By Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond
You traveled to Rome recently as a member of the Papal Foundation. Can you explain what the Papal Foundation is?
The Papal Foundation was established in the United States in 1988, and its mission is to serve the Holy Father by bringing together individuals who are committed to sharing their Catholic faith, their energy and their resources in whatever way the pope requests. I was appointed to the Board of Trustees last December by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., and the other trustees. We meet every December in Washington to discuss the work of the foundation, and then we travel to Rome after Easter for another meeting and meet with the Holy Father. Our mission is to serve the Holy Father and the Roman Catholic Church. The board consists of the nine cardinals of the United States, seven U.S. bishops and nine lay trustees who jointly discuss the requested works of the Holy Father. Since 1990, the Papal Foundation has distributed more than $120 million in grants and scholarships for ministries and programs around the world. There are also various committees associated with the board.
Who are the lay trustees?
They come from all across the United States. These are people who have the financial means to pledge to the Holy Father significant funds over a number of years to support the particular works he has identified as important to the church. We support developing countries with evangelization efforts and other projects.
Had you heard of the Papal Foundation before you were appointed?
Actually, I had known about the foundation because Archbishop Schulte was on the board for many years, and when he would come back from Rome, he would tell me about the projects they were working on and some of the actions the board had taken. It was intriguing to see the wide range of activities for which the foundation was responsible.
How was your meeting with Pope Francis?
I had the privilege of concelebrating Mass with the Holy Father, and I was able to meet with him briefly after the Mass. It was a great privilege to be able to pray with him and to support his ministry as the successor of Peter.
Have you met Pope Francis any other times?
Yes, I met him several years ago in Rome, when I was able to concelebrate Mass with him, and I also met him when he came to Washington, D.C., in 2015.
How was Rome?
It was crowded, as usual! What really impressed me was the spirit of charity manifested by so many of the laity in their desire to support the works of evangelization designated by the Holy Father. There is no doubt Pope Francis receives many more requests for assistance than he is able to fulfill, but this is an opportunity for us to share in his works of charity and handing on the Gospel.
Are there people in the Archdiocese of New Orleans who are involved with the Papal Foundation?
Yes, there are people who give very generously of their resources to the foundation to support its mission. I share with Pope Francis gratitude for their sacrificial giving which is making a difference in the lives of many people across the world.
Questions for Archbishop Aymond may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.