At this year’s annual November meeting, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) elected two very good leaders: the president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, an archdiocese which is growing so rapidly that Cardinal DiNardo cannot open parishes quickly enough; and Archbishop Jose Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, who is responsible for one of the largest dioceses in the world. Catholics are blessed to have these two men leading us during these times of great change and challenge in the United States and throughout the world.
At this meeting, the conference passed its strategic plan for the next three years of pastoral activity on the national level, which includes a focus on the plight of our fellow Catholic Christians throughout the world who are struggling largely because of terrorism from fanatic groups like ISIS and state sponsored terrorism. The result of this division, violence, hatred and evil has been the loss of life, the total destruction of Catholic parishes and communities, and the displacement of Christians on a massive scale. We listened intently to our brother bishops from the Eastern Rite churches and their efforts to work with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and other charitable organizations of the church in the United States to provide humanitarian and charitable relief, especially to those who are now refugees from their own homeland.
Additionally, here at home, with the election of the new administration, new opportunities and challenges are presenting themselves, which is why an increase in Catholic advocacy efforts are much needed. We are hopeful that new opportunities will present themselves that will support the church’s teaching on the most fundamental value of life at all stages, especially the unborn. At the same time, however, there are aggressive movements sweeping across the country to pass legislation in support of assisted suicide, which is the passionate cause of organizations like “Compassion and Choices,” formerly known as “The Hemlock Society,” that greatly threaten the church’s teaching on the right to life.
Finally, the incoming administration’s stance on immigration is causing a lot of heated conversation. Today, I will be meeting with the pastors of our parishes that have a large Hispanic presence, to listen to their concerns and the concerns of parishioners. In the meantime, the bishops’ conference will be providing resources for study and reflection as we will also do here in the diocese.
As we follow Pope Francis, he teaches us how to encounter and dialogue about these issues by putting the human person first; by introducing others to Jesus Christ; and by being the presence of Christ to others. This is our work as followers and friends of Jesus who have benefited so greatly from his life, his love and his peace.