Archive for category Prophetic Voices

Encuentros: Learning from 50 years of synodal experience — if we’ve been paying attention / National Catholic Reporter

‘Lack of awareness about the National Encuentros of Hispanic/Latino Ministry (aka ‘Encuentros’), and the processes of ecclesial discernment and collaboration at their core, remains a major gap in ministerial formation as well as in our shared understanding of what it means to be American Catholics.”

National Catholic Reporter

“Catholics in the United States have been engaged for 50 years in groundbreaking processes of synodal discernment, dialogue and decision-making. Some readers may ask: How is this possible? Isn’t synodality a novelty, a trend distinctive of Pope Francis’ pontificate? How come I never heard of this in my parish, diocese, Catholic school, seminary or college?

“If you asked any of these or similar questions, chances are that you are unaware of some of the most exciting — and yes, synodal — conversations about ecclesial life, mission and evangelization among Hispanic Catholics, who constitute nearly 45% of the Catholic population in the U.S.

“Lack of awareness about the National Encuentros of Hispanic/Latino Ministry (aka “Encuentros”), and the processes of ecclesial discernment and collaboration at their core, remains a major gap in ministerial formation as well as in our shared understanding of what it means to be American Catholics.

“Perhaps this is the crux of the matter. For far too long, Hispanics have been perceived as ‘foreigners,’ ‘aliens,’ ‘visitors,’ and not as constitutive members of our Catholic community.

“We continue to assume that to be Euro-American, racially white and English-speaking are the essential marks of American Catholicism. In certain circles, one could add middle-class and college-educated to that list. Consequently, whatever happens in the faith communities that do not match such identifiers fails to be perceived or treated as really American Catholic.”

By Hosffman Ospino, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Lockdown / Fr. Richard Hendrick, O.F.M.

An inspiring and comforting poem as we face the COVID-19 pandemic —

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,

By Fr. Richard Hendrick, O.F.M., an Irish Capuchin Franciscan friar, March 13th 2020​​

You also may wish to visit Voice of the Faithful’s Prayer Voice web pages.

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For real change, we must get at four roots deeper than church structures / National Catholic Reporter

There must be repentance. There must be accountability. There must be reform. Good. And that looks like what? (Joan Chittister in National Catholic Reporter)

In the midst of the angst that has accompanied the revelation of unparalleled amounts of sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church, the cry for reform gets louder by the day.

“For some, it’s a call for the elimination of celibacy as an unnatural and therefore impossible way of life. For others, it’s about barring homosexuals from the priesthood, as if homosexuality was in essence a model of immorality rather than simply another state of nature — just like heterosexuality with its own immoral aberrations. For many, it’s about a lack of psychosocial development in seminaries; for others, it’s about the liberalization of the church since the Second Vatican Council, no matter that the bulk of assaults happened, apparently, before the end of the council.

“Indeed, there are as many explanations for this crisis in morals, spirituality, church and trust as there are people, dioceses, parents, priests, lawyers, whomever. But there is one element on which everyone seems to agree: There must be repentance. There must be accountability. There must be reform.

“Good. And that looks like what?”

By Joan Chittister, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Minnesota Diocese admits responsibility so AG drops criminal charges in cases

National Catholic Reporter said today that Ramsey County has dropped criminal charges against the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis after it revised an existing civil-claims settlement to admit wrongdoing. According to County Attorney John Choi, the text added to the settlement documents takes direct responsibility. It reads:

“Curtis Wehmeyer was a priest in this Archdiocese. The Archdiocese admits that it failed to adequately respond and prevent the sexual abuse of Victim 1, Victim 2, and Victim 3. The Archdiocese failed to keep the safety and wellbeing of these three children ahead of protecting the interests of Curtis Wehmeyer and the Archdiocese. The actions and omissions of the Archdiocese failed to prevent the abuse that resulted in the need for protection and services for these three children.” 

The amendment also requires newly installed Archbishop Bernard Hebda to participate in at least three Restorative Justice sessions convened by the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, extends court oversight of the diocese until 2020, adds a county-appointed representative to the diocesan review board, strengthens child protection, and sets up ongoing counseling services. (Note that VOTF also offers restorative justice options in our Healing Circles.)

You will find the full story here.

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Priest Decides to Leave ‘Ordained Jesuit Ministry’

The following letter from Fr. Bert Thelen relates how he decided “to leave the ordained Jesuit ministry.” The letter was forwarded to Voice of the Faithful® by Patricia Edmisten, author of A Longing for Wisdom: One Woman’s Conscience and Her Church.

