Dr. Knight: In this interview, Your Excellency, I’d like to help the faithful to understand the deep-seated devotion of our Bishops to us. We need to know and love your ministry so we can work as one. Thank you for saying yes to your call and for your service to Almighty God and His people.
Tell us about the importance of your family in discerning your call to priesthood and further to being a bishop.
Bishop Ron: I grew up in an ecumenical family. One side of my family is Roman Catholic and the other side is mostly Lutheran. Growing up, we always treated one another with great respect, even when discussing some of the differences or disagreements between the two religions. The most important thing is that my family kept God in the center of our lives and consistently practiced our faith in word and action. When I was discerning the priesthood I felt a strong call to the ministry of Word and of service. I was ordained in 1994 and happily serve Christ and His Church in obedience to what is asked of me. Recently when it was announced that I would be ordained a Bishop, my family responded with support and encouraging enthusiasm. I feel so blessed to have been born into my family. (From what has been heard and read in the papers, people are overjoyed with your joining in the ranks of the episcopate. They describe you as a loving person who cares for the people of God and His Church).
Dr. Knight: As in any grouping we often have words that we are not familiar with. What does vicar general mean?
Bishop Ron: That’s a great question. I always knew that every Ordinary had a Vicar General, but I was not sure about his exact responsibilities until Cardinal Cupich asked me to be his 4 years ago. Basically, the Vicar General is the deputized assistant to a Bishop of a Diocese charged with overseeing of the administrative work.
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 Ron: The three-fold ministry of a Bishop is in the areas of teaching, governing, and sanctifying. I teach at every opportunity I have so that all of us can know/serve Christ and His work in order to fulfill the kingdom. I govern in the ways that will assist the parishes and the archdiocese to realize our work to assist the economically poor, marginalized and disenfranchised. I sanctify by praying with the people of God at every opportunity I can.
Dr. Knight: Your work in Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos is an important part of your development would you tell the people reading this about your work?
Bishop Ron: NPH is an extraordinary mission and ministry. Founded in 1964 by a Catholic Priest, NPH is a home that cares for over 3,400 orphaned and abandoned children in nine different countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. I volunteered at the NPH home in Mexico for one year in 1989 after graduating from Niles College. In July 2005 with permission from Francis Cardinal George, I moved from Chicago to El Salvador to begin a five-year term as Regional Director of NPH in Central America. It is a joy to be part of this extended-family network that takes children from some of the worse situations imaginable and gives them a second chance and hope for their futures. (Many of our readers would be glad to hear about this ministry and how wonderful it is that you speak both Spanish and English. This is such a great gift to the archdiocese).
Dr. Knight: The Pope, the Cardinal and well the entire Church calls us all to attend to the poor and marginalized. How can we look at this issue in a new way that really includes all that would feel part of these group(s)?
Bishop Ron: Attention to the economically poor and marginalized is at the core of Jesus’ message. I was reminded today as I was praying, the scripture reading was from the Gospel of Matthew that anytime we do something for the least of our brothers and sisters, we do it for Christ. I am convinced that being a Christian means that we are willing to see the face of Christ in everyone we encounter, especially the economically poor and marginalized.
Dr. Knight: What are some of the ‘stumbling blocks’ you see in regard to issues of accountability and responsibility? Where are the places that need to be refortified?
Bishop Ron: I am proud of the Archdiocese’s work in the Office of Protecting Children and Youth. However, that same attention to accountability and reasonability needs to be fortified in all areas of leadership in the Church. There has been a lot of talk about clericalism recently. I agree that Bishops, priests, and leaders of our church need to be held to the same standards as others, and not above others.
Dr. Knight: You have a mentor who is a vicar general in another diocese, how does he assist you?
Bishop Ron: I have gotten to know quite a few vicars general in other dioceses over the past four years. Overall, they are good, hardworking priests and bishop who are extremely dedicated to the Church. My friend and classmate, Father David Boettner, is the Vicar General of Knoxville, TN. He is a great consolation especially if I need to bounce an idea off of him or just to support and encourage each other in our ministries.
Dr. Knight: In light of the recent occurrences in the Church (sexual abuse) 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 Ron: I feel that we have to live in the light. We need to address whatever wrongs and/or issues that exist and not be afraid to confront them. Cardinal Cupich has often said that we have to share the truth with our people and not be afraid of it. If together as a Church, we can honestly address some of our issues, then even though things may not be perfect, there at least is a sense of hope and possibility for our future.
Dr. Knight: How has the Synod of Bishops affected you? What plans do you have for implementing what is said?
Bishop Ron: November’s USCCB meeting was the first one I have ever attended. It was a bit like ‘drinking out of a fire-hose’. Being there was a new culture for me, but I hope that I will learn it quickly and see our Bishops work in unity with all the voices for the good of the Church.
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 Ron: Our world is becoming more and more secularized. In this context, I want our young people to know that God exists, that they are made in His image and likeness and that God has a providential plan for them. Also, a message that I want to share is that having a faith-life through the Church is a source of immense joy and peace throughout your life. The Holy Fire that the Archdiocese put together for junior high and high school students gives the students an opportunity to understand the seven sacraments and know how to love and serve God in their particular lives. It was delivered to them with providing ways of being a disciple both now and forever.
Dr. Knight: I saw that you were very much a part of the Renew My Church gathering at the Summit. What do you expect of the laity in regard to our movement forward?
Bishop Ron: I was thrilled that the laity was inspired at the Summit. They were eager not to only to maintain our Church, but also to be part of a Church that is alive and thriving. My hope is that the entire Church, with the laity at its foundation, can focus on being missionary-disciples who are on fire with their love for Christ and His Church.
Dr. Knight: I noticed your picture in the Chicago Catholic with the high school students and I was wondering if you would be so kind to tell us about your work with high school students in the Archdiocese. the kinds of interactions you have with them.
Bishop Ron: I recently had the opportunity to meet with about 150 young people from across the Archdiocese. It was a listening session and a time to pray together. During the course of the day, I was inspired by these young people’s intelligence, direct questions, insights, concerns and also a true love for the Church. They are looking for ways to deepen their faith and share it with others. After spending the day with them, I thought to myself, “God promised to never abandon his Church, and these young people are living proof that there is hope for the future!”
Dr. Knight: Thank you so much for doing this interview. I believe it will help the faithful to know/love/ and serve Christ better with the inspiration of God, the Father and Holy Spirit.
Bishop Ron: Thank you! It is my hope and joy for all of us to know/love and serve God together!