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From Cardinal Seán's blog

Cardinal O'Malley attended the Fall General Assembly of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. CNS photo/Bob Roller

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On Friday, we had the 10th anniversary of the Yawkey Foundation Teacher Awards, which recognizes exemplary educators at Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy in Dorchester.

It was wonderful to realize how many of the teachers have dedicated much of their careers to teaching at Catholic schools. For some, it is truly a lifetime commitment that has a deep sense of mission. We are so grateful that the Yawkey Foundation sponsors these recognitions because they are well deserved.

Fall General Assembly

On Saturday, I headed to Baltimore for the annual Fall General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Before the meeting formally begins, we hold meetings of the various committees over the weekend. I took part in meetings of the Subcommittee on the Church in Africa, which is doing a wonderful work supporting projects there.

I also participated in the meeting of the Committee for Pro-Life Affairs. Cardinal Dolan is concluding his term as chairman of that committee, and he will be succeeded by Archbishop Joseph Naumann. Archbishop Naumann was once a diocesan pro-life director before becoming a bishop -- he has been a constant promoter of the gospel of life.

Regional meetings of the bishops

Each year, before gathering for the plenary assembly, there are also regional meetings of the bishops. This meeting gives us an opportunity for discussions on issues of common concern in our part of the country. Our region, Region I, encompasses New England: the Archdiocese of Hartford and its province, and the Archdiocese of Boston and our province.

This year, we were pleased to welcome a new member, Bishop Juan Betancourt, the new auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Hartford. He is from Puerto Rico and, in fact, he told me that before he went to the seminary, he attended an ordination I celebrated in Ponce, Puerto Rico, many years ago.

First day of assembly

Our meeting began on Monday and the first day was spent in prayer -- Eucharistic adoration, Mass and the Divine Office -- but there were also a number of speakers. We heard from two survivors of clergy abuse, Luis Torres and Teresa Pitt Green, who gave moving testimonies.

Then, in the afternoon, we heard from Christian Lamas, the executive director of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, and Sister Teresa Maya, a member of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word and former president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Both were very eloquent.

It was a very good way to begin the week, given the challenging topics there were to discuss. It is always good to begin by seeking God's help in the light of the Holy Spirit, bringing us together to build a sense of communion among the bishops.

I think one of the positive aspects of the meeting was that the agenda was mostly cleared in order to devote the majority of our time to reflect on the abuse crisis. By not having many items on the agenda, it was a unique meeting -- a conversation among all the bishops. We usually do not have that opportunity, and I think that was very helpful.

Obviously, we had thought that we would come up with policies to be presented and voted on. Instead, the Holy See requested us to prepare for the meeting of the presidents of bishops' conferences in February and to have concrete ideas to present there. The February meeting will gather the presidents of bishops' conferences from throughout the world, so that will put these policies in the context of a global response for safeguarding and the accountability of the hierarchy.

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