Thursday, April 4, 2019

Lenten Pilgrimage to Rome- Audience with the Holy Father - April 3rd and 4th, 2019

            Wednesdays in Rome always witness a huge influx of pilgrims who gather in large and small groups, having come from every country and continent on earth, just to be present for the General Audience with our Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ on Earth.  This Wednesday, April 3, 2019, was just such a day as our small group of Pilgrims set out to take the early bus across the city of Rome to be at the Vatican in time to secure the best vantage point for the Audience which began at 9:30 a.m.  Through the kindness of the Sisters of Mercy of Alma (Michigan) who staff the U.S..Bishops Visitors Office, we were able to secure excellent seats for our small group, while I had the great privilege of having a seat right on the dais where our Holy Father gives his weekly Audience address.  Perhaps due to the time of year, the chilly temps and the threat of rain, the crowds were noticeably smaller, and I was one of only five Bishops to have one of those official seats near the Holy Father. 
            At approximately 9:15 a.m., the Holy Father entered St. Peter’s Square in his famous “Popemobile” and was driven through the large crowds of pilgrims, stopping frequently to greet persons with special needs and to bless and kiss little “bambinos”.  Finally at 9:30 a.m., the Holy Father got out of the Popemobile and walked up the walkway to his chair to begin the Audience with prayer. 

            The prayer consisted of a brief Reading from the Gospel repeated at least eight different times in the major languages of the world, followed by the Holy Father’s catechesis for the day, which for our Audience, was about his recent pastoral trip to Morocco, and a beautiful reflection on the importance of religious freedom and how we are all called to be “servants of hope”.  The Audience concluded by praying the “Pater Noster” (Our Father) together and with the Holy Father’s blessing for those of us who were there, and for our families, which includes our entire Family of Faith of our Diocese of Kalamazoo. 
            As the Audience concluded, it was time for the Bishops who were present to personally greet the Holy Father.  It was a great privilege for me to be the first of the Bishops to have this great honor.  After greeting him and reminding him of our Diocese (and the Holy Father loves to repeat “Ka-la-ma-zoooo” after me with a big smile on his face), I told him I brought him greetings from all the priests, deacons and faithful people of our Diocese and that we are grateful to him and asking God’s graces to help him to remain courageous in his leadership of the Church in these difficult times.  I concluded in Spanish: “Que Dios los bendiga y Nuestra Senora lo guie y proteja”.  It was a wonderful and exhilarating spiritual experience, and I pray that you all feel the graces and blessings one time removed. 

            After a quick lunch, we spent the afternoon visiting the Catacombs of St. Priscilla.  Though a completely different kind of experience, it was so very moving to have the opportunity to visit the burial places of the early Christians who lived in Rome in the 3rd century.  This particular Catacomb had evidence of over 40,000 burials that covered an area of approximately 7 miles.  The tour guide was a wonderful, well-informed and articulate young woman who explained in great detail the history of the Catacombs and the strong sense already in the 3rd century of the concept of the resurrection of the dead.  As opposed to the strong majority of the pagan people in Rome who mourned their dead, the Christian community understood that those who had died buried their bodies for a time of sleeping awaiting the resurrection of the dead at the end of all time. The actual term “cemetery” comes from the Greek word for “sleeping”.  It was a truly moving experience.  “Eternal rest grant unto all your Faithful Departed, oh Lord, and let Your perpetual Light shine upon them.  May they Rest In Peace. Amen.”
            The day came to an end with a delicious dinner at Msgr. Osborn’s favorite restaurant, Trattoria Scavolina Roma.  For all intents and purposes, that was our last meal together, which was a fitting way to bring our Lenten Pilgrimage to a conclusion. 

            Today (Thursday) was a special “side-trip” of a one-day tour of the beautiful Amalfi Coast along the Mediterranean Sea.  Fr. Max and I, along with members of my family, enjoyed this trip immensely.   Though the weather was unpleasant (it had turned cold and rained most of the day—-our first unpleasant day weather-wise), it was a wonderful experience enjoying the august beauty of God’s creation in this part of the world.  A highpoint of this day trip was a visit to the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Amalfi, which houses the mortal remains of the great St. Andrew, Apostle.  What a special grace and blessing.  

            Early tomorrow morning, we will all be boarding separate planes to find our ways back home, bringing to an end this wonderful Lenten Pilgrimage.  I return to our Diocese very proud of our two young priests who have done exceptionally well in their studies as they prepare to return to our Diocese by the end of June; and I also return spiritually enriched for these final days of Lent and prepared for the approaching days of Holy Week and the Sacred Paschal Triduum. 
            With prayers for the continued intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church for our Diocese, and in thanksgiving for all the graces God continues to bestow upon us, I remain

                                                                        Faithfully yours in Christ,

                                                                        + Bishop Paul J. Bradley
                                                                        Bishop of Kalamazoo

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Lenten Pilgrimage to Rome - April 1 and 2, 2019

The beginning of April and these last four days in Rome began, fittingly enough, by visiting two of the four major basilicas in Rome. After a 20-minute car ride, we arrived at St. Mary Major Basilica which, I have to admit, for several reasons, is probably my favorite of all the basilicas. Besides the fact that it is dedicated to our Blessed Mother, St. Mary Major feels more like “my spiritual home”. It is beautiful and simple at the same time; it contains part of the Manger where Jesus was laid following His Birth in Bethlehem, and it is normally the church where I find a good Confessor (in English) so I can celebrate the Sacrament of Penance while in Rome. At this visit, most of our small pilgrimage group availed ourselves of this beautiful Sacrament as another wonderful spiritual preparation as we draw ever closer to Holy Week and Easter. 

