WASHINGTON (October 24, 1997) -- Initiatives for Spanish-speaking Catholics, including the Spanish language edition of the Sacramentary, a statement entitled "Called to Global Solidarity: International Challenges for U.S. Parishes," extension for an additional five years of the Office for the Catechism and of the Collection to Aid the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, and a Strategic Plan for Communications for the NCCB and USCC are among the items on the agenda of the semi-annual meeting of the Catholic Bishops of the United States.
About 285 bishops are expected to attend the 54th general meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) and United States Catholic Conference (USCC). The meeting will be held November 10-13 at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill.
It will begin at 9:00 a.m., Monday, November 10, with an address by Bishop Anthony M. Pilla of Cleveland, President of NCCB/USCC. Prayers from the Liturgy of the Hours will accompany each day's deliberations.
The Bishops' Committee on Hispanic Affairs, chaired by Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino, will ask the Bishops for approval to convoke the IV National Encuentro in the year 2000, as an integral part of the Great Jubilee celebration.
"As we approach the third millennium of evangelization, and as the Holy Father John Paul II calls for a New Evangelization, the Hispanic Catholic community is prepared to share its experiences of the last 25 years," the proposal says. "As a Catholic community it has many gifts, hopes, and an articulated vision of the kingdom to help bring new ardor, new methods, and new expressions of evangelization to the Church."
Previous national encuentros were held in 1972, 1977, and 1985. Their purpose was to bring Spanish-speaking Catholics into all levels of the Church. Among other things, they helped Hispanic Catholics to declare their identity, developing a National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry. The IV Encuentro will focus on a multicultural process to help integrate Hispanics into the full life of the Church. It will also help address the phenomenon of the migration of people which has had a major impact on service programs.
There have been 26 Hispanic bishops appointed in the Church in the United States in the past quarter-century. Today there are 21 active bishops, including one archbishop, 9 ordinaries and 11 auxiliary bishops.
The International Policy Committee, chaired by Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, will ask the assembly to approve a wide-ranging statement entitled "Called to Global Solidarity." Its purpose is to remind American Catholics of the moral and religious foundations of the United States' international responsibilities and to provide a framework and practical resource for parish leaders.
"Many middle-aged and older Catholics grew up with a keen sense of 'mission' and concern for children half a world away," the statement says. "We raised funds for 'pagan babies,' cleaned our plates and prayed for the conversion of Russia after Mass. We didn't have global TV networks or the Internet, but we had a sense of responsibility. We need to renew this traditional Catholic consciousness in a new age of global communications and economic interdependence."
The Bishops will be asked to approve a request by the Ad Hoc Committee to Oversee the Use of the Catechism for a five year extension of the Office for the Catechism. In June, 1995, the bishops approved the establishment of the Office for the Catechism and voted to fund it for a three year period. Its work in assisting the Ad Hoc Committee to Oversee the Use of the Catechism in carrying out its mandate will not be completed by the end of 1998 when funding for the office ends.
The first two objectives of the Ad Hoc Committee are to oversee the use of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and to advise the bishops on matters related to the Catechism. Three additional objectives have been added: to study the feasibility of a national catechism/catechetical series based on the Catechism, to review catechetical materials voluntarily submitted to the Ad Hoc Committee as to their conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and to begin a discussion of the process which the Conference might employ to participate in the translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church into English from the Latin typical edition.
Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein is Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee to Oversee the Use of the Catechism.
Last March the Our Sunday Visitor Institute announced a $500,000 grant to the Ad Hoc Committee to be given in $100,000 installments over five years.
The Ad Hoc Committee to Aid the Church in Central and Eastern Europe is chaired by Adam Cardinal Maida of Detroit. After evaluating the effects of the assistance given up to now by American Catholics and discussions with Church leaders in Eastern Europe, the Ad Hoc Committee will ask the assembly to approve a three-year extension of both the national collection and of the Office to Aid the Catholic Church in Central and Eastern Europe.
The Ad Hoc Committee's rationale for this proposal included the observations that political, economic and social conditions have improved more slowly than anticipated; that the return of properties and institutions to Greek-rite Catholics has happened only sporadically and in many cases not at all; and that the churches of Eastern Europe need more time to move toward self-sufficiency.
The Bishops' Communications Committee, chaired by Bishop Thomas J. Costello, will ask the Bishops to approve a Strategic Plan for Conference Communications.
Following the suspension of the Catholic Telecommunications Network of America (CTNA), the NCCB/USCC in June, 1995 authorized a study of Conference communications needs and interests. Participation of Bishops and Catholic communicators in the study was extraordinary. Eighty-five percent of the dioceses returned data-gathering questionnaires, and each of the Cardinals, 22 additional archbishops and bishops, and 30 professional Catholic communicators were interviewed extensively. More than 150 bishops took part in group discussions on media options at last November's meeting and subsequently returned questionnaire "checklists."
