Diocesan Ministry Day • Aug. 31 • St. Cloud Keynoter: Archbishop Joseph Kurtz – ‘Pope Francis: Prophet of Hope and Mercy’

Categories: Around the Diocese,DMD

 U.S. bishops’ president offers a preview of his address and shares his hopes for this fall’s synod on the family

Archbishop Kurtz addresses news conference during U.S. bishops' meeting in Baltimore

Archbishop Kurtz

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., will be this year’s keynote speaker at Diocesan Ministry Day Aug. 31 in St. Cloud. The title of his address is “Pope Francis: Prophet of Hope and Mercy.” The archbishop, who serves as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will be attending the October Synod of Bishops on the family, and he also will lead a learning session on the synod at DMD. The Visitor recently spoke to Archbishop Kurtz about his upcoming presentations; the following interview was edited for length and clarity.

Q: What are you hoping to convey in your keynote address to the people of this diocese.

DMD graphicArchbishop Kurtz: The first thing I’d like to talk about is how our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has taken the world by storm. I don’t know that there are very many personalities on the world stage that people in airports are talking about. I want to talk about that excitement. And then I want to take a step back and talk about major themes that are really major themes that come from the person of Jesus himself — that are, as I say in my title, are,
themes of hope and of mercy.

I’ll talk about what our Holy Father has said about living a humble and simple life, about the importance of each one of us having a direct encounter with Jesus Christ and about creating a culture of encounter. And I’ll talk about what it means to always see the person first and to walk with people,
especially people who are desperately in need of the mercy and hope of Christ.

Q: Would you say that hope and mercy are two things that our church and society need to focus on at this time?

Archbishop Kurtz: Yes, I do. We are a culture in which we’re told that we have more than perhaps any other culture the world has ever known. And, yet, we have such a high degree of restlessness and, in many ways, despair. We’re in a culture in which people feel empty, they feel that they don’t have a direction in their lives, and there are sadly even incidences of people taking their own lives. Within that atmosphere we have our Holy Father, who is a prophet of hope, really extending in very simple terms the invitation that Jesus gave 2,000 years ago. That has been, of course, the foundation of our church.

Q: In terms of being prophets of hope and mercy in our parishes and in our daily lives, do you have a suggestion or two for people?

Archbishop Kurtz: We really have to be students of our faith. We need to be able to ground ourselves — and Pope Francis is an example — in learning more and in appreciating more about the depth of our faith. …

The first thing we need to do is give time and energy. A person like me interested in sports spends an awful lot of time not just reading but analyzing the sports page. I know the positions of all the players on the Louisville Cardinals basketball and football teams. We need to take that same interest in our faith.

Secondly, I think what our Holy Father is saying is that we need to uncover the gift of God’s presence already in our life, especially through baptism. We already have the core of God’s mercy and hope already in our hearts.

What should we do in terms of parishes? Our Holy Father has led us in saying first of all: How do we welcome one another? How do we reach out? When we talk about the family, we talk about the family not simply as being the object of evangelization but also the subject of evangelization. An object receives but a subject gives.

This means that not just the priest or the deacon or the leader in the parish, but every baptized Catholic is called to have a welcoming attitude toward others — one in which we’re willing to take that first step and reach out to our neighbor. There’s a great amount of energy that can come from that. When we start to reach out and do things for others, there is a renewed energy that comes into our own hearts. We don’t do it for that reason, but let’s call it a byproduct — that joy comes to a person willing to share joy with others.

Q: There has been a lot of debate and discussion about some of the topics that the synod on the family is going to address. What do you wish was getting more attention right now than it is in regard to the synod?

Archbishop Kurtz: I talked earlier about people being students, and I think it’s very important that people appreciate the media and an interview like this. In addition to that, we need to go deeper and take an interest in getting beneath the headlines into the core of what the synod is about.

I’ll be talking [at Diocesan Ministry Day] about a three-fold hope I have that I’m going to take with me to the synod.

First, we need to rediscover the beauty of the teachings of Jesus. And, we live in such a fast-paced world. We need to relax and see what a great gift family is to us.

Secondly, we need to inspire, especially young people, to be authentic witnesses to that faithful love that comes from a marriage of one man and one woman. That witnessing will require mentors, and we need to call forth mentors to help young couples today.

Thirdly, we need to understand what it means to walk with people. We need to meet people where they are. There are a lot of people who are hurting and, whether they believe they’ve caused these pains or not, it doesn’t matter. The fact is that we need to walk with people in their real-life situations. I’ll be talking about what it means to have what’s called “the art of accompaniment.”