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The Catholic Bishops Conference

1917

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2017

A Century of Service


Archbishop William Lori, Bishop Denis Madden, Deacon Willard Witherspoon, and community activist Ray Kelly lead a prayer walk for peace in Baltimore. Photo CNS


Thanking Our Bishops

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hen we look back on history, it’s not hard to recognize that many of those who have served in the Church have done so invisibly. Many priests spend their lives quietly and humbly serving their parishioners. Many religious brothers and sisters dedicate themselves to educating and caring for the needy—often living on the margins themselves. In the same way, our bishops often work long, hard hours fulfilling Jesus’ call to feed his sheep. In this little booklet, we want to thank the Lord for all the work that our bishops have done for us here in the United States. One hundred years ago, in the midst of World War I, the seeds of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) were planted. Since that time, the conference has made it possible for the Church in America to provide

shelter and food for millions in poverty, to care for immigrants, to educate people of all backgrounds, and, most important, to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to millions of believers. For the most part, our bishops and all those who work with them at the USCCB receive little thanks for their efforts. In this year, as we celebrate the conference’s first hundred years, we want to say, “Thank you.” Thank you for giving your lives to serve us. Thank you for proclaiming the love of Jesus Christ to us these past one hundred years. Thank you for constantly calling us on to deeper discipleship and service to our world. We honor all of you who have labored so faithfully in the fields of the Lord. Jeff Smith President, The Word Among Us

Celebrating 100 Years of Service to God’s People • 1


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Cardinal Donald Wuerl incenses the altar during a Mass in Washington, DC.

2 • The Catholic Bishops Conference


A Century of Service by His Eminence Cardinal Donald Wuerl

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ne hundred years—that’s a long time! The celebration of an anniversary as significant as this naturally prompts us to look

back over the accomplishments of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, both as it is today and in the different forms it has taken over the years. Such a milestone can also move us to rejoice at where we are today precisely because of the work of so many bishops who have collaborated in so many different ways to advance the mission of the Church in our country. Finally, looking back at our history can fill us with great confidence as we ponder our future. It would be impossicelebration of the sacraThe USCCB ble in a short article ments, real spiritual encounters with our to trace all of the helps Catholics conference’s accomLord Jesus Christ. plishments over the take up the call Central among the past one hundred. sacraments is the to holiness What I would like to do holy Eucharist, the instead is touch on some source from which all of our spiritual energy flows of our major contributions in the years following the Second Vati- and the summit to which all of our can Council and highlight some activity is directed. of our efforts to help everyone in Beginning with the call of the the Church embrace the call to Second Vatican Council in the holiness that the Council Fathers Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, emphasized over and over again. the USCCB has worked closely with the Holy See and with the The Ministry of Prayer. At the International Commission on Engheart of the life of the Church is the lish in the Liturgy to prepare and Celebrating 100 Years of Service to God’s People • 3


continually update translations of liturgical texts that are the voice of the praying Church. In this beautiful document, the Council Fathers emphasized how sacred realities like prayer, community, and sacramental grace all come together in the liturgy. “Christ is always present in His Church,” they wrote, “especially in her liturgical celebrations” (On the Liturgy, 7). The most recent sign of the bishops’ work in this area is the new English translation of the Roman Missal, which was released in Advent of 2011. The Roman Missal, however, is only one part of the work of the conference to help Catholics grow in their spiritual lives. Along with the missal, new translations of the Lectionaries—Mass readings—for Sundays, feast days, and weekdays have been prepared and are constantly undergoing revision and updating. Another crowning achievement of the conference of bishops is the revised edition of the New American Bible that was approved in September 2010 and released a few months later. This new and beautiful translation of sacred 4 • The Catholic Bishops Conference

Scripture is the culmination of years of careful, prayerful work by scholars and pastors under the conference’s guidance—all so that Catholics everywhere can have access to a faithful translation of the Scriptures for their personal use. We often take for granted this extraordinary ministry of the conference of bishops. Much of it happens behind the scenes. But because of this work, we have texts—both for our public, liturgical use and for our private prayer and study—that can immerse us in God’s living word. Teaching the Faith. In 1992, on the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Pope John Paul II opened a new chapter in the life of the Church when he promulgated a new edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. As soon as the Catechism was made available to us, the conference of bishops began the immense task of implementing it throughout the Church in our country. One of the first steps was to make sure that the English translation


Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Memphis, TN

Bishop Martin Holley of Memphis ministers to the elderly, delivering “bouquets of hope” with the help of students. of the Catechism was made available throughout the United States. We also began to work with Catholic publishers to ensure that the material being presented in schools, religious education programs, and faith formation classes fully conformed with the new Catechism. It was precisely in this context that the bishops inaugurated for the first time the US Bishops’ Committee on Catechesis and Evangelization. It wasn’t long after its establishment that the committee produced a National Directory for Catechesis as a way of offering support and direction for all

the people engaged in the noble task of sharing the faith. Following the directory, the conference prepared the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, which was granted Vatican approval in 2005. This massive undertaking was worth all the effort. Few bishops’ conferences have gone so far to provide oversight in the preparation of material for every level of catechesis—from prekindergarten through high school as well as the texts used for adult faith formation. The New Evangelization. Jesus came “to bring glad tidings to the poor. . . . To proclaim liberty to captives and . . . to let the oppressed

Celebrating 100 Years of Service to God’s People • 5


go free” (Luke 4:18). In his encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI told us, “The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her threefold responsibility: of proclaiming the Word of God, celebrating the sacraments, and exercising the ministry of charity” (25). Through serving the poor, the homeless, the marginalized, and other afflicted people, we bring the love of Christ to the world. More recently, in his first apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis told us that “the joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus” (Evangelii Gaudium, 1). This is the heart of the New Evangelization. It’s all about helping people encounter Jesus so that they can experience the joy of living as a follower of Christ. We are called to share with other people the joy of having been embraced by the love of God and of living in the gift of the Holy Spirit. In his exhortation, Pope Francis gives us a penetrating reflection on the social dimension of this call to evangelization. He asks us to reflect on, among other things, the special place of the poor in God’s people, 6 • The Catholic Bishops Conference

on the economy and the distribution of income, and on our own concern for the vulnerable. Good News to the Poor. All of these noble aspirations find echo in the decades of commitment to social justice, the development of a truly just society, and the care of the needy that are hallmarks of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. One of the sometimes underappreciated roles of the USCCB is the body of literature that the conference has produced in the areas of peace and human development, social concern, and care for the poor. National areas of concern like these cry out for a gospel response, and while it is not possible for each bishop to speak to each of these issues, the conference can do so—and has done so for many decades. A strong case can be made going back into the 1920s, 30s, and 40s that Catholic social teaching—that well-defined body of teaching that began with Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum and continues to this day in Evangelii


Photo credit: Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic

Cardinal Blase Cupich hands out meals to families in need during Thanksgiving, 2016.

Gaudium—has played a vital role in helping shape legislation to protect workers, children, immigrants, and all the marginalized in our country. As Catholics, we have a proud heritage of social engagement and care for the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, and imprisoned (Matthew 25:35-40). A Blessed Legacy. I could go on to talk about the building of community, the stewardship of resources, the care of the environment, and so many other gospel values that are a part of living out the call to holiness. My goal in these brief paragraphs has been simply

to touch on that wide range of activities in the life of the Church supported by our conference of bishops. In the following pages, you will find many more examples to give a fuller picture of the extraordinary work that they have upheld in the United States and beyond for the past hundred years. The USCCB continues to help each one of us in this goal—to grow in holiness, to be one with the Lord, and to some day experience the fullness of the kingdom in glory. Cardinal Donald Wuerl is the Archbishop of Washington, DC.

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Bishop Benjamin Keiley of Savannah holds a field Mass at Camp Gordon in 1918. More than 10,000 soldiers at the training camp attended, as the US prepared to enter World War I.