After our prayerful visit there, we then went by car to the Basilica of St. John Lateran where we would be celebrating Mass for this Monday of the 4th Week of Lent. St. John Lateran is the Cathedral Church for the Diocese of Rome, and therefore it is where the Holy Father, as the Bishop of Rome, has his Cathedra and celebrates all the official Masses and other major liturgical events for the priests and people of the Diocese of Rome. But the Lateran is also the first Church in all Christendom, given and built by the Emperor Constantine in the 4th century at the time when he issued the Edict of Toleration, giving Christians the right to practice their faith without persecution, a faith that Constantine himself embraced on his deathbed, thanks to the influence of his mother, St. Helen. It was also due to St. Helen’s influence that we have so many treasured religious articles which she found in the Holy Land and had brought back to Rome, including the True Cross, the Holy Stairs, and the table top where Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with His Apostles. It was a joyful privilege to celebrate Mass together in one of the amazing chapels in this magnificent Basilica, and we were all greatly inspired by Msgr. Osborn’s fine homily. Speaking of the Holy Stairs, we went directly to where they are, just across the street from the Lateran. These Holy Stairs are the exact ones where Pilate condemned Jesus to death, and the long-standing spiritual practice is that Pilgrims who are able to prayerfully mount these steps on their knees as we meditate on the beginning of Jesus’ Passion and Way of the Cross are able to receive a Plenary Indulgence. It was truly a very moving and memorable time for us all. 

At this point, our Pilgrimage group separated, with the members of my family going off on their own to see a number of the great sights in Rome, including the Coliseum, while Msgr. Osborn, Fr. Jeff, Fr. Max and I spent the remainder of the day together to give us a chance to talk more specifically about their License Degree, the major papers (Tesina di Licenza) they have both written (Fr. Jeff’s: “Canon 285, Juridical Categories for the Conduct of Clerics” and Fr. Max’s: “The Use Of Judicial Presumptions as a Form of Proof”), and our plans for their return to the Diocese later this Spring. As we made our way back to the Casa, we first visited the beautiful Church of Santa Croce of Jerusalem where many beautiful Relics of Jesus’ Passion and Death are. This was another great way to help prepare us for these final three weeks of Lent, including Holy Week that is quickly approaching. After our several hours of meetings together, and a meeting with the Superior of the Casa for his evaluations of our two student priests, we all joined together at the end of the day for a delicious light dinner to bring Monday to a fitting close. 

April 2, 2019
Today has been a day completely focused on the most important of all the Basilicas, St. Peter. We took an early bus to arrive at St. Peter’s so we could be ready to celebrate Mass together scheduled for 7:15 a.m. Seeing this world-famous Basilica for the first time ever, or seeing it for the first time again, is breath-taking, it’s that impressive and beautiful. Security around all the Basilicas in Rome, and in particular St. Peter’s Basilica, is noticeably much tighter than the last time I was here, and much more restrictive. Getting through Security took much longer this time, and no vehicles are permitted down the Conciliazione (the main thoroughfare) nor around the surrounding streets. It makes it much nicer for the pilgrims who can walk without worrying about getting injured and it certainly makes the atmosphere more prayerful. While the traffic is changed, the huge numbers of pilgrims are as large and diverse as ever. At our Mass this morning in the Crypt of St. Peter’s at the Chapel of the Saints of Europe, Fr. Jeff gave a very nice homily in which he included many historical facts along with his spiritual insights to help us all to have a deeper appreciation for the significance of this major basilica. 

After Mass, Msgr. Osborn then led a wonderful and instructive tour of the upper Basilica, after which a number of our company had the courage to go up to the very top of the Basilica to what’s called the Cupola where the view is spectacular. I have to take their word for it since I was not among the courageous ones who went, but I do have a photo to show how beautiful it is. The remainder of the day consisted of some souvenirs shopping, other sightseeing, and, following praying Evening Prayer together, a nice dinner at a German/Italian restaurant, before retiring for the evening, with our hearts anticipating the “main event” for tomorrow—-the weekly General Audience with our Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, the 266th Successor to Peter. I look forward to sharing more about the Audience and more in the next Installment.

Faithfully yours in Christ,
+ Bishop Paul J. Bradley.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Lenten Pilgrimage to Rome, March 29 - Laetare Sunday, March 31, 2019

On this Fourth Sunday of Lent—-Laetare Sunday—-having enjoyed a full, pleasant and enriching weekend in Florence (Fierenza), we have boarded the high speed train as we return to Rome. This is the second time I have visited Florence, the first time being more than 30 years ago when I visited here in the late 1970’s. In a city as ancient and historic as Florence, not much has changed, but my appreciation for all that it represents has certainly broadened.

