When the nation’s bishops elected Archbishop Dolan as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, they recognized something that we New Yorkers have known from day one.
He’s a leader who connects with people, easily and with natural warmth—whether it’s one-on-one or in a crowd, whether it’s a high-level Church or civic official, a client in a soup kitchen or a child in kindergarten.
His energy level is nothing short of amazing. His duties as archbishop of the sprawling New York Archdiocese fill a calendar months in advance, yet every day there are changes as he makes a stop here, a call there. If a parish invites him, he accepts. Maybe not the next day or the next week, but soon.
He speaks in the parishes that he visits, from the pulpit of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, at forums and symposiums, and on his weekly satellite radio program on The Catholic Channel. He writes a blog on the archdiocesan Web site and a column for Catholic New York.
And he likes to mix it up. At those parish visits, for instance, if he doesn’t have another pressing engagement he’ll stick around at the receptions in the church hall, chatting with parishioners and posing for their pictures with a broad smile on his face.
Archbishop Dolan loves the Church, to which he’s dedicated his life, and has made it a priority in the archdiocese to build up attendance at Sunday Masses. He also proclaims the teachings and doctrines of the Church with clarity and conviction. He doesn’t shrink from the media’s questions and tackles all of them, no matter how controversial the subject, often starting his response with “I’m glad you asked me that.”
And that, we expect, is what the U.S. bishops felt they wanted and needed in the prelate they would entrust as their public face. Confident, competent and congenial, Archbishop Dolan was their man.
Since then (he was elected Nov. 16), Archbishop Dolan has made it clear that he doesn’t see himself as “the Bishop of Bishops” or “the Archbishop of the United States of America.” He’s also let it be known that his responsibilities as Archbishop of New York remain Job No. 1.
A strategic plan, approved by all of the bishops, is in place covering vocations, marriage and family, charity and other issues. Administrative and executive boards, on which he sits, handle a lot of the business.
We think we can say with confidence, however, that there will be occasions in the next three years where his unique talents and skills will be called upon. When an issue erupts on the national stage—a troubling piece of legislation, for instance, or a threatened war—it will be Archbishop Dolan’s job to articulate the Catholic position. A crisis in the U.S. Church, such as the clergy sexual abuse scandal, will cry out for his leadership. We pray, of course, that none of these issues will test him and that he’ll have a smooth and productive three-year term as president.
But if he is tested, we know that he’ll pass—with flying colors.
Congratulations, Archbishop, and all the best in your new position.