Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s milestones as archbishop of Washington
Oct. 12, 2018
US & World
Year-by-year summary of Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s key events/accomplishments as archbishop of Washington:
2006 – On May 16, Pope Benedict XVI names Pittsburgh Bishop Donald Wuerl as the new archbishop of Washington. On June 22, he is installed as the sixth archbishop of Washington at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
2006 – Convenes a convocation for 2,000 catechists of the Archdiocese of Washington, telling them that “religious education is a lifelong process.”
2007 – Issues his first pastoral letter as archbishop of Washington, “God’s Mercy and the Sacrament of Penance,” and the archdiocese launches “The Light is On for You” pastoral initiative
to encourage Catholics to go to Confession during Lent.
2007 – Celebrates opening Mass for the new Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park. The school, sponsored by the archdiocese and the Salesians of Don Bosco, features an innovative Corporate Work Study Program.
2007 – Convenes Archdiocesan Convocation on Catholic Education, in which 500 educational leaders agree on the need for strategic planning to strengthen and sustain Catholic schools for the future. In the following months, thousands of local Catholics participate in a collaborative effort to chart the future course of local Catholic schools.
2008 – Hosts Pope Benedict XVI’s pastoral visit to Washington, which includes a Papal Mass at Nationals Park attended by 50,000 Catholics from throughout the Washington area and across the United States.
2008 – Issues pastoral letter, “Catholic Education: Looking to the Future with Confidence.” In the letter, Archbishop Wuerl writes, “The future of our Catholic schools depends on the ability of all of us working together to meet their increasing costs and to assist families who are making sacrifices to give their children a Catholic school education.”
2009 – Signs Archdiocese of Washington’s new Policies for Catholic Schools. The policies, resulting from an extensive consultative process involving thousands of local Catholics, deal with strengthening and sustaining Catholic schools for the future, and center on the key areas of Catholic identity, governance, academic excellence, and affordability and accessibility.
2009 – Archbishop Wuerl helps push open the doors of the reconstructed 1667 Brick Chapel in Historic St. Mary’s City, which stands as a symbol of Maryland’s status as the birthplace of religious freedom in the United States.
2010 – Issues pastoral letter on the New Evangelization “Disciples of the Lord: Sharing the Vision,” encouraging Catholics to renew their own love for Christ and then to share their faith with others who may have drifted away from the faith or never heard the Gospel message.
2010 – Pope Benedict XVI names him a cardinal on Oct. 20, and Cardinal Wuerl becomes a member of the College of Cardinals during a Nov. 20 Consistory in Rome.
2010 – Inaugurates the annual White Mass, which recognizes the equal dignity of people with disabilities and special needs and celebrates the gifts they offer to the Church and society.
2010 – Institutes the annual Find the Perfect Gift Advent campaign to encourage people to reflect on the real meaning of Christmas and the gift of receiving and sharing faith in Jesus Christ, and to invite those who have been away from the Church to come home.
2011 – Celebrates his 25th anniversary as a bishop on the Solemnity of the Epiphany on Jan. 2 and presents Manifesting the Kingdom Awards to 201 Catholics of the Archdiocese of Washington.
2011 – On May 8, takes possession of his titular church in Rome, the Basilica of St. Peter in Chains.
2011 – During an Oct. 22 Mass, Cardinal Wuerl blesses and dedicates the Archdiocese of Washington’s new Blessed John Paul II Seminary, where the first group of 20 seminarians began studying for the priesthood.
2012 – Launches his blog, Seek First the Kingdom.
2012 – Cardinal Wuerl joins Church leaders in opposing the HHS mandate that requires Catholic institutions and other religious organizations to provide their employees with insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilizations in violation of their religious beliefs. The cardinal says religious freedom is at stake, and the Archdiocese of Washington later is among 43 Catholic institutions nationwide to file a lawsuit challenging the mandate. On July 4, a standing-room crowd of 5,000 people attends the closing Mass of the Fortnight for Freedom, celebrated by Cardinal Wuerl at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
2012 – To mark the Year of Faith and to help Catholics better understand the Catholic Church and their role in it, Cardinal Wuerl issues his new pastoral letter, “The Church, Our Spiritual Home.” Cardinal Wuerl writes that the Catholic Church is the enduring, visible presence of Christ in today’s world, and he encourages Catholics to deepen their faith and to be confident of what the Church teaches, so they can share their faith with others and “move forward to face some of the challenges and opportunities ahead of us.”
2012 – Welcoming participants in preparatory meetings for the 2014 Archdiocesan Synod to mark the Archdiocese of Washington’s 75thanniversary that year, Cardinal Wuerl says, “this is the first step of the future of our archdiocesan Church.”
