Priorities for 2012: Q&A with Bishop Peter Jugis
CHARLOTTE — Bishop Peter J. Jugis recently sat down for an interview with Editor Patricia Guilfoyle to discuss his priorities for 2012.
Pictured: Bishop Peter J. Jugis blesses the faithful at the end of midnight Mass on Christmas at St. Patrick Cathedral in Charlotte. Read more about his Christmas homily, here. (Patricia L. Guilfoyle | Catholic News Herald)
Following is a transcript of his remarks, slightly edited for clarity and brevity:
CNH: As we begin 2012, what are your goals and prayer intentions for the new year?
Bishop Jugis: As for prayer intentions, I always have uppermost in my mind the respect for the dignity of human life, especially the unborn. It's such a fundamental right of a human being and also a serious injustice that we observe in our society today.
Another intention this year would be to pray for those who are hurting because of the recession, to ask the Lord to give meaningful employment to the unemployed and, also, especially the poor and the needy who are particularly struggling.
Big events or goals for this year would include preparing for and participating in my ad limina visit to Pope Benedict XVI in Rome, which will be coming up probably sometime in the late spring or early summer. I will have an opportunity to speak with the Holy Father and with the offices of the Vatican about the status of our diocese and how we're doing here, and to hear feedback from them as to what we should be doing.
Secondly, another big issue during this whole year will be the continuation of our welcoming the revised English translation of the Roman Missal. We're still very much in the infancy stages of learning the new translation. While many of the people's responses are, after one month, maybe starting to become familiar, for priests there is going to be at every daily Mass a new prayer that's been translated. So there are a lot of new prayers that the priests will be learning every single day throughout the year.
Another goal will be to prepare for and to celebrate the Eucharistic Congress, which is always a wonderful opportunity to gather the whole diocese together to strengthen our faith in the Eucharistic Lord. With so many challenges to people's faith that they are facing nowadays, the Eucharistic Congress serves a very useful purpose in strengthening people's faith. As they come together in participating in this diocesan event, their faith is strengthened and they grow in holiness. They are stronger in faith – rooted in Christ – and able to meet the challenges in our culture, including increasing secularization and, in many respects, marginalization of the influence of religion in our society.
Underlying all these goals are the four priorities that have special emphasis in my ongoing ministry: catechesis, evangelization, vocations to priesthood and consecrated life, and the liturgy.
CNH: The theme for the 2012 Eucharistic Congress is "Behold the Lamb of God." What is the significance of this?
Bishop Jugis: It ties in with our entrance into the Year of Faith, which begins in October. In the beautiful letter that Pope Benedict wrote, "Porta Fidei" (Door of Faith), he says during this year of faith we're going to have to keep our gaze focused on Jesus, who is the Perfecter of our faith, to quote the line from the Letter to the Hebrews. Certainly in the Eucharistic Congress, we are keeping our gaze focused on Jesus. And that theme comes from St. John's gospel: the words of St. John the Baptist, when Jesus appeared at His baptism in the Jordan River and John says, "Look, behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." These are also the words which the priest says at every Mass, as he invites people to receive Holy Communion. In the Eucharistic Congress we want to put our focus and emphasis on the Eucharistic Presence of Christ.
The theme this year engages the participant; it's not just a generic statement. So a response is needed.
"Behold the Lamb of God," in effect, asks us for a statement of our faith: Do we behold the Lamb of God? Do we recognize that this is Jesus Christ? Do we recognize He is really present? Do we really behold Him? That is what the priest is asking for at that moment in the Mass. Similarly, when we come up for Communion and the minister says, "The Body of Christ," he or she is asking for a statement of faith: Do we recognize and acknowledge this is the Body of Christ? We say, "Amen," which is the response of our faith. So it is a calling forth of faith, and that expression of faith also puts us into the spirit to enter into the Year of Faith.
CNH: The "Year of Faith" beginning in October will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council. What would you like the faithful in the Diocese of Charlotte to think about as the Year of Faith approaches?
Bishop Jugis: I remember a line from "Porta Fidei" where the pope describes the faith as standing with the Lord, so as to be able to live with Him. If you look at the worldwide universal Church, where in some countries the faith is weak, where people are drifting and not standing with the Lord and witnessing to their faith by their lives, he is saying that he wants people to take another look at knowing their faith, which means being catechized and evangelized, and then to live their faith, to enter into the mission of the Church and become evangelizers. At least at this initial stage, what we can be doing is standing with the Lord, making sure that we stand with Him in the face of any challenges to our faith in our culture, and that we don't compromise our love for the Lord or try to straddle our love for the Lord with love for other contrary doctrines.
It's also interesting to note that faith is the one theological virtue on which the pope has not yet written an encyclical. The first one was on charity, "Deus Caritas Est," (God is Love) and then he wrote his encyclical on hope, "Spe Salvi" (In Hope We Were Saved). He has not yet written an encyclical on faith, explicitly. This is an opportunity, I think, for the whole Church together with him to reflect on the foundational nature and place of faith in our lives as a Christian community, and what responsibilities or duties are incumbent on us as a result of being people of faith: Knowing our faith, growing in our faith, studying our faith, and then witnessing to our faith with our lives.
