USCCB Committee Work
This week I am in Baltimore for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) meeting to discuss many topics. However, before the General Assembly began on Monday, November 14th, I participated in two subcommittee meetings over the weekend. I am a member of the Subcommittee on the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers and the Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America.
The Subcommittee on the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers is responsible for assisting and supporting dioceses, national organizations, and movements in the pastoral care of migrants, refugees, and travelers. At the standing committee’s request, the subcommittee works collaboratively with the other subcommittees and with the Committee on Migration. The current migration and refugee situation is a very serious concern for the Church in the US at this time.
Some might be interested to know that the scope of this committee includes airport chaplaincy for travelers and airport workers; for workers who travel with the circus or carnival; dock workers and seafarers such as those who work on a cruise or maritime ship; cruise ships chaplains and many other apostolates. We aim to ensure that all these faithful who seek a Catholic Mass or pastoral services in their location or port have it available. Additionally, the pastoral care needs of all migrants from every ethnic group and community also fall under the oversight of this subcommittee.
I am also the Bishop liaison to the Brazilian Apostolate. In fact, there is a Bishop representative for every different ethnicity. For instance, a Haitian Bishop represents the Haitian Apostolate; an African-American Bishop represents the African Apostolate; etc.
The Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America is composed of nine bishops. Each year the Subcommittee, with the assistance of its staff, reviews and evaluates grant applications and makes funding decisions. The subcommittee receives an average of 500 requests each year seeking support for a wide variety of pastoral projects across Latin America and the Caribbean.
The resources gathered through the National Collection in January are channeled through the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to the Subcommittee of Bishops for the Church in Latin America, who are in charge of the designation of funds and make the final decisions on the matters related to the region. The staff reviews and analyzes each request and then presents recommendations to the bishops. This is done twice a year during the meetings of the Subcommittee in conjunction with the general assemblies.
Another part of this committee’s work is visiting dioceses and maintaining a connection with the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean as a sign of solidarity and mutual support. Our work is not only sending funds for pastoral projects but also showing support through our presence for the neediest parts of the church in our continent.
At the start of the Plenary Assembly, in which all bishops take part, we came together for a morning of prayer, reflection, and Adoration. Archbishop Emeritus of New Orleans Alfred C. Hughes preached the morning reflection and did a wonderful job reminding the bishops of their role in shepherding God’s people. Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez celebrated the Opening Mass for us at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
This year the USCCB has implemented a new format for bringing the bishops together to discuss our important agenda items. We have been meeting in small group discussions to promote more meaningful dialog among the bishops before coming together in the larger group sessions. This is a much more effective use of time, producing thoughtful responses to the many issues before us.
Tuesday, we elected a new Conference president and vice-president, Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for Military Services and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, respectively. This week we will also vote on chairman-elect of six Conference committees. The terms for the bishops elected for Conference president and vice president will begin at the conclusion of this November meeting, and the bishops elected for committee chairmen will serve for one year as chairman-elect before beginning a three-year term at the conclusion of the 2023 Fall Plenary Assembly.
Although the Assembly will continue throughout until Thursday, there has already been a profound moment I wish to share. The USCCB is celebrating the 20th year of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the comprehensive set of procedures originally established by the USCCB in June 2002 for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy. One of our agenda items is to review the Charter and discuss what has worked, what has not, and, furthermore, what needs to be adjusted.
As part of these discussions, a survivor of sexual abuse addressed the gathering, speaking so eloquently about his healing from the devastation and tremendous hurt which came as a result of his abuse. He recounted how his Catholic faith and his reconnection with the Church brought him healing, strength, and hope. He is now a very active participant in not only helping other victims heal and move forward but also working with the Church to ensure this does not happen to anyone else. I was very moved by this powerful statement he offered during his witness, especially when he told us: “I forgave my abuser. Forgiving him does not mean exonerating him. And it was this forgiving that help bring my healing.”
Catholic Campaign for Human Development Collection
More than 37 million people in the United States live in poverty. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) supports those living in poverty by funding programs that empower local communities to address the challenges they face. It identifies and addresses the unique obstacles people face as they work to lift themselves and their communities out of poverty. In addition, 25% of the funds collected remain in this diocese to fund local antipoverty projects. The theme of this year’s collection is “CCHD: Working on the Margins.” More information about the CCHD can be found on the USCCB website here.
Help those who are working on the margins with your prayerful and financial support of the Campaign for Human Development.
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Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha