Regardless of the catechetical work or ministry you’re involved with, you’re under the authority of a bishop. He’s the “Catechist-in-Chief” of his diocese. On a deeper level, he’s our connection to the pope and a successor to the apostles, linking us all the way back to Christ.
It’s a crime how little some Catholics know about their bishop. To be fair, depending on the bishop and his pastoral style, the average Catholic may not encounter the bishop in real life very often. Most bishops today, however, are quite accessible. Even if you don’t see them in person, you can read their blogs and follow them on Twitter.
I make it a point to introduce my students to the bishop every chance I get. Since I have a new bishop this year, it’s even more important. So here are just a few ideas to get you started.
1. Bishop baseball card. Have your students print out a picture of the bishop and cut it out. On the back, have them write his stats: birthdate and place; date of priestly ordination and diocese; date of episcopal ordination; date of transfer to your diocese, if applicable. If he’s a cardinal, include the date of his elevation. Depending on his particular circumstances, you may choose to include other details. The point is that each item is short, like a baseball card.
2. Bishop biography. Have your students write a biography or a news report on your bishop. See if they can find quotes from some of his talks to include in their work. This could be a PowerPoint or something written. There are lots of options here.
3. Bishop’s coat of arms. I copy the bishop’s coat of arms into a Word document and have arrows pointing to the different symbols. I ask my students to use the diocesan website to label each object. You can see the one I just made for our new bishop here.
4. Bishop trivia contest or scavenger hunt. Make a list of items your students can find online about your bishop and ask them to look them up. Ideas: bishop’s middle name; languages he speaks; who ordained him a priest or bishop; siblings; Twitter name, if applicable; episcopal motto; date of baptism. They don’t have to be pertinent facts to be useful. Random things are good too.
5. Significant dates. Find the significant dates in your bishop’s life from birthday to anniversary or ordination and put them in your calendar. At very least, take those occasions to pray for him along with your students. If it’s possible, have them sign a card with you and send it to him. I love sending notes to the bishop. With all the crap he gets in the press and all the difficult decisions he faces, both pastoral and administrative, a friendly card means a lot. You don’t need a special occasion to pray for him or to say thank you. But the dates help you to remember.
Resources: use your diocesan website and the site of your diocesan communications office. If you have a newspaper or magazine in your diocese, you’ll have no trouble finding quotes and pictures. For his stats and other background, try catholic-hierarchy.org. He’s got everything there. I especially like the episcopal lineage section. This tells you the line of bishops who ordained each other, usually going back to at least the 1500s. Not quite all the way back to apostolic times, but still very cool!
Our shepherds need our prayers. They’ve been given a great responsibility, to teach and to sanctify the People of God. The wolves are circling and they attack our shepherds the most. These are just a few ways we might raise awareness of who they are to our students. If you have other ideas, leave a comment.