19 December 2014

Diocesan Hermits and Episcopal Visitations

[[Dear Sister Laurel, I know you were not subject to the Apostolic Visitation of US Women Religious because you are a contemplative and because you are a hermit but I was wondering, are you subject to visitations? The report on the visitation said this is a normal instrument of governance and major superiors are required to regularly visit those under their jurisdiction. Does this also apply to you?]]

What an interesting couple of questions! I suppose that yes, I am as subject to the requirement as any religious. For instance, c 397.1 says, [[Can. 397 §1. Persons, Catholic institutions, and sacred things and places, which are located within the area of the diocese, are subject to ordinary episcopal visitation.]] Since the Bishop is my legitimate superior there is no doubt he could arrange such a regular visitation any time he desired. Ordinarily in my experience, the Bishop, as a matter of practicality, does not do this with diocesan hermits. (We live alone, so it is not like visiting a house of religious or a parish or something whose members one would never see otherwise. Instead what happens is that about once a year I make an appointment to meet with the Bishop at the chancery and we talk about how I am living my life in various areas; if there are matters of concern --- not usually a problem --- those are communicated to me and possibly to my delegate. She and I, to whatever degree that is appropriate or helpful, will then deal with things and communicate the details to the Bishop.)

Remember, as I have noted before I also have a delegate who serves as a "quasi-superior"on my behalf and on behalf of the Bishop and Diocese. We meet regularly (more frequently than I could meet with the Bishop) and ordinarily she comes here to the hermitage. In this way she keeps her finger on the pulse of my life and helps me to be sure I am living it well. Even so,  I have never been "visited" by the Bishop nor do I tend to consider my delegate's meetings with me here "visitations." Those are, to my mind, an altogether more formal matter --- though while formal, ordinary visitations are also usually truly like the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth. The point is that while the Bishop could decide on a formal visitation, in the case of a diocesan hermit there are other more practical ways to achieve the same results and deal with the same concerns. In far flung dioceses it is pastorally and administratively important that a Bishop gets to all the religious houses, parishes, etc, so he really knows his own diocese and those who make it up. The regular episcopal visitation is a significant part of the way this is achieved. Because a diocesan hermit's legitimate superior IS the Bishop he will already tend to know her and see her regularly making a visitation less necessary.