She said that, “Reading it, I realized the deep love Fr. Thelen had and continues to have for the Church. He has taken a stand that I hope resonates throughout the hierarchy, one that will create a catholic (universal) awareness of existing divisions among the hierarchy, clergy, and laity. Fr. Thelen grounds his letter in fundamental theological principles and acts upon his conscience. May God guide his footsteps as he joins the rest of us who labor in the field of the Lord. Perhaps you will want to send this on to your Catholic friends. Just think of the letter as a voice emanating from the Holy Spirit.”

With Fr. Thelen’s permission, we share his letter here with you. National Catholic Reporter also posted his letter and some comments online earlier this month, and you can read NCR’s article by clicking here.

TO: Family, Relatives, and Friends, Colleagues and Partners in Ministry, CLC Members, Ignatian Associates, Project Mankind, Parishioners of St. John’s, St Benedict the Moor, Sacred Heart, Jesuit Classmates and Companions

FROM: Bert Thelen, S.J., June 2013

Dearly Beloved,

May the Grace of Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Peace of the Holy Spirit be with you! I am writing to tell you about what may be the most important decision of my life since entering the Jesuits. With God’s help, at the behest of my religious superiors and the patient support and wise encouragement of my CLC group and closest friends, I have decided to leave ordained Jesuit ministry and return to the lay state, the priesthood of the faithful bestowed on me by my Baptism nearly 80 years ago. I do this with confidence and humility, clarity and wonder, gratitude and hope, joy and sorrow. No bitterness, no recrimination, no guilt, no regrets.

It has been a wonderful journey, a surprising adventure, an exploration into the God Who dwells mysteriously in all of our hearts. I will always be deeply grateful to the Society of Jesus for the formation, education, companionship, and ministry it has provided, and to my family for their constant support. I can never thank God enough for the loving and loyal presence in my life of each and every one of you.

Why am I doing this? How did I reach this decision? I will try to tell you now. That is the purpose of this letter. For about 15 years now, as many of you have noticed, I have had a “Lover’s Quarrel” with the Catholic Church. I am a cradle Catholic and grew up as Catholic as anyone can, with Priests and even Bishops in our household, and 17 years of Catholic education at St. Monica’s Grade School, Milwaukee Messmer High School, and Marquette University. I took First Vows at Oshkosh in the Society of Jesus at age 25 and was ordained at Gesu Church to the priesthood ten years later in 1968. I have served the Church as a Jesuit priest in Milwaukee, Omaha, and Pine Ridge for 45 years, including 18 years on the Province Staff culminating in my being the Wisconsin Provincial for six years and attending the 34th General Congregation in Rome.

My last 14 years at Creighton and St. John’s have been the best years of my life. I have truly enjoyed and flourished serving as pastor of St. John’s. I cannot even put into words how graced and loved and supported I have been by the parishioners, parish staff, campus ministry, Ignatian Associates, and CLC members! It is you who have freed, inspired, and encouraged me to the New Life to which I am now saying a strong and joyful “Yes.” You have done this by challenging me to be my best self as a disciple of Jesus, to proclaim boldly His Gospel of Love, and to widen the horizons of my heart to embrace the One New World we are called to serve in partnership with each other and our Triune God. It is the Risen Christ Who beckons me now toward a more universal connection with the Cosmos, the infinitely large eco-system we are all part of, the abundance and vastness of what Jesus called “the Reign of God.”

Why does this “YES” to embrace the call of our cosmic inter-connectedness mean saying “NO” to ordained ministry? My answer is simple but true. All mystical traditions, as well as modern science, teach us that we humans cannot be fully ourselves without being in communion with all that exists. Lasting justice for Earth and all her inhabitants is only possible within this sacred communion of being. We need conversion – conversion from the prevailing consciousness that views reality in terms of separateness, dualism, and even hierarchy, to a new awareness of ourselves as inter-dependent partners, sharing in one Earth-Human community. In plainer words, we need to end the world view that structures reality into higher and lower, superior and inferior, dominant and subordinate, which puts God over Humanity, humans over the rest of the world, men over women, the ordained over the laity. As Jesus commanded so succinctly, “Don’t Lord it over anyone … serve one another in love.” As an institution, the Church is not even close to that idea; its leadership works through domination, control, and punishment. So, following my call to serve this One World requires me to stop benefiting from the privilege, security, and prestige ordination has given me. I am doing this primarily out of the necessity and consequence of my new call, but, secondarily, as a protest against the social injustices and sinful exclusions perpetrated by a patriarchal church that refuses to consider ordination for women and marriage for same- sex couples.