We arrived at Noon on Friday and a short cab ride from the train stations brought us to the Casa Regina del Santo Rosario (House of the Queen of the Holy Rosary) a Retreat House/Bread and Breakfast operated by the Sisters of St. Philip Neri. Once we got our room assignments and got situated a bit, we began our exploration of this beautiful city. As in Rome, the main points of interest are the famous churches and historic museums. After a delicious pronzo (lunch) at the Accademia Restaurant (where it was so good that we also returned there for our final lunch on Sunday), we visited the beautiful Church of Santa Croce (Holy Cross), a Franciscan Basilica that dates back to 1295, and claims the distinction of being the “Pantheon of Italian Glories” as the resting place for Michaelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Alfieri, Foscolo, and Rossini. The Church holds gorgeous and inspiring frescoes of Giotto, Donatello, and Rossollino. It also is the home for the Leather School of Florence, where fine leather products have been hand-crafted for almost 100 years, and where we were able to see the present-day artisans fashioning their craft today. After a refreshing cup of coffee and a break, we returned to the B & B, had a little siesta, followed by a late evening non-meat dinner for this Lenten Friday at Il Grullo, and then a welcome bedtime.

From left, Msgr. Michael Osborn, Bishop Paul J. Bradley, Fr. Maximilian Nightengale and Father Jeff Hanley
Church of Santa Croce (Holy Cross), a Franciscan Basilica

March 30, 2019
Saturday began with celebrating Mass with the Sisters in their Retreat House Convent. Since they requested the Mass to be in Italian, Msgr. Osborn was our principal celebrant and Fr. Max preached a fine homily in both Italian (for the Sisters) and English (for the rest of us). After breakfast, we began our all-day exploration of one of the most famous landmarks in Florence, the “Duomo”, the Cathedral Church of the Archdiocese of Florence under the formal title of Our Lady of the Flower (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore) It is a massive structure and an architectural wonder. Words can not do justice to the beauty of its massive exterior, with the bell tower and very famous Baptistry, a separate but complimentary structure nearby. It took well over 100 years to construct this Cathedral begun in 1296 and completed in 1436. The lines of pilgrims/tourists waiting to get in, with ticket required for entrance, was over an hour’s wait. Once inside, the interior is massive, but fairly simple. We saw all the parts of the interior open to the public, and then thanks to the kindness of some of the security guards, we were permitted to see the remainder of the Cathedral that is not normally available. The craftsmanship of the woodwork in two sacristies (one for the priests and one for the bishop) was magnificent. We also were able to see the interior of the Baptistry with the entire ceiling revealing in numerous frescoes the entire story of Salvation History. Both structures are amazing architecturally and inspiring in all that it represents and teaches to the hundreds of pilgrims who see it each day. (Photos inserted here.........)

After a brief lunch, we walked to see the world-famous Ponte Vecchio with shop after shop of costly jewelry for “the rich and famous”. The Ponte Vecchio is one of a series of bridges which cross the scenic Arno River.

We then visited the Pitti Palace, currently a museum holding the priceless works of many famous artists, including Rafael, Murillo and D’Agnolo. After walking all the way back to our B&B where we freshened up a bit and got ready for a delicious Saturday evening meal at a local restaurant, La Carbonata (who claimed to have the best Florentine Steak), those among our party who wear Fit-Bits revealed that our grand total of steps for this one day was just short of 15,000! No wonder my legs hurt!

Laetare Sunday - March 31, 2019
Today was the highpoint of our Florence visit as we were invited to concelebrate Mass on this 4th Sunday of Lent/Laetare Sunday with the Canons of the Cathedral (the Duomo). The Mass was celebrated in Latin with a Schola who beautifully sang the Mass parts in Gregorian Chant. It was a great privilege to celebrate with our priests (Msgr. Osborn, Father Jeff and Father Max) along with several of the Canons, and for me to offer this Sunday Mass (as I do every week)“Pro Populo”, for all the Faithful (Living and Deceased/Clergy and Laity) of the Diocese of Kalamazoo. 

These days in Florence have been beautiful, Spring-like (warm with pleasant breezes), and very spiritually enriching for all of us. Along with the Mass Intention for all our Faithful today, you all remain in my prayers at each of the holy places throughout this pilgrimage. As the train now approaches the Rome Terminal, I look forward to continuing this Pilgrimage for the 4 days remaining for our time in Rome. Let us continue to pray for one another.

Faithfully yours,
+Bishop Paul J. Bradley


Friday, March 29, 2019

2019 Lenten Pilgrimage to Rome—-March 28

Greetings from the Eternal City, the Center of our Catholic Faith, the See of Peter, the Vicar of Christ on Earth! 
      Msgr. Michael Osborn, our Vicar General and Director of Priestly Formation, and I traveled from Kalamazoo and arrived in Rome early Thursday morning to blue skies, pleasant temperatures, and Spring fully alive.  Five members of my family (four siblings and a brother-in-law) are accompanying me on this pilgrimage, as we visit with our two graduate priests, Father Jeff Hanley and Father Max Nightingale, as they are completing their two-year License in Canon Law.  The 45-minute drive from Fiumicino Airport to the Casa Santa Maria allowed us to pass through the beautiful countryside and into and through the dense traffic of cars/motorcycles/trucks and throngs of pedestrians, both tourists and local residents of the very busy city of Rome.  Father Max and Father Jeff were waiting to greet us at the Casa (as it is referred to), the residence for about 75 student priests from the United States, where Msgr. Osborn and I are staying.  (My family members are staying at an AirBNB within a five-minute walk from the Casa.)
      After finding our rooms/accommodations and a chance to freshen up, all ten of us enjoyed a delicious late lunch (pronzo) at an outdoor restaurant.  We then had time to do some sightseeing before returning to our rooms for a short rest (siesta).  We all gathered at 6  p.m. in the Sacred Heart Chapel at the Casa to celebrate our first Mass in Rome, followed by our first chance for a light dinner (cena) of pizza at a local restaurant (DaMichele) that claimed to have the “best pizza in the world”.  Fr. Max, who is a regular patron of this restaurant, agreed that they certainly had the best pizza in Rome.  Since the “body clocks” of those of us who had traveled such a great distance had not caught up with the actual time of Rome, we were all ready for an early bedtime. 
      Friday, the first full day in Rome, began early with breakfast at the Casa Dining Room, followed by all of us celebrating Mass together in the Crypt of the beautiful Church of the 12 Apostles, very near the burial place of two of the 12 Apostles, St. Philip and St. James.  To be able to be that near the earthly remains of two of Jesus’ closest followers and to celebrate Mass in that very place is one of the greatest thrills of any pilgrimage to Rome.  Father Jeff preached a beautiful homily, providing us with some of the history of that great basilica and these two Apostles.  
View from the Crypt to the upper Church of the 12 Apostles