Photo American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives

8 • The Catholic Bishops Conference


The Voice of the Christian Faithful by Maria Mazzenga

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any average Catholics in this country are familiar with Bishop Fulton Sheen’s radio and television ministry. Likewise,

millions of Americans have heard about the work of Saint Teresa of Kolkata in the slums of India. But the history of our own American bishops’ conference—and its founder, Father John Burke—is far less widely acknowledged. Yet we owe a large part were Italian, Irish, Polish, of our church experiand a handful of other How World ence to Burke, as well nationalities. War I catalyzed as to the national This wave of organization of the newcomers was our US bishops to American hierarchy beginning to shift organize that he set in motion the religious majorone hundred years ago. ity in America from Everything from catechism Protestant to Roman classes, to social justice ministries, Catholic. And the morphing Amerto Catholic advocacy efforts: all of ican church teemed with tension these originated with the founding between well-established Protof the United States Conference estants and their new Catholic of Catholic Bishops, which might neighbors. Non-Catholics viewed never have come to pass without its Catholics with hostility and suspifirst general secretary, Burke. cion, as much because of their foreignness as their religion. The Pilgrim Church to Patriot Church. Ku Klux Klan focused much of their The year was 1917, and since the hatred and violence on Catholics turn of the century, Roman Catholic as well. This was not, however, immigrants—millions of them—had the only conflict the nation was been pouring onto US shores. They experiencing. Celebrating 100 Years of Service to God’s People • 9


The US had just entered the First World War. Along with the vast majority of Americans, the new wave of immigrants felt a sense of patriotism and a desire to serve their country. More than 800,000 Catholics, many of them immigrants, joined the war effort by serving in the US military. Yet no national organization existed to minister to their spiritual needs. The time was ripe to bring together Catholic and American values.

of America in Washington, DC. At the meeting, he convinced a group of American prelates to establish the National Catholic War Council to coordinate activities more broadly for wartime Catholics. The creation of the NCWC impressed President Woodrow Wilson. He responded to Cardinal James Gibbons’ letter of commitment, saying that he appreciated “so large a sense of patriotism Fr. John Burke and so admirable a spirit led the Catholic of devotion to our comresponse to Catholics Join the War mon country.” The tide World War I. Effort. This is where of anti-Catholic sentiment Father Burke came to the rescue. in America was turning, thanks to Burke was a member of the Paulist the war council. And NCWC had Fathers, a uniquely American reli- become the first nationwide coaligious order commonly known as tion of Catholic clergy. the communicators of the Church. The National Catholic War Seeing the need for Catholics to Council became the skeleton around be “rebranded” as patriots, he which the United States Conference founded the Chaplain’s Aid Asso- of Catholic Bishops* grew. Father ciation to supply priests for the Burke worked hard to organize the military. He took his vision further *Editor’s note: The entity that became the one day during a meeting on the USCCB changed names several times; we campus of The Catholic University use a single title for clarity. 10 • The Catholic Bishops Conference


Photo CNS

In 1920, the National Catholic Welfare Council created a port assistance program to help immigrants’ entry into American life. conference into a national organization that functioned on behalf of American Catholics in uniquely Catholic and American ways. The American bishops’ conference eventually became the model for Catholic hierarchy across the globe to organize—all because of World War I and Father Burke. Defending Catholic Interests. With Father Burke as its first general secretary, the conference began engaging in a variety of activities that remain crucial in the lives of American Catholics today. In the early 1920s, for example, antiCatholic forces in several states began passing legislation trying to

abolish parochial schools. The bishops’ conference organized a national effort to ensure the legislation was overturned, with the court case going to the Supreme Court in 1925. The court declared the legislation unconstitutional, helping to ensure the right of Catholic schools to exist in the United States. Echoes of such activity can be seen in the current bishops’ campaign on behalf of religious liberty in American life. The USCCB expanded into the 1930s, with a Social Action Department focused on interpreting the Pope’s encyclicals for the lay Catholic population. This department put together workshops and

