by Bishop James Conley
I am grateful for all the prayers offered for me during my recent pilgrimage to the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, in Spain. I remembered all of you in my prayers daily and it was a good experience for me to be with my brother bishops. I am back now – a little sore in my feet and knees, but thoroughly refreshed and energized as we begin this new academic year. Although summer temperatures will not leave us be, I look forward to the beautiful colors of autumn and the changing of the seasons with the fall harvest and the fun back-to-school activities.
I was happy to discover an abundant harvest of honey from my two hives in my back yard, which I harvested with my senior beekeeping consultant Doreen “Boots” Primavera-Wailes of Denton, who helped me extract and bottle this year’s crop of honey. Boots is a master beekeeper herself and she is now with her daughter walking the Camino – the “del Norte” route, the northern route to Santiago, through the mountains and along the northern coast of Spain, one of 14 different routes to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
Since Boots is a contemporary of mine, I hope this encourages those of us “in the fourth quarter” to consider making this pilgrimage. It’s a wonderful spiritual and physical experience to deepen our faith in the Apostolic Church. Saint James, pray for us!
The three-year nationwide Eucharistic revival, which we launched this summer on the feast of Corpus Christi, is well underway across the nation and in the Diocese of Lincoln. I’m happy to hear from different pastors and parishes through our diocese about extra hours of adoration that are being added, Eucharistic processions, and in some of our parishes, Eucharistic adoration and confessions held before Sunday Masses.
I just learned this weekend from Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens, the chair of the USCCB Evangelization and Catechesis Committee who is organizing the National Eucharistic Revival, that Lincoln has been chosen as one of the dioceses to participate in the nationwide Eucharistic procession from the four corners of the country. We will be on the western route: the Blessed Sacrament will be carried from the shrine of St. Junípero Serra in Carmel, Calif., across the western part of the United States. It will continue from the west to Lincoln, then to Omaha and Kansas City, and on to Indianapolis where it will join the three other processions from the Minnesota and Canadian border, the Texas and Mexican border, and the shrine of Blessed Father Michael McGivney in Connecticut. This nationwide procession will be held in the spring of 2024. The details are still being planned, but you can follow along – and find much more information about the Eucharistic revival – at the national website www.eucharisticrevival.org.
I am looking forward to the Eucharistic procession at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. which is always a wonderful experience. At this annual event – which took a hiatus during the pandemic – we walk through the UNL campus at night, under the stars, by candlelight, with our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, pausing at three locations on campus for benediction and special prayers. In previous years, this event gathered hundreds and hundreds of college students to adore the Lord. Please join us! It is not only for college students, but for all believers to show the world what we believe, and to invite them to learn about Jesus Christ and his love for us.
We are at a very important and pivotal time in the history of the pro-life movement, as we rejoice over the fall of Roe v. Wade this summer with the Dobbs case, which restored the power of the states to regulate abortion. But in truth, this brings us back to ground zero and our work has only just begun. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and work together to make Nebraska a sanctuary for unborn children and their mothers.
We have a wonderful opportunity to introduce pro-life legislation during this next year, legislation which will protect and defend the sanctity and dignity of every human life from its very beginning and most vulnerable stage.
In 2021, there were 2,360 abortions reported to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. More than 1,800 of these abortions were performed on children who were less than 12 weeks old. If we really want to protect the majority of those children, children whose lives are taken in the early weeks of pregnancy, we really need to think seriously about protecting every human life and every mother from the trauma of the abortion experience.
Of course, to those who have had abortions, the Church reaches out with compassion and love to care for them and extend the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus Christ to heal them and make them whole again. Project Rachel, Rachel’s Vineyard, and other post-abortion healing and reconciliation programs are one way the Church reaches out and loves those who, for whatever reason, chose abortion as the solution to their crisis.
When a woman considers abortion, she looks for people to help and often she does not receive help from the baby’s father, her own parents, society, even doctors. If there’s nobody to tell her there’s another way, if the woman believes she is alone, it is no wonder many think abortion is the only choice. We have to have compassion for these women. We have to create a society where no woman feels so alone. We have to make abortion an unthinkable choice.
I’ve been invited by pro-life students at Creighton University to visit their campus in Omaha Oct. 25 and give a talk about pro-life issues and how college students can play a role in restoring the rights of the unborn. We all can work toward restoring the rights of the unborn, and we all can be there for women in need. Since the Dobbs decision, pregnancy help centers like Birthright, Pregnancy Center, Women’s Care Center and dozens more across the state are helping more people than ever before. Find the centers nearest you at www.lincolndiocese.org/moms and prayerfully consider how you can help.
I strongly applaud my brother Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha and his proposed gender policy in the archdiocesan schools. I believe this is a very clear and convincing teaching policy, a catechetical policy, on the beauty and gift of our Christian anthropology. As you have probably read, the archbishop has paused the implementation of this new policy to listen to those who question or find difficult to understand the policy, in order to hear their concerns. I applaud the archbishop for this. But as he has stated repeatedly, the policy will not undergo substantial revision when it is promulgated for the 2023–24 school year.
After reading through the policy several times, I think it beautifully articulates the Catholic Church’s teaching on human sexuality, the gift and diversity of our male and female genders and the truth of the human person.
I direct your attention to an article from the Omaha World Herald Sept. 18: “Omaha Archdiocese’s gender policies reflected popes’ statements; that’s the problem, advocate says.” Aside from some incorrect assertions by other commenters, the article was very well done and included some substantial quotes. It was very catechetical! It also included encouraging statistics showing that common sense – which often seems not too common these days – is trending toward affirmation of the traditional understanding of Christian anthropology.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, I look forward to joining you for Confirmations and other liturgies, for parish events, even for sporting events. This week I and a number of brother priests were invited to a softball double-header for Pius X High School in Lincoln. Go Bolts!
Let us remember that each day, each event, each moment we share with others is an opportunity to bring Christ into the world. I used to say to my former pastor in Wichita, the late Father Donal O’Hare, “Keep the faith, Father.” He always responded, “No, don’t keep the faith – spread the faith! Don’t keep it to yourself.”
So, spread the faith!