Mass at the Church of the 12 Apostles (shown from left at the altar: Msgr. Michael Osborn, Bishop Bradley, Fr. Jeff Hanley and Fr. Maximilian Nightengale). 

      Following Mass, we have all boarded a high speed train to travel to Florence where we will be for the weekend.  I will be writing more about that part of our Pilgrimage in the next day or two.

Faithfully yours in Christ,
+Bishop Bradley

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Bishops' retreat bears fruit of the Holy Spirit

A Reflection on a Special Time of Retreat and Reflection for U.S. Bishops
January 2-8, 2019   Mundelein Seminary    Chicago, IL

            While all bishops and priests are very familiar with times of spiritual retreat and reflection, and in fact look forward to such an essential part of our spiritual life every year, I don’t think that any of us have ever experienced such a week as we just completed.  On the 2nd day of this new year, at the urging of our Holy Father Pope Francis, every Bishop in the United States who was able to do so, made their way to the gorgeous, 600-acre grounds of Mundelein Seminary in the northern suburbs of Chicago.  Of course there were plenty of comments about traveling to blustery and windy Chicago in the dead of winter, as well as musings about how many bishops in the southern and western parts of our country (including Hawaii and Guam---yes both of those Bishops were present) had to borrow winter coats and hats before making the trip; yet, we were blessed with an unusually moderate, and somewhat pleasant, week, weather-wise. 