Celebrating 100 Years of Service to God’s People • 11


programs nationwide. vehicle through which the bishops could weigh in on Linna Bresette, a key figure in the activities of the national issues of Catholic Social Action Department, concern like labor, health conducted one of the first care, poverty, and peace. surveys of Mexican immiAs the United States shifted grants in the United States. to become a world power, USCCB departments such She was so well-known for her Catholic activities at the as the Department of Immitime that the Catholic comic gration, Catholic Relief book, Treasure Chest of Fun Services, and National and Fact, memorialized her Catholic Community Serin a series in the 1950s. vice developed vital social When the Second World service opportunities for Linna Bresette War came, the bishops Catholic Americans. For (NCWC) were ready to join forces example, Catholic Relief advocated for with other religious and women factory Services, established by service groups to provide the bishops in 1943, workers, a range of services and played an important role immigrants, and people activities, including relief in aiding war-torn Europe. of color in the for displaced people. It continues to provide ser1930s. Father Burke died at age vices to impoverished and 61 in 1936, as the conference was displaced peoples worldwide. growing into an important CathoWhen the Second Vatican lic institution. Council began, the USCCB took on the formidable job of conveyCarrying On, Postwar. After the ing and implementing the variety war, a whole host of committees and of statements issued by the coundepartments developed within the cil. Changes in liturgical practices, conference as the unique needs of such as celebrating Mass in the American Catholics became clear. vernacular and expanding scripThe USCCB became the central tural readings, were coordinated 12 • The Catholic Bishops Conference


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American bishops on their way to participate in the Second Vatican Council.

A Past and Future Voice for the Faithful. The USCCB is a crucial linchpin between the bishops of the United States, American public institutions, and the Christian faithful. Its contributions across the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have been massive. From advocating for immigrant Catholics in the US to nationwide poverty programs alleviating hunger to translating Vatican pronouncements for American Catholics in the pews—the USCCB has and will continue to provide leadership for American Catholics into the future.

by the bishops’ conference. The Conference is as committed as ever to guiding Catholics in the US on matters of faith. In 1969, the USCCB created the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). This institution, which thrives today, seeks to inform Americans about poverty in the United States. It also establishes partnerships with local organizations to address poverty in those communities, underscoring the desire of the Bishops to forge partnerships with a variety of Maria Mazzenga is an archivist at groups toward bettering the lives The Catholic University of America in of all Americans. Washington D.C. Celebrating 100 Years of Service to God’s People • 13


Agents of the New Evangelization

Bishops from the US, Canada, and Europe visited the Holy Land earlier this year to promote peace.

14 • The Catholic Bishops Conference


by Jem Sullivan

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eep beneath the Eternal City of Rome lies one of the earliest images of Jesus. The remarkable third-century fresco in the Catacomb of Priscilla depicts Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The ancient image expresses the belief of the early Christians that Jesus—prophet, priest, and king—sent the apostles and bishops after him to teach, sanctify, and govern the peoThe bishops ple entrusted to him. Like Jesus, bishops are take the Church’s called to be good evangelizing shepherds who care for their people with mission to the a heart of humility and whole nation service. And that’s what they have been doing in this country, as a body, for one hundred years now. So as our US bishops celebrate the centenary of their conference this year, we can be grateful for their good shepherding. In numerous ways, they have led the Church and helped us to draw closer to Jesus in our everyday lives. To Teach. Imagine a deacon in Ohio preparing a Sunday homily,

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a young couple in Arkansas reading the Gospels each day, and an elderly retiree in California leading a parish Bible study. They know they will find wisdom and strength in the word of God. And they all have access to various Scripture resources made available by the bishops’ conference: daily Mass readings and reflections are available in print, audio, and video formats on the USCCB Web site. Additionally, laypeople and clergy alike have easy access to numerous Catholic resources through the bishops’ mobile platform, MyUSCCB. For those wanting to delve into the truths of our faith more deeply, there is the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults—an invaluable tool offered by the bishops to all seeking to know the faith better. In these endeavors, we see how the bishops are agents of the New Evangelization, employing the Internet and social media to help them preach the gospel and be heralds of the faith for all of us. Through prayer and educational resources as well as parish bulletin inserts and videos, the 16 • The Catholic Bishops Conference

USCCB is helping Catholics to stay informed and take informed action on vital issues that affect people of faith. For instance, when Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo, a nurse, was called upon to participate in a late-term abortion despite her strong religious objections, the USCCB shared her story widely through its Catholic News Service. As a result, many people worked with her in securing the protection of conscience that the Church upholds as a basic human right. Through public information and education efforts, public-policy initiatives, and pastoral-care resources, the USCCB is on the front lines promoting the Church’s defense of the dignity of human life. All of these resources help ensure that our pro-life principles find their way into dioceses and parishes, into the very heart of the Catholic community and culture. The materials cover a range of issues, including the Church’s teachings on euthanasia, stem cell research, and reproductive technologies. They also help guide parishes, schools, and faith-based ministries in their important work of building a culture of life in their communities.


