I am writing this column on the plane on my flight home from the ad limina visit in Rome. It is a long day of travel: from Rome to Atlanta, then Atlanta to Fort Wayne.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first ad limina visit. In many ways, it was like a spiritual retreat, something I did not expect. Our daily Masses at different Basilicas in Rome, as well as time for prayer each day in these beautiful churches, were a highlight for me. We had three Masses in Saint Peter’s Basilica in the course of the ten days: at the altars of the tombs of Saint Peter, Blessed John Paul II, and Blessed John XXIII. We celebrated the Mass at the tomb of Blessed John Paul II on February 11th, the 37th anniversary of Bishop D’Arcy’s 37th anniversary of episcopal ordination. Bishop D’Arcy was one of the main concelebrants at that Mass. We congratulated and prayed for Bishop D’Arcy on that special occasion.
I was happy to be the principal celebrant on our final day at the Mass at the tomb of Blessed John XXIII. This year, on October 11th, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of his opening the Second Vatican Council. On that day, the universal Church will begin the celebration of the “Year of Faith.”
We also celebrated Masses at the three other Major Basilicas in Rome: Saint Paul outside the Walls; Saint Mary Major, and Saint John Lateran. When we arrived in Rome on Wednesday, February 8th, we celebrated Mass with the seminary community at the Pontifical North American College. I stayed as a guest at the North American College (where I lived as a seminarian) during the ad limina visit. It was good to see one of our own seminarians who is a resident there: Royce Gregerson. Royce, a parishioner from Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Fort Wayne, is doing very well and is enjoying his first year of theological studies at the Pontifical University “Santa Croce.”
The ad limina visit by the bishops of Region VII of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (comprising three ecclesiastical provinces: Chicago, Milwaukee, and Indianapolis) included meetings each day at various dicasteries of the Roman Curia. Each meeting was interesting. It was good to learn more about the work of the Roman Congregations, Pontifical Councils, and Tribunals. The Roman Curia serves the Holy Father and the universal Church. The Cardinals, Bishops, priests, religious, and laity of the various dicasteries who met with us already knew a lot about our situation and that of the Church in the United States. It was good to share our thoughts, to ask questions, and to discuss issues of mutual concern.
The following are the dicasteries that I visited during the ad limina: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments; the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; the Congregation for Bishops; the Congregation for Clergy; and the Congregation for Catholic Education; the Apostolic Signatura; the Pontifical Council for the Family; and the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.
Our meeting with the Holy Father was certainly the major highlight of the visit. We met by provinces, not by region, with Pope Benedict XVI. So Bishop D’Arcy, the other Bishops of Indiana, and I met with the Holy Father together on February 9th. As always, we experienced the wonderful kindness, gentle spirit, and wisdom of the Holy Father. He asked each of us about our dioceses and about our ministry as bishops. We spoke about the new evangelization and the challenges to faith and the Church’s mission in today’s increasingly secularized culture. As Jesus instructed Saint Peter “to confirm the brethren in the faith,” we as bishops, successors of the apostles, felt truly confirmed in the faith by Pope Benedict, the successor of Saint Peter.
One very positive aspect of the ad limina was the time spent with brother bishops from our ecclesiastical region. It was a good opportunity to get to know one another better, not only at the Vatican meetings, but also over meals and social time. These conversations and our daily prayer together strengthened our fraternity and collegiality.
During free time, I took some good long walks in the city, visiting favorite sites from my student days in Rome. At each Mass and in many visits to churches, I remembered the faithful of our diocese in my prayers. I prayed especially for the sick, for those in special need, and for those who no longer practice the faith, for their return to the Church.
I enjoyed two special visits while in Rome: pranzo (dinner) with Father Richard Warner, the Superior General of the Congregation of Holy Cross, and his staff at the Holy Cross Generalate in Rome; and cena (supper) with the students from Saint Mary’s College who are studying a year or semester abroad in Rome. I thank both for their wonderful hospitality.
Father Warner gave me a very special gift: a relic of Blessed Basil Moreau, the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, whom we pray will soon be canonized a saint. Among the Saint Mary’s students I had dinner with were four wonderful young women from our diocese: Ana Diaz-Aguilar, Samantha Marley, Ashley Stopczynski, and Devree Stopczynski. I thank the directors of the Saint Mary’s Rome program for their warm welcome: Dr. Portia Prebys and Meagan McHugh.
As we begin this holy season of Lent, may we be diligent in our works of penance and charity! May our Lord purify our hearts of sin so that we will be prepared to celebrate worthily the Paschal Feast at Easter!
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