Diocesan director of Communications selected to USCCB advisory board

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FALL RIVER, Mass. — John E. Kearns Jr., director of Communications for the Fall River Diocese, has been selected to serve as a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Advisory Council for a four-year term. 

The National Advisory Council, known informally by its acronym NAC, is a 44-member group that meets two times a year to pray, study, deliberate and offer recommendations to the bishops. Gathering just prior to the semi-annual meetings of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Administrative Committee, NAC reviews proposed Administrative Committee agenda items and gives its advice on them. In addition, NAC members are encouraged to present individual recommendations on matters beyond the agenda for adoption by the entire council and possible consideration by the bishops.

Immediately following the NAC meeting, its chairman presents the recommendations to the Administrative Committee for its reflection and deliberation.

NAC membership is drawn from the laity as well as deacons, priests, religious Sisters and Brothers, and bishops from around the country representing the 15 geographical regions of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. A concerted effort is made to ensure that NAC reflects the diversity of the Church in the U.S. Candidates for selection to NAC come recommended by their diocesan bishop. (bishop members of NAC are elected by the Administrative Committee.)

Kearns is one of two lay members representing Region One, which comprises New England. He recently returned from his first NAC meeting, held in Baltimore from March 3 to 6.

“It was a busy weekend and at its end, I felt fortunate to have been selected to serve on NAC,” Kearns told The Anchor. “There is quite a bit of material to read at home prior to going to the meeting, and I now know why. NAC has a very full agenda with many topics to consider and to discuss. NAC leaders use a detailed discussion and voting process at the meeting to make sure things keep moving and all the material is covered.”

The U.S. bishops formed NAC in 1968 to serve, according to its by-laws, “as a continuing instrument of understanding and unity in assisting the bishops of the United States in their apostolic service to Christ’s Church.”

Cardinal John Dearden of Detroit, who led the Bishops’ Conference at the time, explained that, “a functioning advisory council was seen as a hoped for instance of shared responsibility at the national level — a structure that would reflect the total American Church in a way that would help the bishops meet their responsibility to that Church.”

“I found in the other members of NAC a group of persons deeply dedicated to the Church but coming with a range of perspectives,” Kearns added. “Seeing how some consensus formed among us in the course of the sessions was an interesting part of the weekend.

“I am looking forward to the next NAC meeting, now having one meeting behind me and a better sense of what is expected of participants.”

Since its formation, NAC has participated in the discussion of numerous topics addressed by the bishops as well as in the development of a number of their initiatives. Many bishops have recognized NAC over the years as a valued and respected resource. 

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