2012 – Cardinal Wuerl serves as the relator general and helps direct the Synod on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, convoked by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.
2013 – After Pope Benedict XVI, 85, announces that he will resign, Cardinal Wuerl participates in a conclave that elects Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina as the new pope. The pontiff announces that he will take the name Francis, after the patron saint of the poor and of caring for God’s creation.
2013 – At Pentecost Mass, Cardinal Wuerl issues a decree initiating the formal beginning of the preparatory phase of the Synod of the Archdiocese of Washington. The more than 200 Synod participants include lay women and men from across the archdiocese representing different backgrounds, and priests, women religious, deacons and bishops. Synod participants analyzed more than 15,000 suggestions offered through parish and regional listening sessions and online surveys.
2014 – Convoking the first Archdiocesan Synod, Cardinal Wuerl formally accepted the Synod recommendations, which offer a blueprint for future archdiocesan and parish outreach in the key areas of worship, education, community, service, administration and stewardship. The Synod’s work also resulted in the cardinal approving and promulgating statutes related to those key areas, and he issued a related pastoral letter, saying the widespread effort among local Catholics to build a better Church for the future marked a “new beginning” for the Archdiocese of Washington on its 75th anniversary.
2014 – Celebrating a Mass for Peace, Religious Freedom and Tolerance at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, Cardinal Wuerl urges prayerful solidarity and support for Christians in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East facing persecution, and he says the world cannot remain silent and indifferent as the atrocities continue.
2015 – Issues pastoral letter Being Catholic Today: Catholic Identity in an Age of Challenge.
2015 – Cardinal Wuerl hosts Pope Francis on the pope’s Sept. 22-24 pastoral visit to Washington, which includes a White House welcome, the first-ever papal address to a joint meeting of Congress, a prayer service with U.S. bishops at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, and a visit to Catholic Charities, where the pope met with the homeless and with the staff and volunteers who serve them. In an open-air Mass outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis canonized St. Junipéro Serra, the 18th century Franciscan missionary to California, which marked the first canonization ever held on U.S. soil.
2015 – Establishes new Office of Cultural Diversity & Outreach for the Archdiocese of Washington, which the cardinal later notes “serves a significant role in our efforts to draw together all of the faithful of this Church in order that we might rejoice in the ethnic and cultural heritage of our sisters and brothers.”
2016 – In a year of milestones for Cardinal Wuerl, he marks the 30th anniversary of his ordination as a bishop on Epiphany Sunday in January, the 10th anniversary of his installation as archbishop of Washington on June 22, and the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood on Dec. 17.
2016 – To mark the Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Catholic Church, the Archdiocese of Washington announces a parish debt forgiveness program. The 27 parishes offered debt relief by the archdiocese each had more than $100,000 in debt accrued over the years.
2017 – Ordains four new priests for the Archdiocese of Washington, including three men who became the first seminarians from Saint John Paul II Seminary to be ordained to the priesthood for the archdiocese.
2017 – Cardinal Wuerl issues a pastoral letter, The Challenge of Racism Today, saying the sin of racism must be recognized, confronted and overcome.
2017 – The cardinal blesses and dedicates the Trinity Dome Mosaic, marking the completion of the artwork for the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Catholic church in the United States. The basilica’s crowning jewel depicts the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, joined by Mary as the Immaculate Conception, connected by a procession of angels, along with 17 saints with a special connection to the Americas or to the National Shrine itself.
2018 – Saying the time had come to “right a wrong,” in 2018 Cardinal Wuerl blessed and dedicated commemorative bronze plaques honoring unknown enslaved men, women and children buried throughout the Archdiocese of Washington. That spring, the plaques were installed in the archdiocese’s five major Catholic cemeteries.
2018 – Cardinal Wuerl issued a pastoral plan, Sharing the Joy of Love in Marriage and Family for parishes to expand outreach to people in different stages of married and family life. He said he hoped the plan would help “each parish to renew its efforts to share the joy of marriage and family life, and also its dedication to try to be there for all who may be facing difficulties, so that we – as Christ’s Church – can accompany them on the journey.”
2018 – Blesses a rain garden to limit stormwater runoff at the historic Mount Olivet Cemetery, in an innovative environmental partnership between the Archdiocese of Washington and the Nature Conservancy.
2018 – On Oct. 12, Pope Francis accepts Cardinal Wuerl’s resignation as archbishop of Washington and appoints him to serve as the apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Washington until a new archbishop is installed.
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