In February 2024, nearly two dozen bishops gathered in sunny San Antonio for our annual Episcopal Ongoing Formation Session. When we asked bishops to select their choice of a topic for the session, they chose: “Leading the Presbyterate to Accompany the Church in a Polarized Society: Apostolic Strategies for Our Time.”

In addition to a number of bishops from the USA, bishops from Canada and Haiti were also in attendance. The bishops welcomed the chance to rest, reflect, and come together to learn from one another and from Catholic Leadership Institute. Together, we spent four days engaged in discussions and workshops aimed at addressing the pivotal role of the episcopal shepherd when issues of polarization challenge priests and their flock.

It was not difficult for the bishops to string together a long list of polarizing issues of our time that are driven from both inside and outside of our Church which influence the Church and her priests. Yet, the purpose of this session was not to “answer” these challenges. Our goal instead, was to equip bishops in their response to the challenges, so they have the framework to address any issue that comes their way. Dan Cellucci repeated to the bishops throughout the week that their role as shepherd in this Apostolic Age, “is a pivotal role.”

In addition to looking back on polarizing issues of their time as a seminarian or priest, they created their own individual Vision for the Role in the diocese as to their presbyterates, studied the 3 Types of Responses, explored the formation of faithful consciouses, and studied the 5 Leadership Practices and how they apply to the leadership of their priests. Everything was brought to prayer, both in quiet contemplation and in daily Mass, Morning Prayer, and Evening Prayer.

Among many of the returning participants were a few new faces, including that of Bishop John Tran, Auxiliary Bishop of Atlanta. He shared that, “This experience reaffirms a prayer I pray every day, ‘Lord, help me to be the person you want me to be, not the person I want to be.’ The more you know yourself, the better you can minister to others. The more I know who I am, the better I am able to walk with and lead the people of God.”

At the end of the week, the bishops were joined by members of CLI’s Board of Directors. Supported by a room full of lay leaders dedicated to the mission of the Church, Dan Cellucci reaffirmed the support and accompaniment that the bishops can count on in their apostolic ministry. “We know who you are, and we know whose you are.”

Our Episcopal Ongoing Formation Sessions are fully funded by the generosity of philanthropists who have a heart for supporting the bishops of the Church and their call and capacity to be apostolic leaders for our time. We are grateful to the bishops and all those who make this event possible every year.

by Mike School

March 06, 2024

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