June 26, 2024 // National

U.S. Bishops Advance Key Priorities at National Assembly

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky – Gathered in Louisville for their spring plenary assembly, the U.S. bishops’ June 12-14 meeting saw a mix of important matters discussed – with some unexpected twists and moments of robust discussion – beginning with how the bishops would continue to address the scourge of poverty in the United States and ending with a view to the future for the National Eucharistic Revival.

Suzanne Healy, chairwoman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Review Board,June 14, 2023, at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Spring Plenary Assembly in Louisville, Ky. (OSV News photo/Bob Roller)

The first day of the bishops’ public session on Thursday, June 13, was split between the morning executive session and an afternoon public session. Behind closed doors, the bishops discussed the future of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, their domestic anti-poverty initiative, which has suffered in recent years from declining donations and questions about grant-making decisions that had depleted its funding reserves.

In a June 13 news conference, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for Military Services USA, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told reporters that no decisions had been made yet. But he emphasized the bishops remain committed “to the vital work of fighting poverty in this country” and that the subcommittee responsible for overseeing CCHD would review the bishops’ input and act on that advice.

Throughout the course of both days, the bishops also heard about the ongoing progress of the Synod of Bishops on synodality, and that its second session this October will zero in on what a synodal Church should look like. The bishops heard that becoming a synodal Church was about creating a place of encounter in the Church, where tensions could be fruitfully transformed for the sake of the Church’s health and holiness.

Bishop Daniel E. Flores, who served alongside Bishop Rhoades as a delegate of the synod assembly last October and as a member of the synod’s preparatory commission, emphasized it would help bishops “to think together with our people about how to be about what we should be about, which is the concerns of Christ the Lord.”

The bishops of the Latin Church also voted to approve all their agenda items related to English translation texts for the Liturgy of the Hours and the Roman Missal – a process that the bishops’ Chair of the Committee on Divine Worship, Bishop Steven J. Lopes of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, said finally completed the work on the new English translation of the Liturgy of the Hours that the bishops began in 2012.

The U.S. bishops overwhelmingly voted on Friday, June 14, to approve a pastoral framework for Indigenous Catholic ministry, which also included an apology for the Church’s failures through the course of its history in North America “to nurture, strengthen, honor, recognize, and appreciate those entrusted to our pastoral care.”

The bishops had a robust discussion on June 13 following the update on their mental health campaign, which included presentations on how Catholic Charities can help the bishops form a “trauma-aware Church” and the vital importance of parish engagement and accompaniment in this effort to save lives. The bishops’ exchange affirmed their view that ending the stigma surrounding mental health was not only good for the faithful but also for clergy, allowing them to open up about their own mental health needs.

Bishop John P. Dolan of Phoenix applauded these efforts, saying they were “bringing people back into the framework of Church through accompaniment.”

The bishops also voiced their unanimous approval for the plans of Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, to open a cause for the canonization of Adele Brise, a Belgian-born immigrant from the 19th century whose visions of the Virgin Mary Bishop Ricken had declared worthy of belief in 2010. The bishop suggested Brise provided a model for their evangelization and catechesis efforts.

Although the bishops’ public sessions had opened with matters that seemed routine, the June 14 session included presentations inviting the bishops to authorize groundbreaking efforts on combatting abuse and an urgent call to engage with lawmakers on immigration policy affecting religious workers from foreign countries.

Suzanne Healy, Chair of the bishops’ National Review Board, introduced proposals toward combating sexual abuse, including the issuance of guidelines that would address the sexual or spiritual abuse of adults, a new John Jay College to study abuse allegations since 2011, and a 2027 national day of prayer as an act of restorative justice.

“You again have the opportunity to break ground and establish the foundation for the next evolution of safeguarding,” she said.

Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, Chair of the bishops’ Committee on Migration, reported to the bishops that a foreign-born priest who applies for a green card has a 15-year wait – and current rules on the federal Temporary Religious Worker Visa Immigration program mean that priest would have to go back to another country every five years.

Bishops on the floor likewise expressed their concern about how confusing the rules were for religious workers to navigate. Bishop Seitz said a “partial fix” from the federal administration might shorten that time, but without Congress intervening, the situation is ultimately “simply not sustainable for our ministries.”

The bishops’ final agenda item on June 14 was the matter of the National Eucharistic Congress. Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, Board Chair of the National Eucharistic Congress Inc., told the bishops that they expect a sold-out Lucas Oil Stadium of 50,000 people for the weekend of July 17-21 at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. He noted the strong participation of at least 50,000 people with the four National Eucharistic Pilgrimage routes that were halfway toward their destination of Indianapolis.

But he emphasized that their eye was already toward the future, from initiatives to invite Catholics to “consider walking one person back to the faith,” along with forming “Eucharistic missionaries,” and planning future national Eucharistic congresses, similar to what takes place in other countries.

“The hope is this will not be a one and done,” he said. With no questions from the body of bishops, he said, “See you all in Indianapolis!”

In the days following the USCCB spring assembly, the bishops achieved the threshold needed to pass their national pastoral framework to guide ministries with youth and young adults.

Despite overwhelming support, the pastoral framework had originally failed by two votes to cross the two-thirds majority threshold needed to pass at the bishops’ meeting on June 14 after too many individual bishops had already left for their home dioceses by the time the vote was taken that morning.

After canvassing the bishops eligible to vote, 10 more votes in favor had been secured by late June 17, allowing “Listen, Teach, Send: A National Pastoral Framework for Ministries with Youth and Young Adults” to finally pass, according to a June 18 USCCB news release.

Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, Chair of the bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, presented the pastoral framework that will aid pastors, ministry leaders, and families. During his June 13 presentation, the bishop said his committee had engaged in “concerted listening” with youth and young adults, pastoral ministers, families, and bishops.

“What we heard was a strong desire to develop a framework that was streamlined and straightforward – one that could be used not just by pastors and pastoral ministers but also by families, and by young people themselves who can evangelize and guide their peers to Christ,” Bishop Barron said.

“We heard a desire to name and address issues including sexuality, mental health, disaffiliation, racial justice, polarization, and the desire of so many young people to transform our society.”

Bishop Barron went on to share with the bishops, “Most importantly, we heard that we cannot be silent or inactive when it comes to the engagement and accompaniment of youth and young adults.”

He said the committee’s hope is that the framework – modeled on the story of the disciples’ encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus found in Luke’s Gospel – will offer “new life” to youth ministers.

The full text of “Listen, Teach, Send,” as well as many accompanying pastoral resources, are posted to the USCCB website: usccb.org/topics/youth-and-young-adult-ministries.

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.