Most Reverend William S. Skylstad
Presidential AddressGeneral Meeting
November 12, 2007
All our prayers are for GOD'S WILL to be done...we pray and get outta-the-way....
Today, Americans often have an image of leadership that equates it to power. We often hear calls in society for strong and decisive leadership. At the same time, however, there is resentment toward those who seem to “lord it over” others—who use power and influence in a manner that conflicts with the strong current of individualism that characterizes our time and place. Still, the power of leadership is both a reality and a necessity.
And so, the questions for us as Bishops are these: What is the nature of our leadership and authority, and how do we exercise it? To answer, we must look to the true model of leadership: that of Jesus of Nazareth. And we must ask: how did Jesus lead? How did he use his authority? For us as Bishops, a deep and Christ-like vision of leadership must be at the heart of our service. Christ has called us, as successors of the Apostles, to be his voice in our time. And our time needs to hear the voice of Christ. The Old Testament reminds us of a basic truth: without a vision the people will perish (see Proverbs 29:18). That vision is Christ’s. It is carried by the Church; and we, like Jeremiah, must cry out and not hold back. Indeed at a time like this it should be all so clear to us: We cannot shrink from our calling to be shepherds, to be leaders.
Of course the source of Christ’s power, and its goal as well, was simply this: Truth. The ultimate basis of all truth, of all understanding, rests in God himself. As Christ made it his mission to show us his Father, to teach us to seek the will of his Father, we cannot in fidelity to him renounce or weaken our proclamation of the truth. In our day, that truth is so often related to questions of the moral life. For that reason, we need to continue to speak out and teach our people joyfully to embrace life, to incorporate fully the Church’s vision about chastity and the nature of marriage, and to understand the humanly and spiritually corrosive results of the contraceptive mentality and lifestyle. As shepherds, we will continue to be clear about the fundamental injustice of abortion and of sacrificing sacred human lives at their earliest moments for the sake of progress in medicine and science, or for convenience. We are in a position to speak to those issues not only because our theology holds God’s truth, but also because our contributions to health and to the relief of suffering, by means of our Catholic institutions, are second to none.
As shepherds, we must continue to move minds and hearts to care for those who are needy and disadvantaged. We will continue to speak that truth to all our elected leaders, and to those whose policies affect our society and our world, which so longs for justice and equity.
But even as the basis of our leadership is the moral and doctrinal truth for salvation given by Christ, our leadership is shaped by Christ in a further way. That is, he “did not regard equality with God [as] something to be grasped”; he took on the form of a slave (Philippians 2:6-7). He came among us and lived with us in a way that proclaimed the truth, but he did so first and foremost by example. Without compromise, Christ reached out with love and patience. But his leadership was not one that measured success moment to moment. It was a service, summarized by the magnificence of the washing of the feet, of the prayer for unity, and of submission of himself to the Cross for us, in accordance with the will of his Father. Few in our climate today would see that as a successful form of leadership. But with the eyes of faith, and not of the world, it is precisely that. And that is the model we are called to emulate.
Living out such humility does seem paradoxical to many. Consider, for example, the stories that were reported recently, when Mother Teresa’s autobiography was published. Here was a person who exercised leadership in a very real way in our Church and our world, even if that leadership is essentially different from what we have been called to. Her leadership was one based in a fundamental and visible humility that challenged, but also attracted, our world. Still, some people were shocked—perhaps even scandalized—by her memoirs. They revealed that, as with many of the greatest of saints, her humility was not only lived externally. It was a deep spiritual reality. God, it seems, gave her periods of dryness during which he hid his face from her.
The example of Mother Teresa should cause us to reflect as Bishops. What is the state of our souls? Our leadership must be rooted in the humility of a life of prayer, every day and before the Eucharist. It must embrace Christ in the humbleness of the Sacrament of Penance. Our leadership as shepherds will never be authentic if our souls are not one with Christ the shepherd. The words of Mother Teresa herself are fit for our own meditation as Bishops in service to the God’s people: “It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent. If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal.”
Child abuse in church found to mirror society
When It Comes to Defending the Faith, There is No 'Plan B' (Judie Brown)
Newly Elected of USCCB:
Pres. Cardinal George- Chicago,IL
Vice-Pres. Bishop Gerald Kincanas- Tucson, AZ
And our prayers continue...COME, HOLY SPIRIT COME!