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 Robert: Cardinal Cupich reminds us that the Sacrament of Holy Orders calls us to a three-fold ministry of “proclaiming the Word, tending the flock and mediating the presence of God’s holiness in our midst.” In the article you mentioned, the Cardinal said that proclaiming the Word “is not simply about repeating the words of Jesus, reciting doctrinal formulas from the catechism or invoking canon law.” In my ministry I am encouraged to proclaim the Word not only through what I say, but also through my ability to listen. I hope to encourage healthy and respectful dialogue. As I tend to the flock entrusted to my care, I hope to develop a closeness with those I serve. I love the image Pope Francis offers of the shepherd who at times walks in front of the flock, at times walks alongside the flock, and at times walks behind the flock. The ministry of accompaniment is something that I hold dear. In mediating God’s holy presence in our midst, I hope to take to heart what was asked of me in ordination, “Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practice what you teach.” Rooted in Christ and Christ’s teaching, I pray that I may offer a ministry to the Church that is authentic, sincere, and can offer to others an encounter with the God who dwells in our midst.
Dr. Knight: Is there anything about your family that would help us to understand your call to the priesthood and becoming a bishop?
Bishop Robert: I have been blessed with a wonderful family. My parents and grandparents encouraged me to pursue my vocation. They never pushed, but always assisted me with their wisdom and their example of faith. Especially in moments of challenge or difficulty, my family has witnessed for me the importance of living with faith and not fear, the blessing of forgiveness and reconciliation, and the sacred gift of communion that is shared not only at Mass but in family gatherings around the kitchen table.
Dr. Knight: The Pope, the Cardinal and well the entire Church calls us all to attend to the economically poor and marginalized. Do you have specific plans in this area?
Bishop Robert: Jesus provides us with the example. As Church we are called to be the Body of Christ in the world and must do as Jesus did. We are asked to follow the call of Jesus in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” As Christ’s disciples we are sent forth to “all” and not simply to “some.” Whenever we see people in need, ignored, or forgotten, we must ask ourselves how we can best help them. We may not be able to offer a quick remedy to the problem. However, we can always offer accompaniment. [Want to say a word about the part of town you’re working in?]
Dr. Knight: What are some of the ‘stumbling blocks’ you see in regard to issues of accountability and responsibility?
Bishop Robert: Accountability and responsibility are important at all levels of ministry in our Church. We must help everyone- bishops, priests, deacons, and laity- to improve and strengthen the ways in which we hold ourselves accountable and accept responsibility. Among the “stumbling blocks” we find clericalism among bishops and priests, as well as a dismissive attitude among some that “it’s not my problem.” I am grateful to be a part of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Our efforts, especially the work of the Office of Protecting Children and Youth, have brought about great improvements. However, there is always more to be done.
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 Robert: The bishops of Chicago gather regularly to discuss our goals. Our work in these days calls us to greater collaboration, and not just collaboration with other bishops. We must collaborate with priests, deacons, and laity to best continue the mission of ministry of Christ that’s been entrusted to us. I am grateful to Cardinal Cupich and my fellow bishops here in Chicago who have been very helpful as I’ve entered into this ministry.
Dr. Knight: In light of the sexual abuse scandal 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 Robert: As Christians, we have faith in the promise of resurrection. However, the journey to resurrection involves an embrace of the cross. We have to be honest with ourselves, and recognize the crosses we bear, as individuals and as a Church. We also must be willing to follow the example of Simon of Cyrene, and never hesitate to offer assistance to those who bear a heavy cross. The healing, and the justice we seek will only come with honesty, transparency, humility, and a commitment to do what is right even when that may be difficult.
Dr. Knight: The mental health facilities around Chicago have been closing what are some of the plans to help our brothers/sisters who are mentally ill?
Bishop Robert: Throughout my ministry as a seminarian and as a priest I have worked with the mentally ill and their families. Those who struggle with mental illness oftentimes seek out the safety and security of a church. All too often they find rejection rather than welcome. Our Church needs to be both an advocate for the mentally ill as well as a support to them and their families.
Dr. Knight: How has the Synod of Bishops affected you? What plans do you have for implementing what is said?
Bishop Robert: I have been asked to serve as bishop in Vicariate III of the Archdiocese. Within this vicariate we have a good number of young adults and young families. I look forward to working with the parishes in our area to seek out moments of encounter with God and opportunities for formation in faith with our young people.
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 Robert: In the Archdiocese of Chicago as we seek to renew the Church and bring about more vibrant communities of faith, we must always include the young people. Their perspectives, their voices, and their presence among us are vital to our renewal efforts.
Dr. Knight: What do you expect of the laity in regard to our transformation through Renew My Church?
Bishop Robert: When we consider the history of the Archdiocese of Chicago, we find a legacy of committed and faith-filled laity. While we have been blessed in Chicago with some wonderful bishops, priests, and deacons, it is the discipleship of the laity that has built up our parishes. The involvement of the laity will be key to the transformation of our local Church.
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.