Archbishop Dolan on John Paul II's Example (Part 1)

Milwaukee Prelate on What a Bishop Should Be

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MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin, DEC. 6, 2004 ( Every bishop has a threefold calling to teach, govern and sanctify, but few fulfill that office as well as John Paul II.

So says Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who shared with ZENIT how the Pope’s example and recent writings on the role of a bishop have influenced the American prelate’s own service to the Church.

Part 2 of this interview will appear Tuesday.

Q: How have the Holy Father’s «Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way,» and his recent exhortation «Pastores Gregis» influenced your perspective on the role of the bishop?

Archbishop Dolan: They have influenced my perspective on the role of the bishop quite profoundly and in a number of ways.

First of all, both his beautiful book «Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way» (Warner Books) and the postsynodal exhortation «Pastores Gregis» emphasize the tremendous need for sanctity and prayer in a bishop. In reading the Holy Father’s reflections on his own episcopal ministry, one is amazed at all that he did.

But what is so clear is that before we bishops can do things, we have to be someone. We have to be united with Jesus the Good Shepherd. We have to be on the road to holiness. We have to be men of prayer. We have to be aware of our configuration to Jesus.

The only way we can be what we are called to be as bishops is through prayer and the sacraments.

The Holy Father is a man of intense prayer. «Pastores Gregis» emphasizes repeatedly the necessity for regular, deep, consistent prayer in the life of the bishop. The people need to see their bishop at prayer. Lord knows the Holy Father calls us to do many things; that’s called ministry. But everything we do is only fruitful, is only effective, is only filled with meaning if it flows from who we are.

Men as bishops are configured at the core of our being to Jesus the Good Shepherd. And the only way to do that is through prayer, the Eucharist, the sacrament of reconciliation, meditation on his Word, spiritual reading, retreats and days of recollection.

I always offer 8 a.m. Mass each Sunday at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Not too long ago, after that Mass, someone said to me, «Archbishop, I want to let you know something that you do that has influenced me and has had a good effect on me.»

Well, I was expecting her to speak about me visiting someone in the hospital or being in the soup kitchen, or one of my sermons, or a project. To my complete surprise, she told me that what has most affected her is that she sees me praying my Divine Office in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of the cathedral a half-hour before my Sunday morning Mass.

Now I didn’t even think that this would have an impact on someone. But, it did.

For her to see me as a bishop taking my prayer seriously — for her to know that I recognize that I am no good unless I am completely reliant upon the grace and mercy of the Lord — that spoke volumes to her. That was evangelization. So that is the first thing the Pope has taught me in his recent work: I must be holy.

Secondly, I have learned from the Pope’s writings the power of presence. The Pope knows that it is very important for people to see their bishop, to be with him. Priests know this is true in their pastoral ministry. Pastoral leaders know this, and bishops know this.

We are sort of Cal Ripkens — the great ballplayer on the Baltimore Orioles who simply showed up every game and broke a record because of his consistency. He was just there. Most of life is just showing up. And for a bishop, we need to show up. We need to be with our people. They need to see us, and the closer the better.

They need to see us at wakes, at hospitals, in the schools, at Mass, celebrating the sacraments and teaching.

Well, the Holy Father did this heroically as archbishop of Krakow. He does that heroically as Bishop of Rome and he is teaching us the power of presence.

I think the third message that I learned as a bishop both in «Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way» and in «Pastores Gregis» was the necessity of being a real agent of evangelization for the culture.

You see, the Holy Father knew that he needed to be at the university. He needed to meet with intellectuals. He needed to be there with the poets, the scientists, the teachers. All those who have a role in forming minds, hearts and souls in society and in culture, they had to be evangelized. That taught me something as a bishop because I don’t know how well I do that. I sometimes think I might leave that to others.

But we bishops must engage culture so that everybody that has a normative role in culture, whether that be the media, artists, scientists, teachers, politicians, business leaders, civic leaders, researchers — they all need the leaven of the Gospel. And the bishop has a profound duty to be with them, to bring that evangelizing message, that saving message of Jesus Christ and his Church, to the culture.

Q: How has John Paul II exemplified the multifaceted role of bishop both of Krakow and of Rome?

Archbishop Dolan: He’s a good teacher. He taught in universities and he knows that a teacher influences more sometimes by what he does than by what he says. So, he has set a good example.

When I returned to Rome as rector of the North American College in 1994, I went out for a walk early one Sunday morning. All of a sudden I saw the police on the street corners, stopping the little traffic that there was.

I saw a motorcade coming, and I asked the policeman who it was. He said, «Oh, that’s the Pope. He goes out to a parish in Rome every Sunday morning — at least those Sundays when he doesn’t have a public Mass at St. Peter’s — and he celebrates Mass with the parishioners.»

He knows the power of presence. He did that in Krakow — his parish visitations, his being with the people. He exemplifies that.

The multifaceted role of a bishop, it is clear from «Pastores Gregis,» would be a big part of the «munus»: the obligation, the duty, the office of a bishop to teach, to govern and to sanctify. The Pope has taught us that we need to teach with clarity, conviction and always with compassion, the timeless truths of Jesus and his Church.

Secondly, he has taught us the importance of governing. We must make sure that the dioceses are well governed, that there is sound stewardship in place, that we have trusted collaborators who can assist us in the charism of administration because the people look to us for prudent and stable leadership.

The third duty that the Pope has stressed is sanctification. People need to see us celebrating the sacraments — all of them.

The Holy Father mentions in «Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way» how every year he would make sure that he celebrated all seven sacraments publicly. Well, we bishops usually are great at celebrating the Eucharist, at celebrating confirmation and in celebrating the sacrament of holy orders.

But we need to celebrate all seven. Our people need to see us baptizing, anointing the sick, witnessing marriages, hearing confessions. Celebrating all seven sacraments is part of our «munus» of sanctification. So, that triple «munus» — that multifaceted role of the bishop to teach, to govern and to sanctify — I see in the example of Pope John Paul II both in Krakow and in Rome.

[Tuesday: An examination of conscience for bishops]

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