Bishops Helping Bishops
You know, I do feel for bishops, because once they're ordained it seems a bulk of their burden is to get screamed at by people whose preferred pejorative is "liberal." Nobody ever thanks the bishop for what he's doing right, but they come out of the woodwork when he's wrong.... And every pastor out there knows this as well, but it's magnified in a diocese.
So a bunch of guys got together a while back, and something came of it
Realizing the human dimension of being a bishop, Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher began his own bishops’ group soon after he was appointed to the Diocese of Belleville, Ill.Yes, Virginia, even bishops need affirmation.
“We call it the ‘Bishops’ Ministry to Bishops,’ and I was the founder of this group,” said Archbishop Keleher. “Many bishops have prayer groups. It just happened shortly after I became a bishop [in 1984] that I suggested to a couple of people that we start a group.”
“I asked a couple of them, and then they suggested other names, and so on,” said the archbishop. “We just got together and figured seven was the right size.”
In 20 years since the original group of seven was formed, only one new member has been added, and that was due to the death of one of the original members.
“We were new, all from the Midwest at the time — Indiana and Illinois,” said Archbishop John George Vlazny, from the Archdiocese of Portland. “We just kind of thought we’d be a good group to work together.”
The group is a place for members to pray together, support each other’s work, offer advice on how to handle difficult situations, and share a bit of recreation and fellowship.
The group meets for three overnight visits a year. They’d like to meet more often, but their busy schedules won’t allow it.
Typically, the bishops arrive at their host’s home and spend a few hours catching up. In the course of the day or two that follow, they’ll pray evening prayer, concelebrate one or more Masses, share meals and just generally relax. It’s more of a fellowship time than a policy work session.
“One of the problems of a bishop is many times he feels alone,” said Archbishop Keleher. “But, because of the group, you don’t feel that way. You feel like you’re with peers who understand your situation and can give you very good advice.”
And, as peers in any business are likely to do, they sometimes disagree.
“If we don’t think the advice being given is good,” said the archbishop, “we’ll tell the guy that’s giving it, ‘Well, I don’t think we’d do that.’ So, we correct each other.
“I’ve seen guys who were really searching for how to handle something get some very excellent wisdom, though, and put that into effect, and then come back and tell how it went.”