Each year, hundreds of new bishops are invited to Rome to participate in orientations organized by the Congregation of Bishops and the Dicastery of Evangelization. The purpose of these orientations is to introduce these newly appointed bishops to the reality of their service of the Universal Church through the College of Bishops, and support them in navigating some of the challenges that they will face in their service within their dioceses.
Last year, Fr. David McCallum was invited to address two cohorts of several hundreds of members from North America, Eastern, Central, and Western Europe, the Middle East and Latin America organized by the Congregation of Bishops. The topics included Discerning Leadership for a Synodal Church and Leadership for Times of Crisis. On September 8th, Fr. McCallum was asked to again address this topic of Episcopal Leadership in Times of Crisis for 110 new bishops from Africa, India, and regions of Asia Pacific in the orientation organized by the Dicastery of Evangelization. Both programs were organized by Monsignor Samuele Sangalli, currently the Undersecretary for the Dicastery of Evangelization and an alumnus of the Discerning Leadership Program.
“While obviously not speaking from personal experience, my presentation created space for these new bishops, many of them very seasoned pastoral leaders, to have an honest conversation about the challenges they face today,” said Fr. McCallum.
The topics he introduced included the clergy sexual abuse crisis, the issue of financial mismanagement, social and political unrest, and tensions amongst religious factions, as well as the matter of crisis communications in the age of social media.
What distinguished this presentation from a typical approach to crisis management? “Pope Francis reminds us that the experience of crisis always includes the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit, who is available to help lead and guide us beyond the present moment to bring about a greater good. He suggests that if leaders can bring this perspective to meeting the challenges we face, that we have the opportunity to be creative for the sake of the Gospel and the advancement of the Kingdom, rather than fearfully reactive or self-protective,” shared Fr. McCallum.
The bishops received this encouragement with hope and enthusiasm, and engaged with one another in a very animated way as they discussed their own experiences, their learning, and their hopes for how they will lead in the service of their local Churches.