CNS photo/Bob Roller

The front line of demonstrators make its way past the Supreme Court building in Washington during the March for Life.

The bishops are committed to offering guidance and teaching regarding just about every area of Catholic life. Their projects include publications about cultural diversity in the Church; videos to help promote Christian unity; and educational resources for Catholic schools, campus ministries, and universities. This treasure cache of materials is enough to inform and nourish the faithful for years! To Sanctify. Another aspect of the bishops’ mission is to sanctify us,

and one of the most important ways they do this is through the sacraments. This takes practical form in the USCCB’s treasury of sacramental materials. It is the bishops’ conference that determines our liturgical calendar, oversees the norms for holy Communion, and preserves and updates sacramental rites and prayers. The revised translation of the Order of Mass is one key example. A primary mission of the USCCB is to support families. For couples, they offer resources on marriage preparation, family life, the gift of children, and Natural Family Planning. Through catechesis in

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their dioceses and on public platforms, the bishops promote the Church’s teachings on marriage. For those discerning or living out vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and consecrated life, the USCCB offers teaching documents, online workshops, contact information, and background materials. At the same time, the bishops continue to support the formation of lay ecclesial ministers, renewal movements, and long-standing lay organizations. And as young people prepare for World Youth Day 2019 in Panama, the USCCB offers spiritual support to young pilgrims through blogs, leader guides, and videos. 18 • The Catholic Bishops Conference

To Lead. As Pope Francis said, “True power, at whatever level, is service.” These words help us understand why the bishops take such care to oversee works of mercy in the United States and abroad. This means caring for the poor; victims of war and slavery; and people with no home, including migrants and refugees. When a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador, killing hundreds and injuring thousands,

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Seminarians from St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, New York, prepare to perform at a barbecue.


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the USCCB’s Catholic Relief Services Collection helped provide water, food, and temporary shelter to those affected. Other national collections provide disaster relief and aid to people struggling in war-torn, impoverished nations. The bishops also partner to help vulnerable people in personal, practical ways. Mary Ann, a Filipina, was lured to the US with the promise of a job as a family nanny. Soon she became a victim of human trafficking. Mary Ann was essentially sold into slavery and forced to perform servile work for long hours with no days off. She was paid only a small fraction

A Catholic Relief Services coordinator in Ecuador (left) talks with a woman outside the tent where she lives because of the country’s earthquake in 2016. of what was promised to her. The USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services works with organizations and policy makers to help communities identify and help people like Mary Ann—people who may be exploited for work in hotels, salons, and even in homes in our neighborhoods. The bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) facilitates grassroots antipoverty efforts. With the bishops’ support, Café Reconcile in New Orleans teaches troubled youth the

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restaurant business so that they can break the cycle of poverty through gainful employment. And with a CCHD grant, Mary, a twenty-sixyear-old teacher, and her neighbors helped build a child center for low income families. There are countless stories like these, all examples of the bishops’ commitment to lead the Church as shepherds, in imitation of Jesus. A Catholic Perspective. The bishops’ work is meant not just for people in the Church. Their outreach touches people of every religion as well as people of every race, socio-economic background, and political stripe. They are committed to offering a Catholic 20 • The Catholic Bishops Conference

perspective on prayer, recreation, education, and civic life in virtually every sector of the country. From citizenship guides to movie reviews, they regularly offer new resources to serve the nation. While they avoid telling people how to vote or what to watch—they offer tools to help people understand and evaluate the complex factors surrounding their decisions in light of the gospel. Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship is one of many USCCB materials that offers guidance to help Catholics exercise

Photo courtesy of Café Reconcile

The US bishops help disadvantaged youth to beat the cycle of poverty by supporting Café Reconcile in New Orleans.


