In January Bishop Curtis Guillory, SVD, and the other Bishops of Region X (Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas) completed their ad limina visit to the Vatican. Bishop Guillory recently sat with ETC’s Karen Gilman to talk about the visit.
ETC: What is an ad limina visit?
Bishop Guillory: An ad limina visit is when the Bishop goes to the Vatican to not only give a report on how his diocese is doing, but to also be renewed. The “ad limina” visit reminds us of St. Paul’s visit to St. Peter as described in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (1:18). St. Paul went up to Jerusalem to meet Cephas (Peter) and stayed there with him for 15 days. This visit manifests the communion of St. Paul with St. Peter. The “ad limina” visits manifest the communion of the successors of the Apostles (the Bishops) with the Successor of St. Peter (the Pope).
ETC: Ad limina is Latin – what does it translate to in English?
Bishop Guillory: Ad limina comes from the Latin phrase ad limina apostolorum – to the thresholds of the apostles, which is a reference to the pilgrimage to the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul that diocesan Bishops are required to make.
ETC: Why do you make a pilgrimage to the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul?
Bishop Guillory: As part of our visit, we celebrate Mass and pray at the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul. At the tomb of St. Peter, we renew our oath of fidelity. In a word, it is going back to the source of our faith. Our gathering together as a group to pray, as other Bishops from all over the world also do, is a visible expression of the unity of the Church.
ETC: How often do you make an ad limina visit?
Bishop Guillory: These visits used to be every five years, but there are so many diocesan Bishops around the world that more time is required to provide for all the visits. Worldwide there are thousands of Bishops heading thousands of dioceses. In the United States alone, there are 15 Regions with approximately 200 heads of dioceses. Our Region’s last “ad limina” visit was in 2012.
ETC: What is the importance of the ad limina?
Bishop Guillory: In 1988 Pope John Paul II explained the importance of this visit. “For the pastor of the universal Church [the Pope] talks and communicates with the pastors of the particular churches [the Bishops], who have come to him in order to see Cephas [the successor of Peter],” to deal with him concerning the challenges and successes of their dioceses, “and to share with him the solicitude for all the Churches. For these reasons, communion and unity in the innermost life of the Church are fostered to the highest degree through the ad limina visits.” His statement also describes these meetings of the Pope with the Bishops as strengthening the bonds of hierarchical communion and manifesting openly the catholicity of the Church and the unity of the episcopal college.
ETC: What is the quinquennial report?
Bishop Guillory: In preparation for the visit, each diocesan Bishop is asked to prepare in advance a comprehensive report on every aspect of diocesan life, including family life, religious education, clergy and religious, lay involvement, vocations, priestly and diaconate formation, religious practices, demographics and statistics, finances, liturgical and sacramental life, social communications, social justice, Catholic Charities, artistic and historical patrimony of the Church, general assessment and outlook for the future. The report is sent several months in advance of the visit so it can be circulated to the Pope and the heads of key Vatican congregations. The report identifies the unique challenges and successes of the particular diocese so that the Vatican can have a clearer understanding of what is happening on the “grassroots” level of the Church.
ETC: What did you say in the report?
Bishop Guillory: I reported on the status of the diocese and our ministries. We have strong ministries here in Southeast Texas. For example, our Youth Ministry brings together hundreds of high school teens for its annual summer convention. Many times during those days together they are laughing and joking. But when it comes time for Adoration – those hundreds of teens are on their knees praying in silence.
ETC: What would you say were the most important things about the Diocese of Beaumont from the past few years?
Bishop Guillory: What stands out as some of the most important things that happened the past few years are the storms – we were hit hard by Harvey in 2017 and then some of the same areas flooded again in 2019 when Imelda hit. But though the storms were devastating, what is even more important was our people’s response. Southeast Texans are wonderful faith-filled people and persevered through those trying times. I know some are still working and struggling to recover, but together we are strong in faith.
ETC: Why is it important for you to meet in person with the Vatican departments/agencies?
Bishop Guillory: The Bishops meet in groups with the officials of the Vatican agencies, and their discussions involve shared concerns and interests. Meeting with the world’s Bishops is considered a priority task for the Vatican agencies. Some Bishops also schedule private meetings with key officials to deal with specific diocesan issues. The challenges that Bishops face from country to country vary, so these discussions enable the Pope and Vatican officials to receive a clearer understanding of the realities of the local Church. These meetings with the congregations gives us an opportunity to talk about the world view of the Church from not only a religious perspective, but also from social and political aspects. For example, we are able to hear information on Christian persecution in parts of the world. All these congregations are headed by a Cardinal.
ETC: How long was the meeting with the Pope and the Bishops of Region X?
Bishop Guillory: We met as a group for two and a half hours. And it was a dialogue, an exchange of comments and questions on both sides.
ETC: What did you discuss with the Pope?
Bishop Guillory: In our group meeting, we had the opportunity to ask questions of Pope Francis. My question to him was, “What do you see as signs of hope in our world?” His response was what gives him great hope is the interaction between young people and older people, especially when they sit and have a dialogue. Young people are just starting their adult lives and have challenges. Older people can give them wisdom, guidance, information and ideas. Whereas the young people are sources of inspiration and hope for the elderly. A visualization of that is the young person is going up the mountain while the older person is coming down.
ETC: What did you share about our Diocese?
Bishop Guillory: The Diocese is in good shape. Yes, we struggle with personnel. We continue to pray and work to promote vocations. The religious here in Southeast Texas are a tremendous help. Not only in terms of ministry, but also the charisms of their religious congregations are enriching for our diocese. I also discussed the gifts of the cultural and ethnic diversity. Yes, we have challenges, but we have many more gifts from each culture that contribute to the Body of Christ.
ETC: Did the Pope give the Bishops advice? Counsel? Guidance?
Bishop Guillory: The Holy Father talked to us about his vision – and reminded us that the church is missionary. We ought to be like Paul and go out to the peripheries. He told us that the Bishop needs to be close to his priests and people, and he needs to evangelize. As Pope Francis said in the Joy of the Gospel, we must first re-evangelize ourselves, renew ourselves with the Good News. Then we can take that out to our neighbors, our communities. We are to also continue to welcome the stranger, to minister to the marginalized, the poor. Though we do that here in Southeast Texas, it was reaffirming to hear that from the Holy Father. He also encouraged us to continue to work and to be transparent in the sexual abuse crises.
ETC: What is your personal impression of the Pope?
Bishop Guillory: The Pope is very animated, healthy, strong, vibrant, insipiring. He is very hopeful about the Church. He has a great devotion to the Holy Spirit. It is a reminder that we all need to be more attentive to the voice of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.
ETC: Where did you stay?
Bishop Guillory: At the North American College.
ETC: What was your favorite part of the trip?
Bishop Guillory: My favorite part of the trip was the meeting with the Holy Father. Overall the days were very busy and intense, going from breakfast all day until supper. But this is always a renewing and energizing experience.
ETC: What did you eat?
Bishop Guillory: Lots of pasta!!