By Auxiliary Bishop Gary Janak
For Today’s Catholic
It has been jokingly referred to as “Baby Bishop School.” Its official name is “The Annual Course of Formation for New Bishops” and it is sponsored by the Dicasteries for Bishops, Evangelization and Eastern Churches. Due to the pandemic, it has not been held for three years. Therefore, two sessions were held this year, to accommodate the substantial number of bishops appointed during this time period. I was assigned to the second session, from September 12-19.
One hundred and seventy-six bishops attended the second session, from the countries of Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Croatia, Cuba, Ecuador, Philippines, France, Germany, Great Britain, Guatemala, Honduras, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Peru, Poland, Dominican Republic, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Hungary, Uruguay, Venezuela and 21 bishops from the United States. I was utterly enthralled with the languages being spoken, as I walked the grounds of the Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum of the Legionaries of Christ, where the course took place. I soaked in the universality of the Catholic Church. For the first time since my ordination as a bishop, I understood more vividly what is meant by the College of Bishops.
The title of the weeklong course was, To Announce the Gospel in the Changing Epoch and After the Pandemic: The Service of Bishops. Each day began with Mass, celebrated by a different Cardinal of the various Vatican Dicasteries. I truly enjoyed concelebrating Mass with all of them, especially Cardinal Tagle, who was so personable, and joy filled. Each day included various presentations, on such topics as The Ministry of the Bishop in the Context of the Synodal Way of the Church, The Church in the Postmodern Society, The Family and Universal Fraternity, Episcopal Holiness in the Catholic Communion, and Educating for Synodal Leadership. The presentations and discussions were of great assistance in acquiring a deeper understanding of episcopal leadership.
The last session was entitled, The Encounter with Peter. On that day, we gathered for Mass at the Basilica of Saint Peter, which was celebrated by Cardinal Marc Quellet, the Prefect for the Dicastery of Bishops. Following the Mass, one by one, each bishop venerated the relics of Saint Peter. The excitement intensified, as we were brought to Clementine Hall, with its beautiful Renaissance frescoes and various works of art and awaited the arrival of Pope Francis.
I was almost numb when the Holy Father walked into the room. He spent almost two hours with us, encouraging us to be faithful bishops open to dialogue and exhibiting compassion for the poor and the suffering of the world. I found Pope Francis to be jovial and attentive, as he listened to questions proposed to him by the bishops. At one point during the encounter, his walking cane fell onto the floor and a loud boom echoed throughout the room. The pope smiled and said to us in Italian, “It must be a ghost!” We all laughed, as did the Holy Father. At the end of the session, he shook each of our hands. It is a day I will always remember.
As I do every day, I prayed for all of you in the archdiocese, including our priests, deacons, religious men and women, and our seminarians, during my time in Rome. The days were long and intense, but the experience greatly enhanced my understanding of episcopacy. Throughout the week, I realized how important it is for me to remain close to Christ and our Blessed Mother. I know prayer will sustain me, as I seek to do God’s will. Please pray for me, that I will be faithful to the call entrusted to me by the Lord Jesus. God’s blessings to you.