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Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles blesses a girl during a Mass celebrated in recognition of all immigrants at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. their responsibility as citizens. This teaching document helps bring papal teachings to bear on new policy developments in an up-todate guide. Through these and numerous other initiatives and resources, the bishops offer guidance to help us know and live out the gospel today. They help us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and the life he has called us

to. And they urge us to extend the love and mercy of Christ to everyone around us. So the next time you go to Mass, or pick up the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or donate to a national collection, remember that our Catholic bishops make it all possible. Jem Sullivan, PhD, is the author of A Study Guide for the US Adult Catholic Catechism.

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22 • The Catholic Bishops Conference

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A child in Mexico looks through the fence during a border Mass in Sunland Park, New Mexico.


Strangers No Longer by Jane E. Bloom, ACSW

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id you know that our bishops oversee the largest refugee resettlement agency in the world? Every day, the Migration and Refugee Services department of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (MRS) puts into practice Jesus’ call to “welcome the stranger.” The foundational core of their work is to receive, host, help, and welcome fleeing refugees and migrants. Each year, in partEcuador, and El SalThe US nership with the State vador. And they Department, the bishops’ generous subscribe to every US bishops resettle religion. In the service to refugees about 25 percent of words of Cardinal all refugees arriving Theodore McCarand migrants in the United States. rick of Washington In the last year alone, the DC, the Church’s support bishops’ 90 affiliates cared for for migrant populations occurs “not 21,000 refugees out of nearly because they are Catholic, but 85,000 people who arrived in because we are Catholic.” dire straits to our country. Since I have seen firsthand the wel1975, over 900,000 refugees come and care extended to these have been resettled through the religious minorities by the bishops’ programs of Catholic dioceses resettlement affiliates nationwide. across the country. There are the Yazidis in Lincoln, Nebraska; the Bahai in Las Vegas, A Vibrant Group of People. They Nevada; and the Chaldeans in El came from every part of the world: Cajon, California. The father of Malaysia, Rwanda, Uganda, one Yazidi family in Lincoln is now Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iran, an employment counselor at the Celebrating 100 Years of Service to God’s People • 23


Catholic Charities resettlement program, helping other Yazidis resettle and find jobs.

continues for months—until the family is more self-sufficient and adjusted to life in the US.

From Start to Finish—a Gracious Welcome. “Resettlement” begins at the airport, with a representative from the bishops’ local affiliate ready to welcome the arriving refugee family. The representative greets the family and helps retrieve their luggage. Next, the staffer or volunteer drives the family to an apartment or house, which the affiliate has fully prepared and furnished for them—down to the last fork and spoon! That first day marks only the beginning of the bishops’ commitment to this family. In the next week or two, the children are registered for school; the family receives medical screenings and immunizations; paperwork is facilitated for financial assistance; and quickly, refugees are outfitted in coats, and their refrigerators are stocked by volunteers. You may be surprised to learn that this partnership between the newly arrived refugee family and the Catholic resettlement agency

Making a Safe Haven for Children. About half of the refugees resettled by the USCCB last year—10,000— were children. Many arrived with one or both parents, grandparents, or siblings. But some were not so fortunate to be in the protective care of their families. These came to America alone. And, since 1980, the USCCB has been there to welcome these unaccompanied children as well. In fact, every year MRS serves thousands of extremely vulnerable “children on the move.” Sometimes our bishops help to reunify the child with family members in the US, as they did for more than two thousand children in 2016. For another five hundred youngsters, MRS quickly secured safe housing through twelve providers nationwide. These safe havens, tailored to each child, range from small-scale shelters or group homes to foster care families. Some of these children are in federal custody due to their lack of immigration status, while others

24 • The Catholic Bishops Conference


CRS/Deirdre Evans

The US bishops traveled to Central America to learn why child migrants make the perilous journey to America. housed include victims of child trafficking, unaccompanied refugee minors, and asylum seekers. The bishops’ MRS department works hard, not only to protect these children and ensure their rights, but also to help all of them rebuild their lives and achieve their full potential. MRS is one of only two national agencies entrusted by the US Department of State to resettle unaccompanied refugee children. The effort is personal for the big-hearted families who receive unaccompanied children. One MRS

foster couple in Tacoma, Washington, is taking care of six children from Nepal, Liberia, Honduras, the Congo, and Eritrea. The couple say they didn’t just bring the kids into their house. “We welcomed them into our family.” Shortly after arriving, one of the children was hospitalized with cancer for eight long months. Now, they tell us, “He has blossomed into a healthy and awesome young man!” Searching for the Hidden and Unserved. So far, we’ve talked

