Let me tell you of two important events this month — my meeting with Pope Francis on Oct. 6 and this Saturday’s Life Conference — both of which move us out of ourselves to serve others.
I began this month with a trip to Rome. Since I will complete my three-year, non-renewable term next month as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I made my last curial visit.
This is an annual visit to Rome in which the president and vice president of the conference, along with senior staff, visit the various offices that assist the Holy Father in the work of the Church. It usually ends with a personal visit to the pope. I met with Pope Francis on Oct. 6 and, as you might expect, we relived his historic visit to the United States just a year ago.
He spoke of his wonderful experience and the warmth of the people. I told him of the impact of his visits to the White House, Congress, the United Nations General Assembly, Independence Hall and the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
We spoke of the tone of this year’s national election and the desperate need we have to restore civility to our nation and to ensure that the Church continues to serve the people with respect and dignity and in a way that preserves the integrity of the Church.
Pope Francis had so many opportunities to encounter people throughout his trip to the U.S., and he emphasized the importance of our seeking the common good and preserving our faith as we accompany individuals, especially those without a voice.
Making this desire of Pope Francis a reality is what I seek as I prepare for this Saturday’s first Life Conference. Scheduled during Respect Life Month and on the feast day of St. John Paul II (Oct. 22), this conference will bring together many throughout the Archdiocese of Louisville who have a passion for life and who are engaged in the many ministries that support, promote and defend a deep respect for human life. The dream of Pope Francis that we reach out to those most in need is made real this Saturday. To sign up for the conference, go to www.archlou.org/life.
At this conference will be those engaged in parish respect-life committees and social concerns committees, those who teach the precious gift of our faith to youth and those who are searching for the best way to be engaged in these vital ministries.
All have in common something at the core of Pope Francis’ message, which is the message of Jesus: “Go out!” While the world can tempt us to turn in on ourselves — to “circle the wagons around a comfortable world” — Jesus calls us to look beyond ourselves and our own needs. Whether it is the child in the womb and her mother, the aged person near the end of life, the refugee family or the young person caught in the circle of poverty — this conference will call forth the best of the Church.
Not only do we as the Church need to be renewed, but as our news is inundated with election candidates making personal attacks on each other, we need to promote the priority of the common good as well as the virtues of civility and calm that characterize the best of America.
Earlier this month, on Oct. 7, we honored Our Lady of the Holy Rosary and on the Sunday that followed, I was privileged to preside and preach at a special Mass celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Shrine of Our Lady of Šiluva at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Over 1,500 faithful of Lithuanian descent gathered and recalled the appearance of the Blessed Mother in Šiluva in 1608 and the renewed Catholic faith that flowed from her appearance. Here is a link to my homily that day: www.archlou.org/our-lady-of-siluva.
Through many hardships and persecutions over these four centuries, the people of Lithuania have maintained a rugged faith and have turned their minds and hearts to the service of Christ. My meeting with Pope Francis and this Saturday’s Life Conference join that ancient pilgrimage, now centuries old, of a faithful people who seek in faith to serve others. This October we give thanks for these paths in our life.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz