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Keeping up with the bishops

Update on elections, decisions made at their annual meeting

BALTIMORE | The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, gathered here for their annual Fall General Assembly, Nov. 13-14, elected new leaders for standing committees, approved a budget, voted to proceed with a cause for beatification and approved the use of a new translation for the Order of Baptism of Children. Here, in brief, is what the bishops did:

  • Approved their 2018 budget and a 3 percent increase in the diocesan assessment for 2019.
  • Approved the ICEL Gray Book translation of the Order of Baptism of Children for use in the dioceses of the United States. The vote is subject to confirmatio by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
  • Approved the development of a formal statement that would offer a renewed pastoral plan for marriage and family life ministry and advocacy in light of Amoris Laetitia, under the lead of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.
  • Approved the addition of one staff position in service to the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, contingent upon funding through external grants.
  • Elected the following members to the Catholic Relief Services Board of Directors: Bishop Edward J. Burns, Diocese of Dallas; Bishop Felipe J. Estévez, Diocese of St. Augustine; Bishop Shelton J.  Fabre, Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux; Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda, Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis; Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend; and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, Archdiocese of Miami.


The bishops also elected a new conference secretary-elect along with a new chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty and chairmen-elect of five additional standing committees.

  • Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, Archdiocese of Detroit, was elected secretary-elect for the USCCB on the ballot with 96 votes over Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, who received 88 votes.
  • Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, Archdiocese of Louisville, was elected as chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty in a 113 to 86 vote over Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
The five chairmen-elect are:
  • Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Diocese of Arlington, as chairman-elect of the Committee on Communications in a 116 to 70 vote over Bishop John O. Barres, Diocese of Rockville Centre. 
  • Bishop Nelson J. Pérez, Diocese of Cleveland, as chairman-elect of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church in a 102 to 77 vote over Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux. 
  • Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, as chairman-elect of the Committee on Doctrine in a 110 to 95 vote over Bishop Daniel E. Thomas, Diocese of Toledo.
  • Bishop Joseph R. Cistone, Diocese of Saginaw, as chairman-elect of the Committee on National Collections in a 124 to 65 vote over Archbishop Michael O. Jackels, Archdiocese of Dubuque.
  • Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, as chairman-elect of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities in a 96 to 82 vote over Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Archdiocese of Chicago. 
The secretary-elect and the five committee chairmen-elect will serve one year before beginning three-year terms at the conclusion of the bishops' 2018 Fall General Assembly. 

The bishops also approved by voice vote the canonical consultation of canonization for a Lakota catechist. Sought by Bishop Robert D. Gruss of Rapid City, South Dakota, the voice vote is in keeping with the episcopal consultation process as a step in the Catholic Church’s process toward declaring a person a saint.  

Nicholas W. Black Elk, Sr., was born into the Oglala Lakota Tribe in 1863 in Wyoming. The fourth generation to be named Black Elk, he was third in succeeding his father and grandfather as a prominent medicine man. In 1885, he learned about St. Kateri Tekakwitha and signed the petition supporting the cause of her canonization. In 1904, he met a Jesuit priest who invited him to study Christianity at Holy Rosary Mission near Pine Ridge, SD.

On December 6, on the feast of St. Nicholas, he was baptized Nicolas William. In 1907, the Jesuits appointed him a catechist because of his love for Christ, his enthusiasm and his excellent memory for learning scripture and Church teachings. During the second half of his life, he traveled widely to various reservations, peaching, sharing stories, and teaching the Catholic faith. He is attributed to having 400 Native American people baptized.

On March 14, 2016, a petition with over 1,600 signatures to begin the cause for canonization was presented to Bishop Gruss by the Nicholas Black Elk family.  More information on the sainthood process is available here.

To read the complete text of addresses to the bishops by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, by the papal nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Christophe Pierre, and by current USCCB president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, click here.

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