Meeting with Pope Francis
On Dec. 7, the bishops of Michigan and Ohio (17 of us) flew to Rome for our ad limina visits. Ad limina means “to the thresholds,” and so we went to the tombs of the apostles, Peter and Paul, said Mass there and sought their apostolic blessings upon the universal Church and upon our dioceses. Thus, this was a pilgrimage. For bishops, such a pilgrimage is spiritually both necessary and grace-filled. We bishops, as a group, are the continuation of the Apostolic College in union with our Holy Father. So, it is always good to go back to our roots.
According to Canon Law, this pilgrimage is to take place every five years. However, because there are more than 5,000 bishops in the world, it is simply impractical for all of us to keep to such a schedule. In fact, the last time the Michigan and Ohio bishops made this journey was almost eight years ago.
In preparation for this pilgrimage, each diocese prepares a rather lengthy report on the state of the diocese covering the past seven years. We highlighted the evangelization efforts of our diocese, which have been substantial; the merger and clustering of a number of our parishes; the solid financial situation of the diocese after significant cuts in 2008 and a wonderful Witness to Hope campaign; our Faith in Flint initiative; and a focus on trying to create a culture of vocations.
This report is sent to Rome where it is divided up among the various dicasteries (kind of cabinets for the Holy Father). When we visited the various dicasteries for the week we were in Rome, some of these matters came up.
Of course, one of the highlights of our pilgrimage was the meeting the Ohio and Michigan bishops had with the Holy Father on Dec. 10. There are no set speeches, but rather he allows the bishops to pose any questions or issues they wish to raise at the gathering.
We stayed at the North American College just outside of the Vatican. This is the seminary in Rome for seminarians from the United States. I studied there many years ago in preparation for ordination to the priesthood. In fact, I was ordained a deacon in Rome, an event to which my parents were able to come, involving my mom on her first airplane flight.
Know that I have prayed for all of you at the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul. I ask your renewed prayers as our Diocese of Lansing enters 2020. May all of us experience the closeness of God and the fullness of the Holy Spirit and so be drawn ever more deeply to that eternal salvation which we all seek.