Many, when they think of the ministry of a bishop, imagine him sitting by himself in regal splendor making decisions right and left regarding the people and finances of the diocese. If that was ever the case, it could not be further from the truth today. Just how mistaken that image is came into even clearer light for me on Tuesday evening, the 17th of this month when I had the joy of gathering with lay members of boards and committees that serve various entities of our Diocese of El Paso for a Mardi Gras Dinner. I wanted to express my gratitude to them for their generous service. They came from all over El Paso and from the rural parts of our Diocese as far as Fort Davis. By the time we accumulated a list of all those who serve on the diocesan level, we had a list of an amazing 130 board members and their spouses to invite!
The gathering was made up of members of the Building Committee, Casitas San Mateo, Catholic Counseling, Catholic Properties, Diocesan Board of Education, Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services, Education Assistance Fund Board, Finance Council, Foundation for the Diocese of El Paso, Liturgical Commission, Northeast Catholic Schools Consortium, Pastoral Concerns Committee, Review Board, Cathedral High School, Inc. Board, Tepeyac Institute and Physicians’ Guild Boards.
Of course this list doesn’t even include the many Councils and committees on which priests and deacons sit to offer me advice and to aid me in my shepherding of the Diocese. These would include the Presbyteral Council, College of Consultors, Personnel Board, Committee for the Ongoing Formation of the Clergy, and the Deacon Community Board. To this one could add the many professional staff members working at the Pastoral Center who give me guidance in my work every day.
Soon we will establish an important new Council to assist in the pastoral planning of the Diocese as a whole, a Diocesan Pastoral Council. They will study future needs and challenges of the Diocese and develop a plan that will help us to prioritize and address them. I am presently awaiting nominations of lay leaders from every Vicariate of the Diocese. Then I will add Religious women and men as well as priests and deacons.
What do I do when these groups meet? The main thing I try to do is to listen as they raise issues and work out plans to direct the work of the Church. I also share my concerns and my dreams and look forward to their feedback. When consensus is reached in these groups, this is the direction we go. Of course, at the same time my responsibility is to listen to the teaching and guidance of the Church and to assure that we as a local Church are in tune with what the Universal Church is passing on to us.
Yes, the role of the bishop may be very different from what many imagine when it comes to his administrative responsibilities. I am very grateful for the many hundreds of members in the Church of El Paso, both Religious and lay, who have stepped forward with such incredible gifts and talents and are guided by such a rich faith. I know the Spirit is at work and Spirit’s Wisdom is revealed when we work together as the Body of Christ.