A large majority of Bishops said they wanted to give communications a high priority at the conference level, to develop a "national presence" in the media, and to have a more pro-active public relations/ media effort at the national level.
Structurally, the Strategic Plan for Communications calls for the Catholic Communication Campaign (CCC), as an entity of the NCCB/USCC, to be re-structured for the purpose of promoting and expanding a clearly defined presence in the national media in order to spread the message of the Church.
The strategic plan calls for a "building blocks" approach, utilizing existing efforts not only within the Conference but also in cooperation with the dioceses' communications efforts and the independent Catholic media entities, such as those operated by religious communities.
The Bishops will vote on the Strategic Plan for Conference Communications in three parts. A majority of those present and voting will be required to approve the restructuring of the CCC and also the building blocks strategy and production goals recommended in the strategic plan. Approval by two-thirds of the diocesan bishops and those equivalent to them in law will be needed to approve the budget and financing goals of the Strategic Plan for Conference Communication.
On the recommendation of its Hispanic Liturgy Subcommittee, the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy will ask approval of the Spanish Language edition of the Sacramentary for use in the dioceses of this country. The Liturgy Committee is chaired by Archbishop Jerome G. Hanus.
In November, 1992, the Hispanic Liturgy Subcommittee began an intensive effort to produce a Sacramentary for Spanish speaking Catholics. The starting point was the Misal Romano of the Mexican Bishops' Conference. Translations and adaptations of the Misal Romano followed the "Principles for Translation" revised and adopted by the subcommittee in 1993.
The subcommittee followed the approval of the Pastoral Introductions and American Adaptations of the revised English translation of the Sacramentary by the NCCB over the past two years. These adaptations were translated into Spanish and reviewed by the subcommittee. The subcommittee is also recommending the inclusion of an "Appendix of National Patronal Feasts." These feasts would be for optional use by particular local communities. This appendix includes the liturgical texts for national patronal feasts celebrated in the native Caribbean, Latin and Central American countries of origin of the majority of the Spanish speaking Catholics in the United States.
The Liturgy Committee will also ask the assembly to consider the question of transferring the Feast of the Ascension to the Seventh Sunday of Easter for the dioceses of the United States. Unlike other solemnities, the Ascension always falls on a weekday when most people have other obligations.
In 1993 the Metropolitan Provinces of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland in Oregon, Seattle and Anchorage were granted an indult on a five-year experimental basis to celebrate the Solemnity on the Seventh Sunday. These dioceses represent more than 10% of the dioceses and 22.3% of the U.S. Catholic population. The pastoral experiment has been considered quite successful.
A number of other regions of the Conference have petitioned the Holy See for the same indult. However, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has indicated it prefers requests for the indult to be presented as a decision of the full body.
The Bishops will also be asked by the Committee on the Liturgy to approve Mass Prayers for Saint Louis Mary de Montfort, a 17th century French priest who founded the Daughters of Wisdom and the Missionaries of the Company of Mary (Montfort Fathers and Brothers). He is known for his spiritual writings about the Virgin Mary's role in the mystery of salvation.
St. Louis Mary de Montfort was recently added to the General Roman Calendar and his optional memorial may be celebrated on April 28.
The Bishops will have a discussion of Friday Abstinence for the intention to combat the culture of death.
At the suggestion of their Committee on Education, the Bishops will hear a report and hold a discussion on what issues the Conference should be addressing in support of Catholic elementary and secondary schools in the new millennium The discussion will take place at a time of continued growth of Catholic school enrollment. New Catholic schools are being opened, existing schools are being expanded, and some that had closed are being re-opened. Issues to be addressed might include salaries and benefits for Catholic school personnel, justice and parental rights in education, and sustaining the presence of Catholic schools for the poor.
The Bishops will be asked to approve a 1998 budget for their conference. They will be asked to approve the recommendation of the Committee on Budget and Finance for the 1999 diocesan assessment.
They will be asked by their Committee on Priorities and Plans to reaffirm the 1997-1999 goals and objectives, with the revisions of Special Emphasis Objective #6.1, for the planning cycle 2000-2002. The revised wording of the special emphasis objective is to emphasize the Bishops' pro-life efforts in light of the teaching of the Pope's encyclical Evangelium Vitae.
They will hear reports on various topics and elect a secretary as well as chairmen of the NCCB committees on Latin America, Priestly Life and Ministry, Religious Life and Ministry, and the American Board of Catholic Missions.
The opening Mass for the meeting will be at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, 4th and Michigan, Northeast, on Monday evening, November 10, at 6:00 pm.
The fall general meeting of the NCCB/USCC will be broadcast by the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).