WASHINGTON (October 28, 1999) -- Approval of pastoral messages on Charity and on the Blessings of Age, a pastoral plan for adult faith formation, implementation of norms for Catholic higher education in the United States, and a message for the JubileeYear are among many agenda items at the fall general meeting of the nation's Catholic bishops.
Other actions facing the Bishops at their semi-annual meeting here November 15-18 include a series of proposals to restructure the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference and revise its statutes, several liturgical issues, and norms for readmission of seminarians who have discontinued studies or departed from another seminary.
About 290 bishops from all over the country are expected to attend the 58th general meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) and United States Catholic Conference (USCC). The meeting will be held at the Capitol Hill Hyatt Regency Hotel.
It will begin at 9:00 AM, Nov.15, with an address by the Conference President, Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston. Prayers from the Liturgy of the Hours will precede each day's deliberations.
The proposed pastoral message, "In All Things Charity: A Pastoral Message for the New Millennium," is keyed to the Holy Father's millennium preparation theme of 1999 as the Year of Charity.
The 10,000-word message says Catholics "cannot remain idle witnesses" amid the more......tragedies of poverty, hunger, violence, and human suffering.
It connects charity and justice, spells out principles of Christian discipleship and discusses the implications of love of neighbor for family, neighborhood, parish and the global community.
The message concludes with a short "Jubilee Pledge for Charity, Justice and Peace."
The proposed pastoral message, "Blessings of Age," was prepared by the Bishops' Committee on the Laity to serve as a "foundational resource for the further development of ministry with older persons."
Noting that one in eight Americans is now 65 or older, the 6,000 word text seeks to "affirm and challenge older people" and addresses "both the blessings and the losses of later life."
The United Nations has designated 1999 as the International Year of the Elderly. The Holy See has urged Catholics to make a new commitment not only to care for older persons but to learn from them, and Pope John Paul II recently issued a letter to "my elderly brothers and sisters."
The pastoral message discusses changing spiritual needs at different ages and urges parishes to develop structures "that encourage and facilitate the contributions of older people throughout life."
The message on the jubilee year, prepared by the Bishops' Subcommittee on the Third Millennium, will eventually appear in two versions--a longer, in-depth treatment of the jubilee year "geared primarily to church leadership," and a shorter popularized version of the longer message.
Both versions are intended as a message of hope and evangelization, suggesting what it means for disciples of Christ to observe the 2000th anniversary of his birth.
The proposed adult formation plan, "Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us," stresses the need for ongoing formation to help adult Catholics make their faith stronger and more mature. It is being presented by the USCC Committee on Education.
The request for the plan came from the National Advisory Committee on Adult Religious Education, which worked with the Subcommittee on Catechesis to develop an outline for the pastoral plan. It is intended for all who share leadership and responsibility for adult faith formation in parishes, dioceses and other pastoral settings. more......"The Church's pastoral ministry exists to sustain the work of the Gospel," the plan says. "One way it does this is by nourishing and strengthening lay men and women in their calling and identity as people of faith, as contributors to the life and work of the Church, and as disciples on mission to the world. To grow in discipleship throughout life, lay persons need and deserve vibrant parish and diocesan communities of faith and ministry...Such communities cannot exist without a strong, complete and systematic catechesis for all its members."
If the proposed norms for U.S. Catholic higher education are approved by the bishops and confirmed by the Holy See, this will bring to completion the process of developing implementation norms in this country for "Ex corde Ecclesiae," Pope John Paul II's 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education.
The Apostolic Constitution described the identity and mission of Catholic colleges and universities and provided General Norms to help fulfill its vision. The general norms were to be applied concretely by episcopal conferences, taking into account the status of each college and university and appropriate civil law.
Recognizing that the Apostolic Constitution is normative for the Church throughout the world, the draft document seeks to apply its principles and norms to the unique situation of colleges and universities in this country.
The November, 1999 draft of the Application is a revision of a draft which was presented to the Bishops last year. Its modifications attempt to respond to the comments, criticisms and suggestions offered during the consultation period, from November, 1998 to June, 1999.
The Bishops will also vote on liturgical issues, including revised Guidelines for the Concelebration of the Eucharist, Spanish language translation of the USA original Blessings for inclusion in a USA edition of the "Bendicional," the inscription of Blessed Damien of Moloka'i on the proper calendar for dioceses of the United States, and an introduction to the Book of the Gospels.
The Bishops will also vote on norms for lay preaching and norms for the application of the instruction on "The Admission of Candidates from Other Seminaries and Religious Families."
They will be asked by the Ad Hoc Committee on the Revision of Statutes and Bylaws to take the next step in the work of restructuring their Conference. The ad hoc committee, chaired by Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk of Cincinnati, will present four items for discussion and action by the body of bishops: a Revised Mission Statement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Revised Statutes of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Revised Regulations regarding Conference statements, and a proposed composition of the Administrative Committee.
The agenda also calls for the Bishops to discuss, but not vote on at this time, a draft document on church art and architecture entitled "Domus Dei," ("The House of the Lord"), A Basic Plan for the On-going Formation of Priests, and a proposal to develop a new National Catechetical Directory. They will discuss the Lay Ecclesial Ministry Project report, and hear reports on Encuentro 2000 and on the feasibility study of a national adult catechism.
Conference elections include a treasurer, committee chairmen and chairs-elect, the general secretary for an additional year, and a general secretary-elect.
As usual at their November meetings, the Bishops will cast a series of votes on Conference plans and priorities, the budget for 2000, and a proposed diocesan assessment for 2001.
The day preceding the meeting will feature an orientation session for bishops ordained within the past five years and a workshop for interested bishops on stem-cell research, part of a series of pre-meeting workshops on modern science and the practice of the faith. The symposium will be co-sponsored by the Committee on Science and Human Values and the Committee for Pro-Life Activities.
The opening Mass will be at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 400 Michigan Ave., N.E., on Monday evening, Nov. 15 at 6 PM.
The Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) will broadcast hour-long summaries of the meeting each evening.
Media accreditation and arrangements are made through the USCC Department of Communications.