CNH: Across the diocese, there has been a great deal of emphasis placed on encouraging people to consider vocations to religious life, particularly the priesthood. How would you describe the state of vocations in the diocese?
Bishop Jugis: The fact that our diocese is producing so many good quality vocations to the priesthood and to religious life, both as men religious and as women religious, is a good sign of the vitality of our local Church. Obviously, people are striving for holiness and hearing God's call to these special vocations – as well as to the vocations of marriage and family life.
I've noted traveling around to parishes and just talking with people that we've had vocations not only to the diocesan priesthood, but also I hear of young men who have gone to study for the Vincentians, or for the Capuchins or other religious orders, as well as women religious. This really is encouraging to me.
We're also seeing that Adoration chapels around the diocese are bearing much fruit in holiness in the diocese, and in the holiness of individuals who are seeking to leave all and give their lives completely to following the Lord. Not only in the established Adoration chapels, but also through the many hours of Eucharistic Adoration that take place in parishes on a periodic basis, people are praying and seeking the Lord.
To make sure that we continue to have vocations to priesthood and consecrated life as we move into the future, one thing that people should continue to do is – borrowing a phrase from Pope John Paul II – to make sure that our families are "schools of prayer." He called the parish a school of prayer where people are taught prayer, learn how to pray, grow in prayer, grow in holiness. So also our families, our domestic churches, should be schools of prayer, where children learn how to pray, and are taught prayer and grow in prayer. Because if we are prayerful people, if we are seeking to be in conversation with the Lord and listen to His voice, then we're more disposed to be able to hear His voice and to respond when He does call us to whichever vocation – to marriage or to consecrated life, or to the priesthood or to the diaconate.
Another thing is to keep in mind our Vocation Awareness Day, which we have every August for priestly vocations. Since that started in 2005, it has been successful – which shows that more and more young men and teenagers are thinking about it and just want to investigate it further, to have a day to spend with me as their bishop, to pray together and listen to talks about the priesthood, and to ask questions about what the life of a priest is like.
CNH: You and Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh are actively involved with the upcoming May referendum on protecting marriage in the North Carolina state constitution. What do you hope to teach Catholics on this issue?
Bishop Jugis: The first message that we're trying to get across in the campaign is that we do need a constitutional marriage amendment. Even though there is currently a law on the books passed by the state legislature that already defines marriage as between one man and one woman, our message is that we also need an amendment to the state constitution, as many other states already have, to protect marriage from being redefined in the future, either by some judge or some future reconsideration by the state legislature. Already a lawsuit has been introduced in Guilford County against the state attorney general challenging the constitutionality of our law in North Carolina. If a judge decides to rule that our law is unconstitutional, then, ipso facto, we have same-sex "marriage" in North Carolina. That's primarily why we need an amendment to the state constitution, to protect a relationship which is written in natural law and precedes Christianity, precedes religion, precedes civil government. It is the basic relationship and institution of society which God has created in the natural order.
At the same time, in a corollary sense, it's helpful to talk about marriage because in our society more and more people are choosing not to get married and are just living together and having children without the benefit of a stable, public, legally sanctioned commitment. That is very unfortunate because it introduces the possibility of great instability into a relationship where children need stability from their parents – stability backed up and guaranteed by civil law.
It's also an opportunity to talk about the beauty of the covenant of marriage, the lifetime covenantal nature of marriage, the beauty of marriage as open to the gift of children. It's an opportunity to remind people of our Catholic Social Services' Natural Family Planning program; about the Retrouvaille program for marriages that might be facing serious difficulties; and about Marriage Encounter, to make good marriages stronger.
It has also been an important priority of the U.S. bishops, recently through a campaign called For Your Marriage, to strengthen marriage and understanding of the beauty and the value of celebrating the sacrament of marriage and the graces which come from marriage.
CNH: Another significant event in 2012 will be the Democratic Party's national convention in Charlotte. How should Catholics react to the likely presence of a large number of pro-abortion people in Charlotte during the convention?
Bishop Jugis: It will be an opportunity for us, as the local Church, to reiterate our Church's teaching and to explain the reasons why we teach as we do: our teaching on life as a gift from God, an unconditional sign of His love. We certainly should be praying for candidates of both political parties that this message may be received and accepted, to protect the most vulnerable members of our human family, the unborn – that they not be neglected or crushed because of our desire for convenience.
I do know that within the Democratic Party there are certain groups of people who are pro-life. I've met some of them, and they've told me they're not going to be forced out of the Democratic Party, that they're going to stay so that the Democratic Party recognizes their presence and acknowledges the legitimacy of a pro-life Democratic stance. Even though the platform of the party may be pro-abortion, it's difficult to paint everyone with that color.
My guess also is that, since this is a national convention, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will also be involved in responding to the national debate as it's going on. So we won't be alone, we won't have to carry the whole burden all by ourselves, but it'll be a good opportunity for us and our communications department to be responding for our people here, who are going to be hearing it on the airwaves constantly and in newspapers. Hopefully, the voice of truth will cut through the verbiage on the other side and expose the untruths that are perpetrated against the value and the dignity of life.
— Patricia L. Guilfoyle, editor
FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy