Diocesan News


After the thrill and excitement of the private meeting with the Holy Father on Friday, March 9th, the task of meeting with some of the other departments of the Holy See continued on for us Bishops from Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri. It was the Congregation for Bishops that instructed us, even before we left the United States, about which departments of the Holy See we were to visit as a group, since it was obvious that it would have been impossible to visit them all in a mere 10 days. The Bishops were told, however, that they were free to visit other dicasteries or departments in their free time if they so desired.

On Saturday morning, March 10th, our region had a meeting with the Congregation for Religious (officially entitled Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life). The Prefect, Brazilian Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, was out of Rome on business, so the meeting was conducted by Archbishop Joseph Tobin CSSR, the American Secretary of the Congregation.

Then at noon we went to the Secretariat of State of the Holy See and had a long and interesting meeting with Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, a Corsican who is the Secretary of the "Second Section" of the Pope’s Secretariat, which deals with the relationships between the Holy See and governments and other political entities. The discussion involved many of the geopolitical issues about which the Catholic Church currently is concerned throughout the world.

Since Saturday afternoon was unscheduled, I was able to accept an invitation to offer Mass and have dinner at the Domus Guadalupe, the House of Study of the (American) Council of Major Religious Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), where my sister was residing during our stay in Rome. The head of that house is Sister Monica Mary, who had worked for several years in our Diocese of Lincoln as the assistant to Father Christopher Barak, in our Office of Religious Education. Sunday, March 11th, was basically a free day also. Taking advantage of it gave me a pleasant interlude.

That morning the four Lincoln priests in Rome, joined by Archbishop James Harvey and your humble servant, offered Mass in the relatively new Chapel of the Patron Saints of Europe in the Crypt of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Attending were my sister, Sister Collette, and two Religious Sisters (Alhambra Carmelites) who work in the Vatican. Archbishop Harvey invited us all to his apartment for breakfast after Mass. While the Carmelites then had to go to work in the Vatican, the rest of us took a drive (in the cars of Monsignor Fucinaro and Father Menke) to Castel Gandolfo, where we shopped, walked about the town center, and then lunched on a terrace overlooking beautiful Lake Albano.

Following lunch, Archbishop Harvey admitted us to the house he has on the spacious grounds of the Papal Villa and then gave us a drive around the Villa’s sculptured gardens and grounds, including the places where Pope Pius XII hid large numbers of Jewish People in the time of the Nazi occupation of Rome during World War II.

We also toured the large working farm the Pope has there, including citrus and olive orchards, livestock and poultry of all different varieties, modern farm machinery, fields and crops, barns and sheds, etc.

On Monday, March 12th, our group of Bishops of region 9 were all back together again. Our first activity was another concelebrated Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica. This time it was at the altar over the tomb of Blessed John Paul II. Bishop John Gaydos of Jefferson City preached an eloquent homily at that Mass.

Then we visited the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, where our priests, Monsignor Thomas Fucinaro and Father Andrew Menke work. That Cardinal Prefect too, the Spanish Antonio Canizares Llovera, was away from Rome on business, but the American Secretary, Archbishop Augustine Di Noia O.P., presided at our gathering. In the afternoon we had a vigorous meeting with the Pontifical Council for the Family at the Palazzo San Callisto, presided over by the Italian Cardinal Ennio Antonelli.

The following day, Tuesday, March 13th, the last of the scheduled visit, we had two significant morning meetings, first at the Congregation for Catholic Education, where at one time I had worked as an official for 11 years. The Polish Prefect, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, directed our meeting and discussion, and second at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where the American Prefect, Cardinal William Levada presided. The Cardinal, a close friend, had preached the homily here at my episcopal consecration when I became the Bishop of Lincoln on May 13, 1992. He also, as the head of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, preached recently at the dedication of the new chapel at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, Nebraska, for the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter.

That evening our Bishops of region 9 concelebrated Mass at the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, which is the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome and, therefore, has inscribed on its facade "Of all the Churches in this City and in the World, this is the Mother and Head" (in Latin: "Omnium Ecclesiarum Urbis et Orbis Mater et Caput").

Later that evening we had a meeting with the Pontifical Council for the Laity, presided over by the Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, where we heard, among many other things, about the plans for the next World Youth Day to be held in Rio de Janiero.

On Wednesday, I packed and shopped and had a farewell dinner with our four Lincoln priests, Archbishop Harvey and my sister.

The next morning, March 15th, the Ides of March, the Archbishop arranged a very early ride to the airport, where some special treatment got my sister and me immediately onto the plane. Arriving safely and on time in Omaha and met by Father Thomlison, we arrived home to celebrate in my chapel a Mass of sincere thanksgiving for the Lord’s blessing for what can only be described as another successful ad limina visit to the Holy See. I left behind in Rome myriads of prayers for all the wonderful clergy, religious, and faithful laity of the Diocese of Lincoln.

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