Posted November 20, 2014
Cupich offers meditation on leadership
Dennis Coday | Nov. 17, 2014
National Catholic Reporter
Cupich to Chicago
Preaching at the first of three public ceremonies Monday evening that mark his
installation as the ninth archbishop of Chicago, Blase Cupich offered a
meditation on leadership.
For the Rite of Reception, during which he is formally welcomed into Chicago's
Holy Name Cathedral after ritually knocking on the church's front doors, Cupich
reflected on the image of "dry bones strewn carelessly to rot in an abandoned
field under the scorching sun" used by the Prophet Ezekiel and the poetry of
He also pledged to work with parish and civic groups to combat gangs and youth
violence and to work for comprehensive immigration reform.
The people to whom Ezekiel preached, he said, "have suffered the humiliating
defeat by Babylon and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. The people
are scattered and disconnected, with hopes broken and barren."
This is a dryness "that not infrequently afflicts human existence," said Cupich,
65*, who Pope Francis appointed Sept. 20 to replace Cardinal Francis George, who
has reached retirement age.
"The prophet draws our attention to this rather bleak scene, not to chastise or
criticize, to dishearten or discourage," Cupich said. "Rather … this
representative, this voice of God, is consoling us with the message that the
Lord of Creation, is with us, is walking through this dryness with us, the
dryness we face each and every day as leaders."
Cupich's inaugural homily was delivered before a cathedral packed with fellow
bishops from around the U.S. and the world, the pope's representative to the
U.S., and representatives from the archdiocese's 350 parishes and lay, clerical
and religious leaders as well as civic and political leaders, ecumenical and
interreligious representatives. Among the political leaders greeting Cupich were
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Cupich will be installed at a ceremony in the cathedral Tuesday afternoon.
Much of the homily Monday evening was directed at civil and faith leaders.
"We, who are public servants, pastors, leaders know well this kind of dryness
that ails the human soul and fatigues both body and spirit. We come face to face
with it in the service to our citizens and the ministry to our parishioners," he
"It is the dryness elderly and sick persons can experience when their strength
gives way and their bones become unsteady, to the point that they begin to
question their worth, their sense of purpose and even the faith that has
heretofore directed their lives.
"We see that dryness caked on the faces of the homeless street people, in the
fatigue of the underemployed worker cobbling together three or four low paying
jobs to make ends meet, but also in the hectic pace of the successful business
owner whose long hours in the office leave little time for family meals and
sharing, for rest and recreation."
A leader is one who, the new archbishop said, "it should be beneath our dignity
as leaders to speak in ways that appeal to the fears and anxieties of people
rather than the hopes and yearnings God has planted in their hearts."
He continued: "It is not surprising that parishioners, citizens and the public
become uneasy and disaffected with community and public life when they see
leaders speak in ways that incite fears rather than inspire hope. There is
collateral damage in such tactics."
As an example of the "collateral damage," Cupich cited young people who have
become disaffected from religion and public life.
"There is a dryness in many people's lives because they have little experience
of being connected in society," he said. He congratulated the church and
community leaders of the "great work" he said he has seen them engaged in
already. "Our aim should be to make sure that everyone has a place at the table
of life," he said.
Ezekiel offers three words to comfort, to encourage and to keep the believers
focus "on all that God is doing, so that our ways may be God's ways." The three
words, Cupich said, are spirit, people and land.
Ezekiel's promise of land for the people "is not just about real estate," Cupich
said. It is a promise of giving people "stability and a sense of belonging."
"God's desire to bring about this sense of belonging is present in the
aspirations of every migrant and immigrant, and that is why they need to be
respected, treated with justice and welcomed. … The work of comprehensive
immigration reform is not important because it is on my agenda, but because it
is on God's."
Youth without stability "turn to drugs, gangs, and lethal violence," he said. "I
am aware that good people within our parishes and in the city are working
imaginatively to address this issue. ... You will find in me a ready partner."
"As I begin my service to welcome new friendships with other leaders in our
parishes, in the business community, labor and government ... I recognize the
enormous opportunity and promise that God is putting before us as we use our
connections to help the disconnected, all the while respecting each other's
challenges," he concluded.