This is such an honor to interview a newly ordained Bishop. Thank you for your service to almighty God and His people.
Dr. Knight: In a recent article in the Chicago Catholic, Cardinal Cupich stated that you have a “ three-fold ministry”. Tell us how you intend to carry out this 3 fold ministry.
Bishop Mark: As a new bishop, I find that I am present at a number of major events every week, almost always at parishes where I know nobody, and nobody knows me. We will get to know each other over time, but the fact of the matter is that I no longer preach to the same people each week, and will not have the intimate contact with parishioners that a parochial vicar enjoys. I do look forward to preaching and teaching to a larger audience, but will miss the deeper dive into people’s lives which parish ministry affords. Of course, governance happens in and among those public functions, but in a particular way through the many meetings we must attend.
Dr. Knight: Is there anything about your family that would help us to understand your ministry?
Bishop Mark: My parents taught their seven children to love the Church, mostly by example but also by word. They had a native understanding that the Church is comprised of the head and the members together. So that when a number of parishioners at my home parish (in another diocese) began attending elsewhere because of a pastor who was rather rough around the edges, they said “it’s us they’re leaving.” I have never forgotten that.
Dr. Knight: The Pope, the Cardinal and well the entire Church calls us all to attend to the poor and marginalized. Do you have specific plans in this area?
Bishop Mark: I would like to continue work on behalf of the detainees in the jails of Cook and Lake Counties, and help Kolbe House Jail Ministry find ways of engaging Catholics of the Archdiocese in ministry to them, their families, and to formerly incarcerated people. At present, we happen to be looking at ways of offering housing.
Dr. Knight: What are some of the ‘stumbling blocks’ you see in regard in regard to issues of accountability and responsibility?
Bishop Mark: In my work at the jail, I realized once again how difficult it is for us to say, along with the Prodigal Son, “I have sinned.” But there can be no healing before we acknowledge responsibility. The biggest stumbling block I can see is the denial of guilt where guilt is due. Second, we need to believe that mercy and healing are possible. “Can God forgive what I did?” I heard that in jail, too. Nobody is so vicious (or damaged) that the virtues can’t take root in his soul, after repentance and a humble openness to Christ.
Dr. Knight: Do bishops get together to discuss your goals? How do you all define your work? Do you have a mentor who assists you?
Bishop Mark: The active bishops meet monthly. Our authority in the Archdiocese is vicarious, meaning that we are here to help the Archbishop preach, teach and govern. Cardinal Cupich models consultative leadership, and I am impressed by his lay leadership team. Right now, I feel like a sponge, trying to get a sense of how to work at this level with such highly motivated, skilled people. The retired bishops have been very generous in offering support to me, and although I have no official mentor, there are some bishops whom I know better, and whose counsel I would feel comfortable seeking.
Dr. Knight: How do you intend to bring hope to the congregation you serve? What are some of the issues of healing and justice you want to seek answers to?
Bishop Mark:The experience of finding repentant hearts, faith, and hope inside the Cook County Jail was transformative for me. I find that sharing some of the experiences I had there, and the fruit of my reflection on those experiences, has been helpful to some of the assemblies I have been able to address over the last 2 years since I started at Kolbe House.
Dr. Knight: What does it mean to be the vicar of Vicariate II? What tasks does that entail?
Bishop Mark: I have administrative oversight over the 61 parishes in the Vicariate. Of course I’m on for confirmation and other social/liturgical events there. I also preside over the installation of the Vicariate II pastors, and hope to support them and help them position themselves for success. I chose “Ego Ero Ei in Patrem” as my episcopal motto: “I will be a father to him” (2 Sm 7:14) – and I was thinking principally of being “father” to priests. Someone has to look out for parish priests!
Dr. Knight: How has the Synod of Bishops affected you? What plans do you have for implementing what is said?
Bishop Mark: I have to confess that the Synod flew under my radar. I get the irony! I have a lot of catching up to do.
Dr. Knight: What is the main goal for you during this year that has such a concerted effort to help the young people of the Church?
Bishop Mark: I seek to make the preaching of the kerygma – Christ come in the flesh, sacrificed for our salvation, and living in the Church – the center of everything I do and say. That will be especially true of my ministry among confirmandi. Preaching to the young, to their families and sponsors is a great opportunity to call the young to love of Jesus the Christ.
Dr. Knight: What do you expect of the laity in regard to our movement forward?
Bishop Mark: Each one of us is given gifts to put at the service of those whom God loves. That flows from our common filiation through, with and in Jesus. We need to preach that loud and strong!
Dr. Knight: Thank you so much for doing this interview. I believe it will help the faithful to know/love/ and serve you better with the inspiration of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.