            Much more important than the weather, of course, was the incredibly rich substance of the week, and the clear evidence that the Holy Spirit was truly at work through the inspiring instructions of the Retreat Director, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M., Cap.,
as well as the beautiful concelebration of the daily Masses, Eucharistic Holy Hours at the end of each day, and the communal praying of the Divine Office each morning and evening.  Even though the Mundelein seminarians were still on their Christmas vacation, many of the seminarians and several seminary priests and staff were present to provide assistance and to be available in any way they could help.  There was an army of lay volunteers to offer cheerful guidance, and a small fleet of golf carts with drivers to assist those bishops who had some difficulty in maneuvering the somewhat large distances among the residence halls, the main chapel, and the dining room, all in separate buildings.  All these volunteers were amazingly generous and could not have been more gracious.   
            The schedule remained the same each day: two spiritual conferences at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., as well as the Homily at the 11 a.m. daily Mass, all preached by Father Cantalamessa; Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer before each morning conference and following the late afternoon conference; Holy Hour in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament each evening from 7 p.m. until 8 p.m.;  and three meals each day, mostly partaken of in silence.  The meals were good, but simple; healthy without any desserts or alcoholic beverages served. There was not any coffee available, except in the dining room, so it was definitely an adjustment for those of us used to 8-12 cups a day.  Finally our rooms were the typical seminary room: bed, desk and desk chair.  No easy chair, no TV, no frills. There were opportunities provided on several of our retreat days to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance.  The remainder of each day was for personal prayer and reflection. 
            On the first evening of our retreat, the Apostolic Nuncio (who remained with us throughout the retreat) welcomed all the Bishops in the name of our Holy Father, and provided each bishop with his own personal copy of an eight-page letter Pope Francis had written to us.  When he first recommended that we enter into this time of retreat, it was Pope Francis’ intention to come to be with us in person, to direct the retreat himself; however, due to security issues, and too many other details to deal with, he realized that would not be possible.  That is why he recommended that the Preacher of the Papal Household, Father Cantalamessa, be our retreat director.  His letter, which has been released to the public, made it clear what the Holy Father’s hopes were for us as we entered into this time of retreat.  As he said, he sees this retreat “as a necessary step toward responding in the spirit of the Gospel to the crisis of credibility that you (Bishops) are experiencing as a Church.”  He went on to write: “At times of great confusion and uncertainty, we need to be attentive and discerning to free our hearts of compromises and false certainties, in order to hear what the Lord asks of us in the mission He has given us.”  And he concluded his letter by encouraging us: “Entering with trust into Jesus’ prayer to the Father (Jn.17:11-12), we want to learn from Him and, with firm resolve, to begin this time of prayer, silence and reflection, of dialogue and communion, of listening and discernment.  In this way we will allow Him to conform our hearts to His image and help us discover His will.”
            It was with that direction from the Holy Father in mind that Father Cantalamessa drew the theme for his eleven conferences, six homilies, and one penitential service: “He appointed the Twelve to be with Him; and then sent them out to preach”.  While I knew who Father Cantalamessa was, I had never been privileged to hear him, and certainly never had been in his company.  I can say now, after this week, that it was indeed our privilege to have him be our retreat director, and I could not help but think that we were in the presence of a truly saintly priest.  He spoke God’s Word with insight, conviction, and with a sense that he indeed had a deep, personal knowledge of and love for Jesus, His Word and His Church.  As I mentioned earlier, Father’s focus in the first half of his daily conferences was on the first half of his theme: that Jesus appointed the Twelve to be with Him.  One of the titles that Bishops are privileged to bear is that we are “successors to the Apostles”.  Father wanted us to reflect and pray about the fact that as the Apostles’ successors, we too have been appointed first of all to “be with Jesus”.  What does that mean?  Father’s emphasis on each of those conferences was helping us to think and reflect more deeply on what it means to be “in love with Jesus”---that we “stay with Him” by being one with Him, united in Him, in love with Him.  And when we are one with, united in, and in love with Him, that means that we are one with, united in, and in love with Jesus’ Church.  Those reflections led to a deeper appreciation for the importance of regular and constant prayer, and an openness to the prompting, guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit Who continues to guide the Church.  The second half of Father Cantalamessa’s conferences focused on the second part of his theme: that we have been sent to preach the Good News of the Gospel to all the world; that we are to speak the Truth in Love; that we are to preach Jesus, and not ourselves. 
            Father Cantalamessa was inspiring, insightful, and challenging.  Each of his conferences lasted the better part of an hour, and he always left me wanting to hear more.  As I already stated, I had not read much of Father’s writings in the past; having heard him on this retreat, I have ordered six of more than two dozen books Father has written so I can continue to be inspired and challenged by his powerful insights. 
            These seven days of retreat have been a great spiritual gift to me, and no doubt to every Bishop who participated.  I am grateful to our Holy Father for directing us to enter into this time of prayer and reflection.  The purpose of this retreat was exclusively focused on the need for each of us as Bishops, Successors to the Apostles, and Disciples of Jesus our Lord and Savior to grow in our love for Jesus and our commitment to follow Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; it was not intended to be a working session for the Bishops to develop plans, nor was it a time for the Bishops to discuss solutions to the serious concerns that our beloved Church is currently experiencing.  However, it is my conviction as we begin this new year that the fruits of this special retreat have better prepared me, and all of our Bishops, to respond to the Holy Spirit’s guidance to help change our hearts, guide our thoughts, and inform our decisions so that we are more spiritually prepared to find the solutions and develop plans in the near future that will help us resolve the crisis of trust that our people have in their Bishops, to root out the evil of sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults, and to continue to help all abuse survivors to heal and to find peace.  With God’s grace, we can enter into what our Holy Father calls “a new ecclesial season” in which we bishops can discern God’s will, and collaborate with others in that same discernment process so that, again as Pope Francis put it, we can “combat the ‘culture of abuse’ and deal with the crisis of credibility.”
            Thank you to the members of the clergy and lay faithful of the Diocese of Kalamazoo for your prayers for me and for all the Bishops during these days of retreat.  I ask that we all continue to pray for, and with, one another, asking the Holy Spirit to bring healing within the Church and encourage us all to a new spirit of unity, trust and collaboration in following God’s Holy Will.

                                                            Faithfully yours in Christ,

                                                            Bishop Paul J. Bradley

Front of the Chapel

View from the front of the Chapel looking toward the lake

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Bishop Bradley's Reflections on USCCB General Assembly November 2018

November 12-15, 2018. Baltimore, Md.

November 15, 2018
Feast of St. Albert the Great

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

As I prepare to leave Baltimore following these last four days of meetings, I wanted to try to the best of my ability to share with you what took place; to try to give you some insight into what did not take place and why; and to try to reassure you that, in spite of the unexpected start of the meeting, in fact there was significant progress and that we all have reason to be hopeful.

As I was traveling to Baltimore on Sunday, arriving here early in the evening, my mindset was one of anxious concern as to what surely would be a very difficult next few days. I had read all the preliminary documents and background information regarding the four proposed “pillars” that the body of Bishops would be voting on as at least one way of demonstrating our collective determination to complement whatever had been lacking in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. It would also be one way to take a positive step forward to keep from happening ever again what allowed the Archbishop McCarrick situation to have taken place, and that enabled some Bishops to have mismanaged or even covered up clergy sexual abuse situations in their dioceses as was alleged in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.

Those “four pillars” are:
1. A mechanism to allow for a report to be made of an allegation against a Bishop through a 3rd-party, objective system that would go directly to the Apostolic Nuncio, the Pope’s representative, in Washington.

2. The formation of an independent (separate 501 (c) 3) Commission made up mostly of lay professionals to review and make recommendations about those allegations made against Bishops and brought forward thru the mechanism above, and to make recommendations on what next steps to take.

3. The establishment of “Standards of Conduct” that every Bishop would be asked to sign (currently all priests, deacons, anyone involved in ministry positions with young people are asked to sign a Code of Conduct).

4. The creation of a set of protocols to clearly delineate what a bishop who has resigned for cause, or was asked to resign, may do in terms of future ministry.

The reason I had anxious concern is because I already believed that if that was all we accomplished during our days in Baltimore—-to establish more policies and make more promises——our people would not see that as nearly sufficient. In my mind, we needed to do something dramatic to demonstrate to the faithful, and to prove to ourselves, that we are serious about wanting to cooperate with what clearly is God’s plan to purify His Church.

It was clear that all the Bishops were very much looking forward to Monday’s opening of the Fall Meeting by participating in a day-long time of Prayer in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Little did I, or any of us, know how badly we would need this day of intensive prayer. Because before beginning our day of prayer at 10:30 a.m.,  we had an opening session at 9  a.m. at which Cardinal DiNardo stunned all of us with the announcement that we would not be voting on these four “pillars” mentioned above in light of a request that he had just received from the Vatican the evening before “urging” the United States Conference to not move to a vote on any of those items on our agenda dealing with clergy sexual abuse. The reason given by the Vatican office was because Pope Francis has convened the Presidents of all Bishops’ Conferences of every country in the world to meet in February in Rome on this very issue of clergy sexual abuse, and he wanted our Conference to wait until the world-wide meeting could assess the problem and issue world-wide conclusions. The Holy Father was not asking the Conference not to vote on these items; just to delay the vote until after the February meeting. The Bishops in the room were stunned. There was an audible gasp. Cardinal DiNardo was not in any way masking his own disappointment (and dare I say distress) about this 11th hour turn of events. I would venture to say that every Bishop in the assembly was equally frustrated, confused, angry and left with a “now what” question. As I said, it was very providential that we recessed from that opening session to enter into a Day of Prayer so we could all bring our frustrations and anger to the Lord, to seek His direction.

As an aside, I would offer this additional commentary. Every Bishop feels a dual responsibility: the first is to be in communion with our Holy Father, and to be faithful to the promise of obedience to him, as every priest is faithful to his promise of obedience to his bishop; the second is to be courageous leaders of our people—-to be Shepherds who serve the needs of our people and who stand up against anyone or anything that endangers the Flock of Christ. The collective gasp in the room was, for me, and I think for all, an expression of a serious dilemma, being caught between these two sacred responsibilities.

The Day of Prayer was powerful, moving, transformative in many ways, and helped give a perspective that moved from our own pre-determined perspective to a larger, shall we say more universal, perspective. During the Day of Prayer, we Bishops heard from four brave, articulate, and deeply faith-filled people. The first two were survivors of clergy sexual abuse. The first was Teresa Pitt Green; the second was Luis A. Torres, Jr. They were the faces of untold numbers of survivors of clergy sexual abuse. What was so amazing about each of them was that in spite of all that they had experienced in their lives, through the grace of God and their own inner strength, they have turned their tragedy into a victory. Teresa is the founder of “Spirit Fire Live” which is devoted to “healing and reconciliation in relationships with adults, families and parishes wounded by child abuse and trauma.” Neither of them was accusatory; but both of them were direct and honest. Teresa said: “My heart breaks for you...the Lord has cried more tears because of the decisions some of you have made. I don’t know how you bear it.” Luis said, among many things: “Truly this (clergy sexual abuse) is the devil’s best work....You need to do better...the heart of the Church is broken and you need to fix this now.” The third speaker was a young single mother who spoke in the name of the young people of the Church, and the fourth was the Superior of a community of Religious Women who urged us to get it right. That Day of Prayer concluded with a concelebrated Mass presided by Cardinal DiNardo; Archbishop Bernard Hebda was the Homilist, and as always, was profound in his own engaging style.

That Day of Prayer touched my heart and moved me to tears more than once; I’m quite sure that was true for most of us who participated. And I’m convinced that Day of Prayer set the tone for the remainder of the meeting.

The agenda for Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s public sessions of the General Assembly were dominated by discussion of the documents for each of the “four “pillars” I referenced earlier, and a lot of open, frank, and personal dialogue among the bishops (as much as can happen in a room with 300 of us). In my almost 14 years of attending these General Assemblies, I have never seen such honesty and vulnerability expressed. Bishops expressing anger; Bishops calling for radical change; Bishops voicing frustration at not being able to do more than what we were able to do. But Bishops always striving to maintain unity (“communion”) with our Holy Father, and to reassure our people that we are absolutely committed to addressing those three primary promises that we came to this meeting to do: 1) to do what we could to get to the bottom of the question as to how Archbishop McCarrick could have risen through the ranks of the hierarchy if and when there were certainly people who knew of his evil acts over the course of many years; 2) to make reporting of alleged abuse and/or misconduct on the part of Bishops easier to do; and 3) to hold Bishops accountable in ways that are independent, duly authorized and under the leadership of lay people with appropriate expertise. While we were not able to vote on the four pillars, they were thoroughly discussed, and it was abundantly clear that there is widespread support for each of those initiatives. When the February 2019 meeting which Pope Francis has called for the heads of all Episcopal Conferences takes place, Cardinal DiNardo has committed himself to speaking boldly on behalf of those proposals. In the meantime, every Bishop is free to make any and all of those accommodations in his own Diocese.

In that regard, here in our Diocese of Kalamazoo, I intend to continue to advance “A Plan to Protect”, which includes the establishment of a lay commission of experts to review all our policies and procedures, and I will also be asking them for ways to make sure that I, as Bishop, am held accountable. This “Plan” also calls for all our priests, deacons and lay ministers working with young people to sign a Code of Conduct, and I will sign it as well. In regard to making public the names of priests against whom credible allegations of child sexual abuse have been made, we are in somewhat of a dilemma right now because of the Michigan Attorney General Investigation; we need to see whether, or how, we can move forward with that given our current situation. We are seeking clarifications on that very question.

