September 12, 2023 // Diocese

Former USCCB Staffer Offering ‘Vatican 101’ at St. Charles

Don Clemmer wants to bring Rome a little closer to home.

This is the motivation behind an upcoming presentation, which he calls “Vatican 101,” he’ll be giving at 7 p.m. on Thursday, September 21, at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Fort Wayne. Clemmer will give attendees a bit of background about the papacy today, the College of Cardinals, and the Roman Curia.

While these are terms with which many Catholics are familiar, many are quick to dismiss these important institutions as irrelevant to their own faith. However, Clemmer said, “These structures have a bigger impact on the daily lives of Catholics than people might think. They also offer helpful history, context, and insight.”

Provided by Don Clemmer
On March 11, 2013, just two days before Pope Francis was elected, Catholic journalist Don Clemmer, a Fort Wayne native, took this photograph of himself in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome during his travel as part of the communications contingency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

His presentation will also give more information about the 21 new cardinals Pope Francis will create at a consistory at the end of September. “Their backgrounds and biographies offer insights into the pope’s ongoing priorities and how they might shape the future,” Clemmer said.

Future decisions will impact Catholics around the world, and changes happen frequently – necessary reaction to a changing world.

“When you stand back and reflect on even a relatively short time span like the last 180 years, a person of faith can see the slow but tectonic movements of the Spirit through history,” Clemmer said. “Developments like global Catholic relief organizations, Vatican diplomacy, and Catholic social teaching show the power of the Church responding to the world. What happens in Rome eventually finds its way into the day-to-day experience of the local Church, even if it takes decades or centuries. We might as well engage in that process intentionally.”

Clemmer became a “Vatican watcher” when, at the beginning of his Catholic media career, Pope St. John Paul II died – the only pope he had ever known. The death of the pope and the conclave in Rome that followed created a new level of understanding of the Church for him.

Clemmer brings extensive career experience within the Church. He began with Today’s Catholic in 2005 after graduating from Bishop Luers High School and the University of Saint Francis. From 2008-16, he worked in communications for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in Washington, D.C.

While the home of the papacy will remain in Rome, and it is unlikely that the next pope will be from the United States, Clemmer said the needs of the Church and world dictate the selection, so anything is possible.

“The rest falls into place from there. So even if they pursue a continuation of Pope Francis’ distinctly Latin American vision or elect a pope from a growing region such as Asia or Africa, those details are not the starting point.

“The conventional wisdom,” he said further, “is that the Church wouldn’t want to give the papacy to a superpower such as the United States.” Clemmer pointed to Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston who, to his own relief, was not elected pope in 2013, despite drawing attention from the media and other cardinals. Clemmer said, however, that “the man they chose [Pope Francis] had a similar background and style.” 

Back in his hometown of Fort Wayne since 2016, Clemmer has used his journalistic abilities to write and edit for a number of Catholic organizations.

To learn about the history, institutions, and personalities that shape the life of the Church, all are encouraged to attend his September 21 presentation at St. Charles, which will be held in the Hession Center.

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