Finding unity in times of division

| Father Charles Lachowitzer | December 7, 2016 | 0 Comments

 Back in November, I had the privilege of representing Region VIII — the dioceses of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota — as an observer for the fall meeting of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore.

In the convention hall itself, I was impressed with the scope and extent of the agenda. It included reports from numerous committees on their work throughout the year. There were various votes for leadership positions and statements of mission, purpose and direction.

istockchurchclockAgenda items included the life and dignity of the human person; laity, marriage, family life and youth; religious freedom and religious persecution; Catholic Relief Services; the promotion of peace in our communities; and immigration. Of course, there were also the administrative, governance and financial details necessary in every organization.

An address to the bishops was given by the outgoing president, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, on the shepherd’s care for the least of our sisters and brothers. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, addressed the assembly on the evangelization of youth in a changing society. And, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, surprised his brother bishops with a special video message of apostolic greetings and encouragement for the upcoming Fifth Encuentro for Latinos in the United States.

One does not have to be an official observer to have noted that the gathering of the bishops came shortly after a dramatic and divisive presidential election. I would presume that the individual bishops spanned a similar diversity of viewpoints. I went from being impressed with the agenda and good work of the bishops’ committees to having a renewed awareness of the collegiality, fraternity and bonds of communion between the bishops themselves.

In the hallways, elevators, dining rooms and local restaurants, there were lots of stories, lots of laughter and an obvious camaraderie. As first and foremost brothers in Christ, the bishops gave voice to their retired elders and remembered in prayer those who had died. They gave public witness to the exceptional lives of those being put forth into the process of naming saints in our time.

During a time when many speak of how divided we are, the national conference of bishops gave me an example of how the Holy Spirit elevates us above and beyond our differences to be one body in Christ.

As an observer, it seemed to me that the work of the assembly was secondary to the primary expression of unity. I observed that in living out the joy of the Gospel, we must first actually enjoy each other’s company, no matter how different we are.

It is often said that “birds of a feather flock together.” As a bird-watcher for cardinals in the city of orioles and ravens, I saw the bishops themselves demonstrate that birds of many different feathers can be one flock.

Father Lachowitzer is vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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Category: The Local Church