Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Straw of Service

I'm told the members of the USCCB spent the first leg of their executive session yesterday afternoon in provincial meetings to go over budget priorities, which are of particular importance of late as the Conference is operating this year at a deficit of $1.8 million, most of which is due to the increased personnel and initiatives for child and youth protection efforts (there's enough in the reserves to cover it). Time for those beloved assessment increases....

Most intriguing of all was the document on lay ecclesial ministry, which I've not yet seen. It required a supermajority of 182 to pass. As opposed to the action items on the death penalty and children's Sacramentary, both of which went through with comfortable margins, the lay ministry document eked through by eight votes; 190 in favor, 49 opposed, and five abstentions. I hear that Cardinal Dulles -- who, thank God, still attends the meetings religiously -- can be thanked for swinging more than a handful of his confreres to the affirmative side.

Just posted were the very touching remarks of the outgoing General Secretary, Msgr. Bill Fay, who heads back to Boston (and, most likely, to an episcopal seat somewhere shortly thereafter) with the broad and profound admiration of observers, staffers and the bishops themselves. Here are some snips from his address
When I began my service as your General Secretary 5 years ago, I stood 6’2” tall, was 240 pounds, and had jet black hair!

That, of course is a fiction. What is not, though, is the fact that during my service as your General Secretary we have lived through an extraordinarily painful time in the life of the Church in the United States; a time perhaps inevitable in its coming, but, thank God, a time that cannot and will not trump the Father’s gifts of forgiveness and healing and resurrection in Jesus Christ.

How often it happened during my tenure that so many of you offered a word of kindness and encouragement to me for having drawn the straw of service during these years. I have been always deeply grateful for that support, and for your every act of solicitude. They did indeed accomplish what you intended them to do.

I could complete my service as General Secretary with a heart full of gratitude for what I have already recounted. But God’s gracious providence, as it always is, was richer than I could have anticipated or imagined. It is difficult for me to put into words the esteem and affection I have for my colleagues in the USCCB Staff. Day-by-day, whether in Washington or New York, Miami or Rome, the witness of their selfless dedication to you and their exemplary faith in God were sources of inspiration and great joy to me. To each of my colleagues I offer a profound word of thanks. May God bless you, brothers and sisters, for the many and wonderful ways in which you blessed me!
Ditto on Fay's tip to the tireless, wonderful and devoted USCCB staff -- good people who do great work, often at great personal and financial sacrifice, and get nowhere near the appreciation they deserve, especially from most corners of Blogdom. By and large, they are examples of the professionalism, kindness, humility and Christian spirit each of us should have. Many thanks to them for all they do.

Barring the extraordinary, I won't be writing anything more about the executive sessions. The boys need time to hash some big things out amongst themselves, and we'll wait to see what transpires.