I have become convinced that the Catholic Church will never give up its clerical privilege until and unless we priests (and bishops) willingly step down from our pedestals. Doing this would also put me in solidarity with my friend, Roy Bourgeois, my fellow Jesuit, Fr. Bill Brennan, the late Bernard Cooke, and many other men who have been “de-frocked” by the reigning hierarchy. It will also support the religious and lay women, former Catholics, and gay and lesbian couples marginalized by our church. I want to stand with and for them. I am, if you will, choosing to de-frock myself in order to serve God more faithfully, truly, and universally.

But why leave the Jesuits? Make no mistake about it: the Society of Jesus shares in and benefits from this patriarchal and clerical way of proceeding. We still regard ourselves as the shepherds and those to whom and with whom we minister as sheep. I discovered this painfully when the Society of Jesus decided against having Associate members. We are not prepared for co-membership or even, it seems at times, for collaboration, though we pay lip service to it. “Father knows best” remains the hallmark of our way of proceeding. I can no longer, in conscience, do that. But I still honor and love my fellow Jesuits who work from that model of power over. It is still where we all are as a company, a Society, a community of vowed religious in the Roman Catholic Church. Leaving behind that companionship is not easy for me, but it is the right thing for me to do at this time in my life. When I went through a formal discernment process with my CLC group, one member whose brilliance and integrity I have always admired and whose love and loyalty to the Jesuits is beyond question, said of my decision, “You cannot NOT do this!” He had recognized God’s call in me.

A few other considerations may help clarify my path. The Church is in transition – actually in exile. In the Biblical tradition, the Egyptian, Assyrian and Babylonian captivities led to great religious reforms and the creation of renewed covenants. Think of Moses, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. I think a similar reform is happening in our Catholic faith (as well as other traditions). We have come through far-reaching, earth-shaking evolutionary changes, and a new (Universal) Church as well as a new (One) World is emerging. My decision is a baby step in that Great Emergence, a step God is asking me to take.

Consider this. Being a Lay Catholic has sometimes been caricatured as “Pray, pay, and obey.” Of course, that is a caricature, an exaggeration, a jibe. But it does point to a real problem. Recently, the hierarchical church mandated the so-called revision of the Roman Missal without consulting the People of God. It was both a foolish and a self-serving effort to increase the authority of Ordained men, damaging and even in some ways taking away the “Pray” part of “Pray, pay, and obey.” No wonder more and more Catholics are worshipping elsewhere, and some enlightened priests feel compromised in their roles. I, for one, feel that this so-called renewal, though licit, is not valid. It is not pleasing to God, and I feel compromised in trying to do it.

Now, consider this. All of this liturgical, ecclesial, and religious change is located in and strongly influenced by what both science and spirituality have revealed as happening to our world, our planet, our universe. The very earth we are rooted and grounded in, as well as the air we breathe and the water we drink, are being damaged and destroyed even beyond (some say) our capacity to survive. And, as Fr. John Surette, S.J., has so wisely observed, “Injustice for the human and destruction of Earth’s ecosystem are not two separate injustices. They are one.” Biocide is even more devastating than genocide, because it also kills future inhabitants of our precious Earth.

It is time. It is time to abandon our refusal to see that our very environment is central to the survival and well being of ALL earthlings. It is time for the Church to turn her attention from saving face to saving the earth, from saving souls to saving the planet. It is time to focus on the sacred bond that exists between us and the earth. It is time to join the Cosmic Christ in the Great Work of mending, repairing, nurturing, and protecting our evolving creation. It is time for a new vision of a universal Church whose all-inclusive justice and unconditional love, an expression of Christ consciousness and the work of the Holy Spirit, empowers ALL and can lead to a future that preserves the true right to life of all of God’s creatures. This includes future generations who will bless us for allowing them to live, evolve, and flourish. Can’t you hear them crying out, “I want to live, I want to grow, I want to be, I want to know?”

In light of all this, how can I not respond to the call both Isaiah and Jesus heard, the call of our Baptism? “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me and sent me to bring Good News to the oppressed.” All creation will be freed, and all people will know the freedom and glory of the Children of God. Yes, Lord, I will go. Please send me.

