Leader of U.S. bishops encourages faithful witness
To be a faithful Catholic in today’s world – "be yourself, and be your best self."
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), offered that encouragement during a July 19 luncheon for supporters of the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, which provides spiritual formation programs for diocesan seminarians and priests.
"God wants us to be saints with all the gifts and weaknesses he gave us … to be witnesses that are transparent and genuine," the archbishop told about 70 clergy, Catholic leaders and guests.
As a guide, he cited Catholic author Matthew Kelly’s four aspects of a dynamic Catholic – seriousness of prayer, the desire to learn more about the faith, generosity and the courage to talk about and pass on the gift of faith.
The archbishop also praised IPF for its work.
"There’s a danger in the priesthood that one may become worn out or burned out because of overwork, but IPF teaches a spirit of giving and unselfishness in a very intentional way," Archbishop Kurtz said.
The archbishop said he’s seen the impact of IPF on his seminarians. "I see a solid grounding … and I get the sense that there’s a sacrificial aspect to IPF that is not just turning a seminarian in on himself, but is an outward movement.
"Right here, when I look at the quality, seriousness, openness and humility of the seminarians that we saw today (at IPF), I think that’s a sign of great hope."
Titled "A Reason for Your Hope," the two-day conference on Creighton University’s campus included a July 18 dinner and reception, adoration of the Eucharist and evening prayer. The July 19 program included a presentation by Father Richard J. Gabuzda, IPF’s executive director, testimonials from faculty and seminarians, and a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Kurtz.
Speaking with the Catholic Voice after the luncheon, Archbishop Kurtz also addressed recent acts of violence in the United States and around the world, encouraging Catholics to practice what he called the three C’s – courage, compassion and civility, plus a fourth he now adds to the mix – calm.
"We are in such a frenetic age in which people are used to having immediate reactions," he said. "But wisdom has always been begotten from a reflective spirit, so I think on all levels of our society, beginning especially in our own families, that instead of reacting to things, especially things that involve disagreement, we can begin to respond rather than react.
"A response takes into account a thinking through, reflecting, what I would call a measured action," he said. "And we need more of that in our society."
To help bishops and others deal with the violence and racial issues brought into focus by recent shootings of citizens and police, the USCCB is launching a task force, he said.
More details were released July 21, and include finding ways for bishops to listen to people’s concerns in troubled communities and in law enforcement, and help build strong relationships to prevent and resolve conflicts.
The archbishop also called for a national day of prayer and peace Sept. 9, the feast of St. Peter Claver, the patron saint of African missions and interracial justice.