There was one very positive result from these recent days of the Fall General Assembly of U.S. Bishops. Among the very limited amount of other routine agenda items that were discussed, the long-awaited pastoral letter in the name of the United States Bishops on racism was voted on and was virtually unanimously passed. The letter is entitled: “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love—-a Pastoral Letter Against Racism”. It is a beautifully written exhortation which addresses racism’s impact on various groups and ethnicities in the U.S. from a contemporary viewpoint. There is special emphasis on the experiences of Native Americans, African Americans, and the racial targeting of Hispanics and immigrants. The Letter highlights Catholic teaching on the human person as the “image of God” and calls individuals and communities to conversion and action. The Letter should be published and available to us before the end of this calendar year. In light of the growing racial tensions and many expressions of racially-motivated acts of violence, I very much look forward to having this Letter available for reading and study by all our Faithful people and clergy.

Following an Executive Session this morning, the Fall Assembly has now concluded and I prepare to return to the Diocese. On the one hand, I am disappointed that I am not returning with voted-upon agreements of new initiatives that we can all put into place at the national level to fill the gaps of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” For that, we will have to wait a while longer. On the other hand, I come home filled with hope because I believe I participated in a transformative moment in the life of the U.S. Conference of Bishops. There is not one Bishop at this meeting who does not realize that if there ever was a “business as usual” attitude for the USCCB, that time is over and done. We are in a new day, a new moment, and I believe there is a new, strong, and clear resolve on the part of just about every Bishop; I can say that for sure about myself as your Bishop. I/we are resolved to do better; to do whatever it takes; to be renewed in our determination to be faithful to our people while at the same time remaining in union with our Holy Father, for the sake of the safety and protection of our children and vulnerable people, and for the loving service to all God’s holy people.

As Cardinal DiNardo said in his closing address: “We leave this place committed to taking the strongest possible actions at the earliest possible moment.” He continued: “But our hope for true and deep reform ultimately lies in more than excellent systems, as essential as these are. It requires holiness: the deeply held conviction of the truths of the Gospel, and the eager readiness to be transformed by those truths in all aspects of life.” In a similar way, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, said: “If the Church is to reform herself and her structures, then the reform must spring from Her mission of making known Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

In light of those comments, I return to our Diocese committed to do all that can be done as soon as we can do it. And I commit myself, even as I ask all our priests and deacons to join with me in committing themselves, to be renewed in Christ to be His holy shepherds, shepherds who lead our people with courage and with joy, shepherds who protect our flocks from any evil, shepherds who root the evil of any sin out of our own hearts so that we can lead our people with integrity and with the mind/heart of Christ.

The Fall General Assembly of U.S. Bishops admittedly did not go the way we expected; however, I believe—-I am hopeful—-that the meeting went the way God wanted it to go.  May we faithfully follow the Lord’s call to grow in holiness, even as He is Holy; may we consecrate ourselves to the protection of Mary, the Mother of the Church, who will persistently lead us to Jesus.

Assuring you of my fervent prayers for you, and asking for your prayers for me, our Diocese, and our one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, I remain

Faithfully yours in Christ,

+ Bishop Paul J. Bradley

Friday, July 7, 2017

Convocation of Catholic Leaders 2017

Pre-Convocation Preparations:
            Plans for this Convocation began to be discussed by the Conference of Bishops several years ago.  It’s taken this long to design, plan, make all the preparations and accommodations, determine speakers and participants, and develop the communication efforts to publicize and promote the Convocation.  It began with a theme of Religious Liberty; however soon after Pope Francis published his major apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), it became clear that religious liberty would be one of several major themes under the overarching category of the New Evangelization and bringing the Joy of the Gospel to our part of the world here in America.
            While many were concerned about the timing of the proposed event (over the 4th of July holiday) and the location of the event (Florida in July?), the combination of excellent rates at that time of year and the availability of people to travel and participate during those days, and facilities big enough to manage the expected turnout made Orlando the desirable location.  The Bishops discussed this event at several of the Conference meetings and wholeheartedly endorsed the project and enthusiastically became the hosts/inviters for this major, national event.
            Each Bishop was asked to begin planning for this event by selecting a delegation to represent the Diocese and to make sure that the costs of sending the delegation were provided in the budget.  In our case, we were able to receive a good bit of financial assistance through Catholic Extension and some other grants received. 
            Our diocesan delegation is made up of seven people to accompany me to the Convocation: Father German Perez-Diaz, Father Tom McNally, Deacon Candidate Dr. Don Bouchard, Diocesan Staff members Jamin Herold and Lisa Irwin, Catholic Charities President/Executive Director Tim Leiser, and Parish Youth Leader, Joy Livingston (St. Margaret Parish).  In addition our Diocesan Staff member, Socorro Truchan, who was technically representing NACFLM (National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers), also joined with our delegation as the 9th member.
The Diocese of Kalamazoo Delegation (from top to bottom-left to right): Fr. Tom McNally, Dr. Don Bouchard, Bishop Paul J. Bradley, Fr. German Perez Diaz, Lisa Irwin, Joy Livingston, Jamin Herold, Socorro Truchan and Tim Leiser. 

