by Most Reverend Edward J. Burns

Last summer I received an invitation to be part of a “Good Leaders, Good Shepherds” workshop for bishops sponsored by the Catholic Leadership Institute. This workshop was established through a grant of some very generous benefactors who saw the need for bishops in the United States to be given an opportunity to grow in their skills as effective leaders within the Church. It seemed easy for me to make the decision to attend this workshop since I knew the key people of this program and, indeed, it proved to be a worthwhile experience. The Catholic Leadership Institute has done a great amount of work in helping leaders within the church.

It always seems to be the case that when I sign up for a workshop and agree to be present at an event, I am filled with remorse as the time approaches, because so many other things seem to creep into my schedule that it makes leaving far more challenging. Nevertheless, I attended the workshop from January 24 – 27. In preparation for this, I was asked to have a number of people evaluate me in my work and ministry as a bishop. After reflecting on who could provide such an evaluation, I decided to have all the priests of the diocese, as well as the entire staff of the diocesan chancery, complete the online evaluation of me. I jokingly said at a staff meeting that I wanted to make appointments with me so that I could help them answer the evaluation questions. While it is not always easy going through valuations, I know that it is important as I strive to provide the best to the diocese through my ministry as its Bishop. One thing that I am aware of is that we are blessed with good priests, deacons, religious and lay people who faithfully serve this Diocese.

The staff of the Diocese have indicated that they get concerned about my return after a trip because I have had time to reflect on the works of the Diocese and have identified more tasks in order to continue its work. In completing this “Good Leaders, Good Shepherds” workshop, I am in a better position to discuss with the staff and our priests what foundational ministries are necessary within the Church of Southeast Alaska and what our three top priorities might be. I look forward to talking to them about their thoughts.

From my perspective, I see that we are called to celebrate our faith – the Sacraments, our lives with others, and our lives within the Church. The Body of Christ has varied descriptions and definitions. The body of Christ has an entire wealth of depth and mystery that speaks to the person of Jesus Christ: the Sacrament that we receive in the Eucharist, the people of God who gather around the table of the Lord, and the very essence of our beloved Catholic Church. As shepherd of the Diocese, I recognize the responsibility to help keep all the work of the Church in Southeast Alaska in line with the Universal Church, the teachings of our Holy Father, renewing ourselves in our baptismal call and dedicated to following Christ the Lord as his disciples.

I do see a lot of things I would like to improve in my ministry and a few things within the Diocese of Juneau. I am aware that these things are not going to occur overnight. Nevertheless, I recognize that we should have our priorities and focus our attention on some specific needs. It’s true, I will be coming back from this workshop with some ideas for how to streamline the work of the Diocese. The priests and the staff will be a part of the establishment of any future endeavors we embrace. Along with the deacons, religious, full-time ministers and dedicated faithful parishioners, we seek to bring about a vibrant church in Southeast Alaska. It is my hope that we understand our roles and the great importance of celebrating the Body of Christ – the Sacrament, the people, the Church.