Celebrating 100 Years of Service to God’s People • 25


about all that the US bishops do for those who arrive on our national “doorstep.” But they don’t just wait for these strangers to cross our threshold in America. In keeping with the teachings of our last three popes, the bishops also travel to war-torn countries to discover “the true situation in the migrant’s countries of origin,” a task laid out first by Pope John Paul II. These missions have been instrumental in showing solidarity and understanding to people who have been forgotten, as Pope Benedict XVI encouraged. Organized by the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, our bishops travel on fact-finding missions almost every year. These missions have been instrumental in calling life-saving attention to people who 26 • The Catholic Bishops Conference

have been forgotten or underserved. Remember the crisis of unaccompanied children migrating to US borders from Central America? Shortly before this became national news, Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, led our delegation to Central America. The bishops were looking for answers. Who are these children? Why do they make this dangerous journey north? What about the violence, coercion, and extortion these children and their families face? Armed with firsthand information gleaned from the children and their families, the US Bishops were able to predict the enormity of the crisis about to unfold. Upon our return,

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Bishop Martin Holley visited a hospital in Nigeria on behalf of the US bishops’ Subcommittee on the Church in Africa in 2010.


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Bishop Gerald Kicanas distributes Communion through the border fence during a Mass in Nogales, Arizona. the USCCB delegation made its findings widely heard in a variety of ways, including press briefings and a compelling congressional testimony by Bishop Seitz. In the end, the bishops raised a red flag on a situation about to become explosive and helped guide policy and programming, both here and abroad. Even with the bishops’ efforts, some of the children transiting through Mexico tragically become

victims of human trafficking. Pope Francis calls human trafficking “an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ.” Our bishops also serve this population. Since 2002, they have helped more than 2,632 survivors of both labor and sex trafficking, including foreign national child victims in the US. Always an Immigrant Church. Since its founding, the Church in

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America has been an immigrant church. For the last century, our bishops have been instrumental in organizing pastoral care, social services, and education for newcomers. They established an early presence at Ellis Island that helped more than 100,000 immigrants between 1920 and 1930. This is a legacy that the USCCB continues to honor. Bishop Joe Vasquez, head of the bishops’ Committee on Migration, put it this way: We need to protect all our brothers and sisters of all faiths, including Muslims, who have lost family, home, and country. They are children of God and are entitled to be 28 • The Catholic Bishops Conference

treated with human dignity. We believe that by helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith as Jesus has challenged us to do. Welcoming the stranger is part of who we are as Catholics. And the US bishops are national leaders in this effort, answering Jesus’ call with energy, compassion, and commitment. Jane Bloom heads the US Liaison Office for the International Catholic Migration Commission.

Credit: CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Chicago Catholic

This Pakistani family fled to the United States after being persecuted for their Catholic faith.


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In the wake of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, the US bishops pledged ongoing support for the people, promising to “be with them in the long run.”

he Word Among Us thanks Catholic News Service for granting permission to use some of their images in this booklet. Catholic News Service is a leading agency for religious news. Its mission is to report fully, fairly, and freely on the involvement of the Catholic Church in the world today. With headquarters in Washington DC, offices in New York and Rome, and correspondents around the world, CNS provides the most comprehensive coverage of the Church today. Follow Catholic News Service on social media and find their stories at www.catholicnews.com.


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We at The Word Among Us want to thank you, the bishops and staff at the USCCB, for your dedication to serving the Church.

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Profile for The Word Among Us

The Catholic Bishops Conference: A Century of Service  

Celebrating 100 Years of Service to God's People: An insert from September 2017 issue of The Word Among Us

The Catholic Bishops Conference: A Century of Service  

Celebrating 100 Years of Service to God's People: An insert from September 2017 issue of The Word Among Us