives deepen our resolve to overcome the distractions and sin in our lives and strive to remain faithful to our baptismal calling. May we have the courage to go out and teach all nations the good news of Jesus Christ, most importantly by the very manner in which we live our daily lives.

Above: Archbishop Jose Gomez, USCCB president, CNS photo/Bob Roller

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