Topic: General Announcements

CMSM on DACA Decision by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the United States released a decision today to prevent termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. From CMSM:

“The decision by the US Supreme Court brings tremendous relief and joy for the 800,000 DACA recipients who came to the United States as children, have grown up here, gone to school here, and are our neighbors, and part of our economy.

“Many CMSM members and their institutes have been actively working to accompany these young men and women and their families and are grateful for this decision. We will continue our commitment to work for just immigration policies that recognize human dignity.”

Also read USCCB statement here. Sign up for CMSM Justice and Peace alerts here.

Personal Reflection on Bishop-Designate Lewandowski, C.Ss.R.

Bishop-designate Bruce Lewandowski, CSsR

Upon hearing the news about Fr. Bruce Lewandowski, C.Ss.R.
Bethany Welch, Ph.D., CMSM Fellow for Justice and Peace

My first text of the day on June 10 was a friend sharing a screencap of the USCCB announcement that Father Bruce Lewandowski, C.Ss.R. was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore. Fr. Bruce – now Bishop-designate Bruce – is someone that I have long regarded as a friend and colleague, not to mention spiritual leader and mentor. I met him in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia around 2006 when he had the unenviable role of merging two distinctive parishes and serving as the pastor of the new parish as it came under the auspices of the Redemptorist Order.

I learned about the power of symbolic action when he facilitated a prayerful procession that involved parishioners from the closing parish carrying their icons and images to meet our community halfway and then collectively marching together to the receiving parish. I watched as he listened, listened, and listened some more to the pain of those who saw their parish close and to those who were unsure about the new people joining our community. I said yes when he asked me to join the newly merged parish council, not because I had time to attend more meetings, but because I was intrigued by Fr. Bruce’s energy and humility.

In the years that followed, Fr. Bruce proved ready for all good work that brought the Gospel into the streets and that created opportunities for authentic relationship with neighbors. He said yes to a voter registration drive. He said yes to organizing buses to take parishioners to D.C. to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. He said yes to being part of a peace festival convened to address violence and limited opportunities for local youth. That festival stands out to me particularly because he also served as our master of ceremonies for the event, deftly shifting from English to Spanish, and from energizing remarks to healing notes with his guitar.

Later, when he moved from that parish to a role within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, he continued to bring a prophetic voice and his own brand of buoyant holy boldness to conference room tables where difficult decisions were being made. The notable visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia included the Holy Father sharing remarks at Independence Hall. Father Bruce adeptly served again—on a much, much larger stage—as the master of ceremonies for the day.

Three summers ago, I was helping to coordinate a youth summer leadership program where one of the themes was community organizing. With a quick email to Fr. Bruce, we put together a day trip to Sacred Heart of Jesus/Sagrado Corazón de Jesús where he was serving as pastor. We packed into a sweaty yellow school bus, headed down I-95, and spent part of the day learning from Fr. Bruce and his team about the parish’s immigrant-led organizing around community IDs and other concrete action that addressed injustice within social and public systems.

My prayers for Fr. Bruce Lewandowski, C.Ss.R., are undoubtedly united with those of the people of New York, St. Lucia, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and everywhere he has faithfully served with love, generosity, and humility. May he continue to lead with courage and be guided by the Holy Spirit.

CMSM Condemns Racism, Brutality; Calls for Authentic Change

In the wake of a week of turmoil across the United States, the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, which represents the leaders of more than 200 Catholic religious institutes of men across the United States, publicly condemns racism. We condemn brutality that takes away breath and we call for reforms to policies and practices that have oppressed Black Americans. We also pray for an end to the national violence that has been ignited and for a path forward that is based on peace and leads to true change.

This moment in our nation and in the life of our Church demands more than a statement of anguish. It requires us to commit publicly to change, starting with ourselves. We must begin a collective effort—as religious institutes for men, monasteries, and societies for apostolic life—to work to dismantle the individual and systemic practices that perpetuate racism in the places where we live out our vocations. We must listen. We must mourn. We must repent. We must change.

A throwaway culture that values property over people and asserts that some lives are worth more than others violates the human dignity upon which our faith and vocations are based. To say that we represent a Gospel of Life means we cannot look the other way or to fail to hear or see people who are suffering.

To authentically pursue change requires reckoning with one’s own past. That includes us.

The historical record of the Catholic Church in the US on racism reflects a lack of prophetic leadership and humanity throughout history, all too often mirroring the accepted morals of the time. While many of our brothers and institutes have been on the front lines of fighting for civil rights, we acknowledge some congregations owned slaves and refused to accept Black men and other men of color for vows and ordination. While we have created ministries, built schools, and founded social justice efforts explicitly to serve communities of color, we have not always practiced true equality, the kind of equality that seeks to understand and strives for mutuality. In our desire to uplift, we have been paternalistic at times and even have perpetuated segregation.

To be prophetic leaders, we must name past sins, humbly listen to those hurt by racism, and be willing to be uncomfortable with our individual and corporate record of prejudice. We must hear those within our own communities who are marginalized, have been silenced, or remain unseen. We must call ourselves to account.

The Conference of Major Superiors of Men recognizes that this essential work must have tangible outcomes that bear witness to the transformational power of the Holy Spirit working through and in each of us. We will commit to preach, teach, pray, and mobilize in new ways.

We ask that all people of good will pray for this effort, that we might live into the question that Servant of God, Sr. Thea Bowman, FSPA, posed to the U.S. Bishops Conference in 1989: “…how can we work together so that all of us have equal access to input – equal access to opportunity – equal access to participation.”

