PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Encouraging Catholics to be “slaves to the truth,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio delivered his first address as the new leader of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Thursday, touching on immigration reform, support for Haiti and Ukraine, and what he called the “disrespect for the truth and traditions” of the faith by a group the Los Angeles Dodgers will honor June 16.
Archbishop Broglio, head of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, made the comments in his inaugural remarks as U.S. bishops’ conference president at the spring general assembly. He also applauded the fruits of the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival and Pope Francis’ global Synod on Synodality.
During the June 15 general assembly public session, the bishops also heard an update on the National Eucharistic Revival initiative and advanced the local beatification and canonization cause of five Louisiana priests who ministered to victims during a yellow fever epidemic in 1873.
Archbishop Broglio’s address was straightforward and on-script.
Addressing the nation’s immigration crisis, he emphasized the need for lawmakers to work for effective and humane border management in the framework of comprehensive immigration reform, saying “we cannot fail to see the face of Christ in all of those who need our assistance.
“The Catholic Church is committed to the common good, we always cooperate in the administration of humanitarian aid with local, state, and federal officials, and we do this in partnership with faith communities and like-minded organizations,” Archbishop Broglio said.
“I know this can put us at odds with certain groups or those who fear immigration, but our commitment is to the truth about the human condition and the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death.”
The other national issue Archbishop Broglio discussed was the Los Angeles Dodgers’ plans to honor the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at the team’s Pride Night scheduled for June 16.
The group — self-described as a “leading-edge order of queer and trans nuns” — is made up of LGBTQ+ activists who dress in drag as religious nuns, and who have often, over the years, mocked the Catholic faith.
The Dodgers’ decision to honor the group has drawn the ire of Catholic leaders, groups, and politicians.
“Our thoughts and prayers also go to Archbishop [José] Gomez and the faithful of Los Angeles,” Archbishop Broglio said.
“The disrespect for truth and traditions of our faith, for the legendary commitment of religious women to building up society, and tarnishing of what has so often been called the national sport, harkens back to the Know-Nothings of the 19th century,” he said.
On the international front, Archbishop Broglio said the U.S. bishops continue to “pray and act in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Ukraine.” He also addressed the turmoil and unrest in Haiti, calling for prayers.
“Perhaps we can find ways to see if there are possibilities to lift these good people from chaos to a more modern government state,” Broglio said. “At the very least, I recommend the people of this sister nation to the charity of our prayers.”
Later in the public session, Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston said that a year out from the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis, the bishops are about two-thirds of the way to their $28 million fundraising goal, and he “doesn’t anticipate difficulty getting to the end.”
Bishop Cozzens, chair of the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, who is leading the bishops’ three year Eucharistic Revival initiative, said there are about 25,000 people signed up for the event so far, and he envisions reaching the 75,000 needed to fill Lucas Oil Stadium, where the congress will be held.
The National Eucharistic Congress is the culmination of the U.S. bishops’ three-year National Eucharistic Revival initiative that launched in 2021. The first year focused on the diocesan level, and has now moved into the parish phase, which Bishop Cozzens said is a “pivotal moment” to go much deeper into the grassroots with small group, parish-based sessions — akin to those completed for the Synod on Synodality.
More broadly, Bishop Cozzens said the revival, and the congress in particular, is a “generational moment” for the U.S. Church that the bishops need to embrace.
“For this event to be a success, it’s got to be seen as our event. Only the bishops can call people from every parish,” Bishop Cozzens explained. “Only us as a group can really call the United States Church together, and we have an incredible opportunity to do that.”
“It’s not just any Catholic conference. This is the 10th National Bishops Eucharistic Congress, and we’ll be gathering the Church of God to ask for revival,” Bishop Cozzens explained.
“I invite you to invite your people to come. I’m confident that if we bring our people here the Holy Spirit will affect them in profound ways and set them on fire for mission as they go home helping us in the United States to make that missionary conversion as a U.S. Church,” he continued.
The bishops gave overwhelming support in the lone vote taken on Day One of the spring general assembly, in advancing the local beatification and canonization causes of five Louisiana priests who ministered during the 1873 yellow fever epidemic in Shreveport.
The five priests — Fathers Jean Pierre, Isidore A. Quémerais, Jean-Marie Biler, Louis Gergaud, and François Le Vézouët — became Servants of God in December 2020.
As history tells it, between late August to mid-November of 1873, Shreveport lost a quarter of its population to yellow fever. The mosquito-borne disease causes fever, nausea, and muscle pains and can lead to liver and kidney failure.
While many people fled Shreveport for safety, Fathers Pierre and Quémerais, who were assigned to the northern Louisiana city, stayed to care for the victims. Father Biler, who was a chaplain at a local convent, also stayed in the city. Fathers Pierre and Quémerais contracted yellow fever and died. When Father Biler came down with the illness, he contacted Father Gergaud — a priest from a nearby town — who arrived in time to give Father Biler last rites. However, Father Gergaud, too, quickly succumbed to the virus. Hearing about the desperate situation, Father Le Vézouët then left Natchitoches — then the seat of the diocese — to travel to Shreveport and minister to the sick and dying. He also quickly contracted the disease and died.
The five priests were all from Brittany, France. They were recruited to come to the United States by Bishop Auguste Marie Martin, the founding bishop of what is now the Diocese of Shreveport.
Presenting the story to the body of U.S. bishops on June 15, Bishop Francis Malone of Shreveport said the heroic efforts of the five priests is important for both the Catholic and secular world.
“This is a story which resounds powerfully even beyond the Catholic world,” Bishop Malone said. “There’s also a beautiful and inspirational reminder that even in dark times and dark places as we’ve experienced, human beings are spiritual beings who can sacrifice themselves for the common good and to imitate God’s love.”