The Bernardin Conference, now held every other year, seeks to bring together leaders in the Catholic Church in the United States to discuss timely, relevant topics where polarization is evident. Participants, which have included bishops, theologians, and other church and secular professionals, come with a wide variety of perspectives and expertise. The hope of such an effort is for greater understanding and clarification among the different perspectives and a strengthening of the ecclesial unity among the participants. This unity does not necessarily mean agreement of ideas but hopefully a deep seated respect for each individual and their reasons for holding such positions.
Topic selection has typically occurred through a sub-committee of the Catholic Common Ground Initiative. The conference occurs over a weekend beginning on Friday evening and ending on Sunday afternoon and has been held in several locations throughout the country over the years. Information regarding the conference topic is sent to participants in preparation for the dialogue. The weekend includes prayer and Eucharist, presentations and panel discussions. Integral to the conference is dialogue between the participants which is structured and facilitated by a hired professional. Outcomes from the conference include: points of common ground, the identification of neuralgic issues, points for further development and exploration, and aspects about the topic that were not discussed. The results of the Conference have at times led to continued dialogue sessions and publications. Conference participation is by invitation.
2012 Ecclesial Communion in Light of Generational Diversity
2009 A Look to the Future of the Catholic Common Ground Initiative
2008 Understanding the Ecclesial Movements and Their Interaction with the Local Church in the U.S. Today
2007 The Migration of Peoples and Immigration Policy
2006 Reflecting on the Past, Looking to the Future, 10th Anniversary of Catholic Common Ground Initiative
2005 Religion, Law, and Politics
2004 Sexuality, Culture, and Catholic Tradition
2003 The Priest in the Church
2002 Participation in the Church as Envisioned by Vatican II
2001 Dialogue with Catholic Young Adults
2000 Catholics in the Public Arena: Opportunities, Obstacles, Obligations for the Church's Mission of Evangelization
1999 What Elements Are Required to Enable People to Celebrate in the Sunday Eucharist
1998 Church Authority in American Culture
1997 The United States Culture and the Challenge of Discipleship