By Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond
You spent last week in St. Petersburg, Fla., for the summer meeting of the U.S. bishops. How did things go?
Every five years we have a special assembly during the summer, and this year it coincided with the close of the Year for Priests. We listened to presentations on “The Bishop as Father, Brother and Friend to His Priests”; “The Renewal of the Spiritual Life of Bishops and Priests”; “Challenges for Fostering Unity among Priests” and “‘Communio’ Between Priests, Bishops and Other People in Ministry.” We wanted to examine what we can do as bishops to be better agents of unity among the priests and also to be more understanding and appreciative of the challenges that priests face.
Isn’t one of your local initiatives the idea of fostering unity among priests in the archdiocese? Did the national discussion come at a good time for you?
It did. We heard the presentations and then were able to discuss them at our table and hear the highlights of the discussions among the full body of bishops. It was both hearing new ideas and sharing best practices. We had several talks by priests who shared with us their challenges and suggestions.
Is one of the challenges to fraternity the fact that most diocesan priests today live alone in the rectory compared to times in the past when two or three priests lived in a rectory?
That’s an interesting challenge because some priests would rather live alone and others would rather live in community. We’re at a time when we have to take each situation as it exists. Some people work better together if they don’t have to live together. Some people work better together if they live in the same rectory. It’s not one size fits all. We have to look at each situation and at the needs of the priest involved. One of the challenges we do have is that we live in an individualistic society. As priests, it’s very important that we have a sense of fraternity and solidarity. As people in our society become more isolated, it puts the challenge before us that we still need to be connected to our brother priests to meet our own personal needs but also the needs of the ministry of Christ.
Do you see opportunities for priests to come together?
I’m very enthusiastic about suggestions from our Priestly Life and Ministry Committee as well as the Presbyteral Council and the deans that we get together for days of prayer and continuing education as well as purely social gatherings. Over the next year or two, we will be looking for more opportunities to gather both socially for the sake of fraternity and to renew ourselves spiritually in ministry. The archdiocese is very blessed to have priests who are really dedicated to priestly ministry. I consider it a blessing to be able to work with them and to serve them as bishop.
You are chair-elect of the U.S. bishops’ Liturgy Committee. Is there anything new about the timetable for implementing the new translation of the Roman Missal?
We should know in the next two or three months the exact date of implementation. We had a two-day meeting of our committee, and we are working on some of the translations of the Scriptures for the new Lectionary, which contains the readings for Mass.
How important are priests going to be in helping people understand the reasoning for the new translations?
Priests are going to be very important. We will have a day of continuing education for the priests in February 2011. It will be an all-day workshop on implementing the new Roman Missal.
You sent a message of thanks to the Louisiana Legislature for declaring June 20 as a Day of Prayer for Oil Spill Recovery.
Yes. I want to thank them because this was a public sign of our humble dependence upon God. Our hearts and prayers go out to those who were killed in the explosion. Likewise we offer prayerful consolation to their families and friends. The oil spill has very challenging effects on many people in our community, especially the fishing industry, oil industry and related works. We also need to be attentive to the impact on our environment and economy. We need to ask God to reassure us and walk with us in this very challenging time. We pray that we don’t lose hope, that we will persevere in tough times, that we will see God’s compassion and love in these trying circumstances and that God will lead scientists and engineers to a permanent solution soon. We will bear this cross with trust and we will reach out in prayer and with financial resources to those whose livelihood and family life have been affected. The Catholic Church through Catholic Charities will continue to be present to those affected by offering food, counseling and other emergency services now and in the long-term. God never abandons us but walks with us during these challenging times.
Archbishop Aymond welcomes questions from readers. Please e-mail questions to[email protected].