This column actually comes to you from Cuba!
Before you jump to conclusions, let me be clear: I’m not here on the beach, although the weather is bright and the ocean magnificent.
I came here at the kind invitation of the President of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel. Last September, while here for the United Nations, President Díaz-Canel thoughtfully stopped in for a visit. While chatting, he invited me to come. Flattered as I was, I didn’t at first take it seriously, figuring he was just being courteous.
But the next week, the consul general of Cuba stopped by to assure me that the invitation was most sincere. “Well,” I replied, “if that’s the case, count me in.”
He and the President were understanding and patient when I explained that I would need an invitation as well from my brother bishops in Cuba, with whom I keep in touch, and they were most encouraging that I come. So, here I am.
I’ll be able to write in more detail later, but for now I can report I am moved by the grandeur of the country, the warmth of the folks, and the earnestness of the government to be respected neighbors to us here.
My time is mostly spent with bishops, priests, sisters, seminarians, and lay faithful, whose Catholic faith is deep, tested, as you are aware, by some past trials, for me to pray with them, encourage them, and assure them of our unity from fellow Catholics up here in New York is a privilege.
Upon return home, I’ll barely have time to wash my socks before I depart for Rome. You may know that each cardinal is assigned to membership on a few “congregations” of the Holy See. These are departments that assist Pope Francis in his pastoral governance of the universal Church. One of the duties I have is on the Congregation for Catholic Education, which has its “general session” next week, so, there I’ll be.
With all this travel I may be docked a bit in my monthly salary!
One more journey on the horizon will be in April, two weeks after Easter, when, as a member of the board of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association—a remarkable agency that assists the ancient Eastern Rite Catholic churches, now under siege in many regions of the world—I’ll travel to Egypt.
All this only intensifies my devotion to the worldwide Church. Sure, our parishes and the archdiocese is home, but we are “Catholics,” not “Congregationalists.” We embrace duties we have to the wider Church, a mandate as old as Jesus and St. Paul.
But these trips also make me appreciate you, the archdiocese, and home all the more!