I was in Baltimore last week for the annual plenary assembly of the United States Catholic bishops.
It was the first bishops’ meeting for our four new auxiliary bishops, who were ordained in September. So, it was a special time for me to pray and share with them and Auxiliary Bishop Marc Trudeau.
I always come away from these gatherings with my brother bishops feeling hopeful and inspired. It becomes so clear that God is alive and his Spirit is working in the Church in so many beautiful ways, not only here in Los Angeles but across the country.
In the United States, we are blessed to have good bishops leading our dioceses, many appointed in the last decade. Also, as we see with our new bishops here in Los Angeles, across the country a fine new generation of auxiliary bishops has been appointed in recent years, men of prayer who are alive with apostolic zeal.
The same is true of our new American priests. Across the country, an excellent new generation is being ordained. These are men who are on fire to spread the Gospel, men who love Jesus and long to make Jesus loved by every heart.
We see all of this here in Los Angeles, and in my conversations with my brothers bishops, they see it in their dioceses, too.
The American Church is doing what Christ commanded: we are united in the urgent task of proclaiming his Gospel of love and seeking to save souls.
We are also striving to build Christ’s kingdom, spreading the social message of the Gospel and, through our charities and outreach efforts, working for a world that protects the sanctity and dignity of the human person as a child of God.
We began our meeting in Baltimore with a Mass for Peace, praying especially for Ukraine and Palestine and Israel. In our sessions, we reaffirmed our commitment to defend migrants and refugees and seek solutions to our long-broken immigration system.
One of our most important discussions concerned the growing crisis of mental health and the bishops’ new National Catholic Mental Health Campaign, aimed at raising awareness and helping people find care and treatment.
Looking ahead to the 2024 elections, we revised the introduction of our “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” document to address the most “grave threats to life and dignity of the human person,” including abortion, euthanasia, gun violence, terrorism, the death penalty, human trafficking, and efforts to redefine marriage and gender.
We face many challenges in the Church in this country. But they are the challenges that the Church faces in every age and every place: How do we live as followers of Jesus Christ in a world that is hostile to the Gospel? How do we proclaim the Gospel and pass on our faith to the next generation?
Historically, the mission of the American Church has always been distinguished by the leadership and participation of the lay faithful.
And in the presentations at our meeting in Baltimore, it was again clear that lay people are the source of so much creativity and apostolic energy in the Church.
We are blessed with a diversity of lay apostolates and ministries that work in partnership with bishops and pastors to accompany and deepen the faith of our people, especially our young people and families.
The Church here has long reflected what the Second Vatican Council called “the universal call to holiness,” and the collaborative vision that Pope Francis is calling us to in the Synod on Synodality.
That is why I am so encouraged by the two most important apostolic initiatives in the Church right now, the Holy Father’s call for “synodality” in the universal Church and the US bishops’ call for a Eucharistic revival.
As the pope’s delegate, Apostolic Nuncio Cardinal Christophe Pierre, said in his address to the bishops: “Eucharistic revival and synodality go together.”
Both are about the Church’s essential mission of evangelization, about bringing our people to a new encounter with Jesus Christ, the living God, the God of love who comes to save us and make us one family.
This divine love is what makes all things new in the Church and in our lives. Bringing people to know this love is the urgent reason for everything we do in the Church, all our teaching and preaching, all our works of mercy and pastoral care.
In his encouraging address, Cardinal Pierre quoted Pope Francis’ words in concluding the recent synod in Rome: “Loving God with our whole life and loving our neighbor as ourselves … that is the heart of everything.”
Pray for me and I will pray for you.
Let’s thank God for all the gifts he has bestowed on his Church in America.
And let’s ask our Blessed Mother Mary to make the love of her Son the heart of everything we do.