Our delegation met several times before leaving for Orlando to get to know one another and to plan our strategies for making sure that we could make the best use of our time at the Convocation, e.g. selecting which of the many Breakout Sessions we would plan on attending, etc.

            From a personal experience perspective, I have attended many national meetings/conferences/convocations in the past, but none was as major, as vibrant, as enthusiastic, as diverse/inclusive, as massive as this one proved to be.  The expected number of attendees was over 3,000 representing more than 150 Dioceses throughout the United States, and every national organization, ministry, and movement, and representatives from a large number of religious women and men.  Participants stayed in several of the large hotels surrounding the primary meeting space which was the Hyatt Regency Hotel and the Orange County Convention Center.  As we were warned beforehand to bring comfortable walking shoes, that suggestion proved so true in the amount of walking that was required to move from hotel room, to meeting/convocation sessions, to lunch or dinner locations.  One of our delegation members, Joy Livingston, who wore a fit bit, was able to determine that during the 4 days she was there, she walked more than 24 miles. My legs can attest to a close proximity to that amount for me.
            It was so encouraging to see the entire Church in microcosm gathered together for these days of prayerful reflection, renewal and strategic planning: lay women and men, religious, deacons, priests and bishops, all participating together in this very important convocation.
            There were four themes for the four days: July 1---Unity in the Joy of the Gospel and our need for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit; July 2---Renewal in light of the state of the “landscape” of our Church in the United States (based on current research and data) in a spirit of “evangelical discernment”; July 3---Witness---going to “the peripheries” to accompany those disengaged from the Church and/or those suffering from poverty (material and spiritual), those with disabilities, those who are hurt/alienated; and July 4---Mission---equipping leaders  with resources (spiritual, catechetical, practical) to help them in their ministry and in being formed as true missionary disciples, being mindful that ministerial excellence is only possible by a daily reliance on the Lord.
            Major keynote presentations were provided by Cardinal Dolan, Cardinal Wuerl, Cardinal O’Malley, Cardinal Tobin, Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop Gomez, Archbishop Lori, Bishop Robert Barron, Dr. Hosffman Ospino (Boston College), Carl Anderson (Supreme Knight, K of C), and Patrick Lancioni (Amazing Parish).   There were many other gifted speakers who served as Panelists responding to the major plenary sessions including:  Dr. Helen Alvare, Fr. Tom Gant (CARA), Bishop Frank Caggiano, Sr. Mariam James Heidland, SOLT, Curtis Martin, Sherry Weddell, Fr. Paul Check, Dr. Carolyn Woo, and many others. [Check out the USCCB website for a host of videos recorded at the Convocation as well as exclusive EWTN interviews with the keynote speakers.]
            In addition, there were 66 Breakout Sessions/Workshops where many more nationally known speakers participated as panelists/presenters on a wide-range of topics in regard to those major themes.  I was privileged to be one of the Bishops giving Opening and Closing comments for a Breakout Session on "Reaching Wounded Families, those struggling with Brokenness." 
            Lest you think the focus was only on presentations and breakout sessions and sharing information, I would say that the primary focus of this entire Convocation was on prayer and Liturgical Celebrations, with a clear focus on the Holy Eucharist; in other words, the focus was on Jesus.  Each day, the entire assembly came together for the Celebration of the Eucharist, which was beautifully celebrated.  There was a Eucharistic Chapel set up for the opportunity for regular private prayer in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament; there was never a time that I went into that Chapel that it wasn’t overflowing with people, filling every chair and sitting/kneeling on the floor.  There were regular opportunities to receive the Sacrament of Penance throughout the 4 days, with priests hearing Confessions during the many assigned times during the day.  In addition to the daily celebration of the Eucharist, there were other powerful devotions included. On Saturday evening, there was a time of prayer in honor of Mary, Mother of Evangelization. On Sunday evening, there was an Evening of Adoration and Reflection: “Encountering Jesus, Healer of Wounds and Source of Mercy”.   On Monday morning, there was an early morning Eucharistic Procession through the streets surrounding the Hotels/Convention Center 

with the thousands of Convocation participants processing in quiet praise of Jesus, Who accompanies us on our journey of faith; and on Monday evening (Eve of 4th of July) there was an Evening Experience of Praise: “A Celebration of Faith, Witness and Mission”.

Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre,
            At the conclusion of the Mass on Tuesday afternoon, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre (shown left)  gave an incredible talk summing up the entire Convocation. Archbishop Pierre participated in all four days of the Convocation and was truly the representative of Pope Francis with us all throughout our time together.  I was privileged to have a nice chat with him about the state of our Diocese, and he was very engaging and interested.

            All in all, this was an exceptional Convocation of Catholic Leaders, and I do believe that this Convocation represents (as Archbishop Pierre says) a “kairos” moment for the Church in the United States. 
Diocesan delegates discussing a plan for missionary discipleship in the Diocese of Kalamazoo
I truly want that to be the case for the Church here in the Diocese of Kalamazoo, and I look forward to the ways that those who represented our Diocese as Delegates to this Convocation will continue working with me, and many others, in helping to develop a strategy and a plan to renew our Local Church and to find new ways to bring the Joy of the Gospel to all those in our Diocese, beginning with each of us: lay leaders, religious, deacons, priests and bishop.
            As Cardinal DiNardo said at the conclusion of his Homily in the Final Mass: “what more is there to say, but: ‘Come, Lord Jesus’!”