May Sr. Thea’s bold witness serve as our guide for fundamental change in our Church and in all the places where we labor to share the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

About CMSM

The Conference of Major Superiors of Men is the national organization supporting U.S. leaders of Roman Catholic men’s religious institutes, monastic communities, and societies of apostolic life. As the common voice for the leaders of these organizations, CMSM promotes dialogue and collaboration in service to over 16,000 religious priests and brothers in the United States. 

COVID Prayer List

CMSM has started a prayer list for members of CMSM institutes who are ill or have died as a result of COVID-19. Please keep these Religious in prayer and, for our members, please send us names so we can pray for them. Visit the prayer page here.

COVID-19 Resources

In light of the extraordinary impact the pandemic has had on ministry, worship, and communication, CMSM has developed a resource page for religious institutes to assist them in ministry during the coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic.

Drawn from a number of organizations, topics include Holy Week and Easter during the pandemic, postponing chapters and elections, communications and livestreaming, immigration, ministry with young people, managing anxiety, and keeping healthy.

If you have additional Catholic ministry resources you would recommend to assist religious institutes, please share them with us.

Vatican Cardinal Writes to Religious in Light of Coronavirus

Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, prefect for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, has written to all men and women religious in the context of Lent and the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the letter: English | español

In this special Lenten message, he encourages religious men and women to participate in requirements of Church and government officials to safeguard health and, most especially, to pray for the workers trying to protect us, noting the special contributions of contemplative communities and of elderly religious whose daily prayer accompanies the ministry and apostolic work of active members.

Cardinal de Aviz also calls upon religious to “give a sign of hope and trust,” writing, “Dear Sisters and Brothers, through modern means of communication we have the opportunity to participate in celebrations and formative moments; we have the opportunity to feel less alone and isolated and to make our voice reach the most distant communities! Let us give a sign of hope and trust to all and while living these days with anxiety and apprehension, be convinced that by doing our part well, we can help the community emerge from the present hour of darkness.”

See news coverage by Crux here.


Abbot Elias Named Auxiliary Bishop

Abbot Lorenzo Elias, OSB, president of American Cassinese Congregation of Benedictine monasteries, was named Auxiliary Bishop of Newark by Pope Francis on Feb. 27, 2020, along with two Newark priests, Reverend Michael A. Saporito, and Reverend Monsignor Gregory J. Studerus. Once ordained a bishop, he will be the only U.S. bishop in active ministry who is a Benedictine.

Abbot Elias has been an active member of CMSM and was a presenter at our 2019 National Assembly on the present and future of religious life (“Back to the Future”). CMSM congratulates Bishop-elect Elias, and offers prayers and support as he takes on this new challenge and responsibility to serve the people of Newark.

About Bishop-elect Elias

Bishop-elect Elias Lorenzo, OSB, entered Saint Mary’s Abbey, Morristown, NJ, in 1983. He made his first monastic profession in 1985 and was ordained in 1989. He holds master’s degrees in liturgical theology and counseling psychology, and a licentiate in canon law. He has 30+ years of experience in secondary school education and administration. For the Abbey, he served director of liturgy, prior, and rector of church.

He was Vicar for Religious in the Diocese of Metuchen, and canonical counsel for Praesidium, Inc., during development of the National Standards, and serves on Praesidium’s advisory board.

For the global Benedictine Confederation, he served as prior of the college at Sant’Anselmo in Rome, and as Procurator General for the Order. He is a founding member and president of the International Commission for Benedictine Education. In 2016, he was elected Abbot President of American Cassinese Congregation, which includes 25 monasteries in 6 countries, sponsoring 9 colleges and universities and 14 secondary schools in North and South America.

CMSM Congratulates Fr. John Connor, LC

The Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) congratulates Reverend John Connor, LC, on his election as superior general of the Legionaries of Christ.

“Father Connor has been actively engaged with the Conference of Major Superiors of Men for many years, including two terms as the Board representative for the southern United States. CMSM has benefited from his love for Christ, his leadership skills, and his commitment to strengthening religious life in the United States. As he takes on this challenging international assignment, we offer him our prayers and support,” said Reverend Adam Gregory Gonzales, O.C.D., president of CMSM.

CMSM Responds to US-Iran Tensions

candleFr. Mark Padrez, OP, executive director of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men:

“As tensions between the United States and Iran grow, this is a time of intense prayer for our world leaders, and of deep reflection, especially in this Christmas season, on the Prince of Peace. We are committed to continue to pray, advocate, and teach the way of peace. As men religious dedicated to living out the Gospel, we do not believe that violence is a deterrent to violence. Rather, we call for our leaders to model nonviolent engagement. As Pope Francis has reminded us in the past: ‘Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare.’”

CMSM Executive Director Appointed to International Post for Dominicans

Fr. Mark Padrez, OP

Dominican Father Mark Padrez, executive director of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, has been appointed the Socius for Fraternal Life and Formation for the Order of Preachers worldwide. His new position will be based at the General Curia offices in Rome, and will start in early 2020.

Father Adam Gregory Gonzales, O.C.D., president of CMSM, noted in a message to our members, “It is with heavy hearts that the Board of Directors received this news, yet we understand why the Order would call someone with Mark’s gifts to serve the Dominicans worldwide. He has been both a strong president and executive director for CMSM and we are confident he will serve his Dominican brothers well in this new capacity … Please join me in congratulating Mark and in prayer as we begin the search for a new executive director.”

The CMSM Board of Directors will oversee the process for a new Executive Director and will work closely with the CMSM staff through the transition.