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CARDINALS-WUERL Oct-20-2010 (1,100 words) With photos and graphic. xxxn

Washington prelate resolute in advancing church's catechetical mission

Cardinal-designate Donald W. Wuerl of Washington smiles as he answers questions from the media after celebrating Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington Oct. 20. The 69-year-old prelate was one of 24 new cardinals named by Pope Benedict XVI earlier that day. (CNS/Bob Roller)

By Mark Pattison and Mark Zimmermann
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Cardinal-designate Donald W. Wuerl of Washington is known nationally for teaching the faith and for his efforts on behalf of Catholic education.

In November 2006, about six months after his installation as archbishop of Washington, he told an audience of 2,000 catechists that teaching and living the faith is a lifetime endeavor.

"There is a longing of the human heart, a yearning for communion with God," he said.

Pope Benedict XVI named the 69-year-old Washington prelate as one of 24 new cardinals Oct. 20. After he is installed in the College of Cardinals Nov. 20 at the Vatican, Cardinal-designate Wuerl will serve as an adviser to the pope and be eligible to vote in a papal election until his 80th birthday.

"This truly is an honor for the Archdiocese of Washington, the church in the nation's capital, and for all of the clergy, religious and parishioners of this local church who every day live out their faith in commitment and deep love for Christ," Cardinal-designate Wuerl, who also served as a bishop in Pittsburgh and Seattle, said in a statement released that morning. "I am humbled by our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI's trust in me as shepherd of this flock and pledge to him my renewed fidelity, affection and loyalty."

In 2008, he hosted Pope Benedict's visit to Washington, which included a Mass at Nationals Park attended by 50,000 people. In welcoming the pontiff at the Mass, Cardinal-designate Wuerl called it "a moment of spiritual renewal ... as you bring to us Christ and his Gospel of love and hope."

In September, the archbishop issued a pastoral letter on the new evangelization, in which he encouraged Catholics to deepen their own faith and then to share their faith with others.

"What we call the new evangelization is all about retelling the story, this time awakening a sense of meeting Jesus," he wrote in the pastoral letter. "...We can help people we know, neighbors, co-workers, even, in some cases, family members, hear all over again, this time for the first time, the good news."

Cardinal-designate Wuerl, who will mark his 25th anniversary as a bishop in January, said in an interview that he sees the new evangelization effort as "the defining pastoral initiative in my ministry as a bishop."

The cardinal-designate is also active in community activities, joining with civic and business leaders to promote education, service to the poor, pastoral assistance to refugees and immigrants as well as interfaith understanding.

In 1976, Cardinal-designate Wuerl co-wrote "The Teaching of Christ: A Catholic Catechism for Adults," and four revisions have since been published. His weekly columns for diocesan newspapers in Pittsburgh and Washington have also carried the title "The Teaching of Christ." A TV show hosted by him with the same title ran for 17 years on Pittsburgh's CBS affiliate. Another catechetical book of his, "The Catholic Way," also achieved best-seller status.

Before arriving in Washington he spent 18 years in his home diocese of Pittsburgh, where he oversaw a major restructuring of parishes, brought about by changing demographics and fewer priests. Prior to that, as a Seattle auxiliary for a short time in the mid-1980s, he had a papal mandate to take over some areas of authority from his immediate superior.

Born in Pittsburgh, Donald W. Wuerl will celebrate his 70th birthday Nov. 12. Ordained to the priesthood in 1966, he received graduate degrees from The Catholic University of America, Washington, the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome while attending the North American College there, and a doctorate in theology in 1974 from the University of St. Thomas, also in Rome in 1974. He was ordained a bishop by Pope John Paul II Jan. 6, 1986, in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Most of his first 13 years of priestly ministry were spent serving as a secretary to Cardinal John Wright of Pittsburgh, first in the western Pennsylvania diocese, then from 1969 to 1979 in Rome after Cardinal Wright was elevated to the College of Cardinals and made prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy.

He returned to Pittsburgh after Cardinal Wright's death, becoming vice rector and then rector of St. Paul's College Seminary. In 1982 he was appointed executive secretary for a papally mandated study of U.S. seminaries.

Named an auxiliary bishop for Seattle in December 1985, he was ordained by Pope John Paul Jan. 6, 1986. Following a two-year Vatican investigation of Seattle Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen, the Vatican directed the archbishop in September 1986 to delegate to Bishop Wuerl final decision-making authority over several aspects of church life.

He was given complete authority over liturgy, the archdiocesan church court, seminarians and priestly formation, laicized priests and moral issues of health care and ministry to homosexuals.

Archbishop Hunthausen's authority was restored in May 1987. Bishop Wuerl was named the 11th bishop of Pittsburgh and installed Feb. 12, 1988.

Four years into his tenure in Pittsburgh, Cardinal-designate Wuerl had to preside over one of the largest mass closings of parishes in U.S. Catholic history, as 57 parishes and six missions were reconstituted into 28 parishes throughout the diocese.

"It's not that people have lost faith -- they moved in search of jobs," he said at the time. An estimated 113,000 Catholics had left the six-county diocese between 1970 and 1992. A 1991 report on the situation said 119 of the diocese's then 332 parishes were in need of reorganization; there are currently 212 parishes in the diocese.

A year after his appointment to the Washington Archdiocese, Cardinal-designate Wuerl had to address a funding crisis for Catholic schools in the nation's capital. Fourteen of the city's Catholic grade schools had banded into a consortium to save costs. But $60 million in subsidies over the previous decade -- half from the archdiocese and half from private donors -- could not prevent dwindling enrollment amid steep tuitions.

After two consortium schools closed, the cardinal-designate set into motion a process in which seven city Catholic schools were converted to public charter schools.

Cardinal-designate Wuerl serves as chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Doctrine. He is also a member of the bishops' Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis. He is chairman of the board of trustees of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and chancellor of The Catholic University of America, Washington. He is a member of the Permanent Council for the Synod and attended synods on priestly formation, on the church in America, on the Eucharist and on the word of God.


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