This is a time of transition for our archdiocese. It has been a difficult eight months for all of us since the allegations against Archbishop McCarrick as well as Pope Francis accepting Cardinal Wuerl’s resignation that he submitted three years ago at retirement age.
We are now preparing to move forward, and as we await the appointment of a new archbishop, I’ve been thinking and praying about my hopes and dreams for him, the archdiocese, and all of us.
As someone who has worked closely with Cardinal Wuerl, I can tell you that he has done an unbelievable job organizing, leading, and structuring archdiocesan operations to put us in great shape for years to come. Almost everything of importance has been worked on and largely completed, from Catholic education to priest personnel policies to plans for parishes.
This is an important legacy that Cardinal Wuerl leaves to our new archbishop. One of my hopes is that he will be able to “ride the wave” of this wonderful gift and be able to spend time with our priests, deacons, religious, and most of all our laity, listening and celebrating the gift of our faith with all of us.
I also hope the new archbishop can visit all the parishes. I hope he can spend time at deanery meetings. And, I hope he is able to meet with priests and deacons who may have concerns, some very painful, after the experiences of the last year.
I think it would be a wonderful gift if our new archbishop were able to primarily focus on his role as our shepherd who gathers us around and helps us reflect on our call to build up God’s kingdom and share the message of Jesus with all we meet. I pray the coming months and years will be a time of healing, renewal, and all of us working together on behalf of the Gospel. I’m optimistic that our new archbishop will help lead us down that road.
I also have some specific hopes for Catholic Charities and all of the work that we do.
First, I would love the new archbishop to continue to help set the vision for Catholic Charities. Cardinal Wuerl has done that beautifully, often emphasizing two points to me.
The first is sustainability. Cardinal Wuerl has wanted to make sure that we have enough people and money so we can continue to serve the poor and those in need long into the future. We’ve worked hard to make sure that we can continue responding to Jesus’ call for three, four, five, even 10 years down the road.
Secondly, Cardinal Wuerl has been eager to see individual parishes become more involved, and we’ve made great strides in the last eight years under our Outreach and Parish Partners teams. I think Catholic Charities is now a much better partner with our parishes who look to us for help and support. In turn, we also look to them to be one of the resources through which we deliver services throughout the region. I have spent most of my priesthood at parishes, and I would love to see these efforts continue under our new archbishop.
I know how incredibly demanding an archbishop’s schedule is, so at the risk of being selfish, I also hope he will visit often with our homeless, our refugees, victims of human trafficking, those who need medical and dental care, and those with developmental differences as we celebrate the gift they are to our community. Even an occasional visit or drop-in at an event would be a strong sign to all, that this Church of ours continues to care deeply about the poor and find ways to reach out to all who are in need.
Reaching out to all in need is our mission, our passion, and our life’s work at Catholic Charities. I pray that never changes. I think back to the words of one of our previous archbishops, Cardinal Hickey, who was our shepherd for 20 years from 1980 to 2000. When he was asked if we helped those who aren’t Catholic, he said yes in a beautiful way, “We don’t do this because they’re Catholic. We do it because we’re Catholic.”
I’m hopeful that in the years ahead people will increasingly see Catholic Charities as an archdiocesan-sponsored effort that is open to any and all in need. When people come to us, we don’t ask what faith they are or anything else. We simply love them and help them to the best of our ability.
May our new archbishop embrace and enhance that same sense of welcoming any and all who come our way. May he support the work all of us do every day in seeing Jesus in each and every person we meet and hoping that they see Jesus in us.
That is the message of the Gospel. It is loving God and neighbor, and it is the way of love, joy and healing.
(Msgr. Enzler is the president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington.)
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