Valle Adurni has tagged me with the question: 'if the Holy Father were to nominate you bishop tomorrow (and anyone can play this one, lay, clerical, guy, gal,—this is about ecclesial priorities not ontology) what are (in order) the five (or more) really important issues that you would address first?'
Well, I thought of more than five and here they are, in no particular order:
An early and essential task would be to get to know your clergy and parishes – through a schedule of visitation and interviews with priests (perhaps deanery by deanery). That way, appointments could be based on personal knowledge. Once a week there would be an open slot so that priests could freely see the bishop and discuss problems, issues, etc.
If there was a seminary in the diocese, then that would be the apple of the new bishop’s eye. He would frequently visit, carefully appoint the staff (so that the right students reached Ordination) and not be afraid to make it a centre of spiritual and academic excellence.
The promotion of vocations would also be a priority and based on a pro-active approach, unashamedly setting forth the splendour of the Sacred Priesthood (including its many crosses – we are supposed to be ‘priest victims’ after all). Potential seminarians would not be rejected just because they were ‘too young’ or ‘too inexperienced’ or because their face didn’t fit – what’s the point of the six years of seminary if it can’t form men to be ‘other Christs’ in spite of their limitations?
The Cathedral and other key urban churches would be encouraged to become liturgical and musical centres. Guidelines would be produced so that parishes could correctly implement the new General Instruction. The Historic Churches Commission would make sure no needless architectural vandalism took place. The use of other rites and older editions of the Missale would, of course, be generously allowed.
A diocesan programme of catechetics would be drawn up, the emphasis being substance as well as style. A good catechists training centre would be established. The bishop would also visit his schools and make sure the Faith was being taught and lived there.
Bureaucracy would be cut back, where possible; the bishop would try to be more a shepherd than an administrator and committee meetings would be minimised!
Given the level of Catholic immigration, special attention would be given to ethnic chaplaincies and the integration of these groups into diocesan life. After all, most Catholics in this country are not English in origin and we owe to them the growth of the Church!
If a new Order or movement wanted to move into the diocese, the application would be encouraged and carefully considered.
To renew parochial life, such things as parish missions, novenas, processions, adoration and festal celebrations would be encouraged.
That should keep a new bishop pretty busy for the first few years!