Bishops Session Gets to the “Heart” of the Matter

Last week, nearly 30 bishops gathered in prayer, learning, and fraternity, their heads bowed in prayer, hearts filled with care for their priests, and hands hard at work.

Catholic Leadership Institute’s annual Bishops Session united bishops on the topic of shepherding a multi-generational presbyterate.

It was fitting that these sessions commenced over St. Valentine’s Day, given the tremendous focus these bishops have on the love of God and how it is the source of their care for priests, their flocks, and the Church.

I had the joy of being present for these blessed days! Read below to learn about all that I witnessed during this special time with our bishops.

Beloved Priests

Each year, the bishops pick the topic for the sessions. This year‘s topic focused on shepherding a multi-generational presbyterate. Throughout the sessions, there was a clear presence of inherent need to better care for their priests.

The bishops discussed how to better know their priests, their encounters with Christ, the call of their vocation, their joys, their challenges, and their families. The bishops had a great desire for knowledge and actionable steps they can take to better care for priests, who in turn will do the same for their parishes and people they serve.

A panel of five priests of varying ages, experience, and dioceses from around the country also joined the bishops. The panel offered real-life perspectives, engaged in honest dialogue, and shared ideas for strengthening personal, spiritual, and professional relationships. These priests also expressed a profound respect for the bishops and their roles.

As I looked around the room, I tangibly saw ways in which each bishop had a heart for his priests and a desire to better know their hearts.

Beloved Brothers in Christ

There was an immense respect for each other amongst the bishops themselves. While their backgrounds, demographics, and dioceses were unique, the fraternity they shared was universal. They shared how their hearts are both full of gratitude and challenged to do more. They worked in small groups to discuss personal experiences, victories, trust, and obstacles. They spent time reflecting and sharing with each other about great bishops they have encountered as well as special priests they have worked alongside. Just as importantly, they had time to spend in fraternity with each other getting to know fellow bishops and strengthening bonds with those they have already encountered.

They also prayed together. Seeing a bright amaranth (purple-red) sea of zucchettos bowed together in prayer and celebrating Mass is a moving and absolutely unforgettable sight. My heart was so full to witness these prayerful moments.

Love for Christ

Each day, the bishops’ discussions were always focused on their relationship with Jesus: we must encounter Him, share Him, and love Him.

There was a great desire to see how Jesus is at work within their presbyterates. Our bishops were truly discovering the Holy Spirit at work in the new generation of priests emerging and inspiring older generations. As successors to the apostles, they have dedicated their lives to Jesus Christ. CLI is honored to accompany them, affirm them, and support them as they fulfill this call.

Philanthropy – Love of Humankind

The root of the word philanthropy means love for humankind. It is this generous love that makes our Bishops Session possible. Each year, this time for our bishops is 100% made possible by the financial and prayerful support of our donors.

Bishop Timothy Freyer, Auxiliary Bishop of Diocese of Orange, participated in this year’s event and shared, “Engagement with our priests is one of the most important things that as bishop I could ever do. It’s been very positive, focused on how to build up relationships with hope to understand our priests, and based on understanding them, engage them in different ways… Most of the day was not being talked at, but it was us thinking, reflecting, and sharing at our tables and in larger groups. Just the openness we felt… there was a sense of trust.”

Thanks to generous donors, these bishops were able to get to the “heart of the matter” – an episcopal heart that is devoted to Jesus Christ and on fire with His never-ending love.

by Becky Reilley

February 22, 2023

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