And that is why I am leaving Jesuit priesthood. Since first vows I have always thought and hoped and prayed that I would live and die in this least Society of Jesus. But now, something unexpected! A real surprise! I HAVE lived and died in the Society of Jesus, but, now, nearly 80, I have been raised to new life. I am born again – into a much larger world, a much newer creation. I have greatly benefited from the spiritual freedom given in and by the Society of Jesus. I feel no longer chained, limited, bound by the shackles of a judicial, institutional, clerical, hierarchical system. As St. Paul once reminded the early Christians, “It is for freedom that you have been set free.” And as St. Peter, the first Pope, learned when he said to Jesus, “You know that I love you,” love is all about surrender and servanthood.

Thank you for your attention to this self-presentation. I am grateful that you have followed me in the journey described here, and I am sorry for whatever sadness, disappointment, or hurt this may have caused you. But what I have written here is my truth, and I can’t not do it! If you want to discuss this with me, ask questions, or give me feedback, I welcome your response, either by letter, e-mail or phone, 402-305-2665.

Please pray for me, as I do for all of you, the beloved of my heart and soul.

Yours in the Risen Christ, Bert Thelen

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African theologian questions church’s exclusion of women | National Catholic Reporter

Addressing 300 fellow theologians at the Catholic Theological Society of America meeting in St. Louis June 8, according to National Catholic Reporter, Jesuit Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator said the church “totters on the brink of compromising its self-identity as the basic sacrament of salvation” and that a particular concern is the church’s disregard of women.

Orobater wrapped up his address by saying, “I believe that it lies within the realm of possibility to transform our church into a truly catholic and richly textured (sic) patchwork of different genders, races, generations, orientations, ministries, and faith traditions that signify that saving presence of God in our midst.”

Here is a link to NCR’s entire report:

African theologian questions church’s exclusion of women | National Catholic Reporter.

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There are powers and principalities in our Church trying to make us victims

“My Brothers and Sisters, there are powers and principalities in our Church trying to make us victims…,” said Fr. Kenneth J. Hughes, S.J., in a homily on Sunday, May 13, 2012, at St. Mary of the Angels Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts. As he concluded his homily, the congregation rose to its feet and applauded. With Fr. Hughes’ permission, we’re reprinting his entire homily here —

“One blue sky above us,
One ocean lapping all our shores,
One earth so green and round,
Who could ask for more?
And because I love you,
I’ll give it one more try
To show my Rainbow Race
It’s too soon to die.”

“Go tell, go tell all – – – – – the little children.
Tell all their mothers and fathers, too – –
Now’s our last chance to learn to share
What’s been given to me and you.”

Do you recognize those words? They are from a protest song of the 70’s by Pete Seeger. It is called, “My Rainbow Race.” This song, a long time ago, was translated into Norwegian and made popular as a children’s song by a well known Norwegian artist, Lillebjoern Nilsen.

Now, do you remember last summer that tragedy in Norway when 32-year-old Anders Breivik bombed a government building and then massacred a group of teenagers and young adults on an island north of Oslo, killing 77 people in all? Do you remember that I told you how the people of Norway responded by placing thousands of flowers, mostly roses, and thousands of candles, flags and messages of love before the cathedral? Do you remember that I told you how the government quickly assured foreigners, especially Muslims, that they were welcome. And do you remember the words I quoted of a young woman survivor who said, “If one man out of hatred can cause so much destruction, think of what all of us together can do out of love?” The key words were “together” and “love.”

As you may be aware, the trial of this man is currently going on in Oslo. And. just two weeks ago, in court, Breivik accused Nilsen of brainwashing the Norwegian people with this very song because he saw “My Rainbow Race” as embracing all people, all foreigners, including Muslims, whom he detested. He wanted a pure Norwegian nation, and that is why he killed.

How did the people respond? By singing, “My Rainbow Race.” Two young women, unknown to each other, but connecting through Face Book, proposed singing this song and Nilsen agreed to it. And so, in pouring rain some 40,000 people (and, remember, Oslo is a small city of only 400,000) gathered with red roses in hand to sing, “My Rainbow Race.” Then, they processed to the courthouse where the trial is taking place and lay their roses on its steps. Once again, they wanted to show the world that, in Norway, love is stronger than hatred and that love seeks to embrace all, love does not exclude. The people refused to be victims of another’s anger.

My Brothers and Sisters, there are powers and principalities in our Church trying to make us victims just as Breivik tried to make victims of the Norwegian people. I pass over in silence (well, not really!) the rejection of graduation speakers, the marginalization of gays and lesbians, the censure of theologians without dialogue, the silencing with threatened excommunication of justly complaining parishioners, the dismissal of girl altar servers. What I will not pass over in silence, however, (especially on this Mother’s Day) is the Church’s treatment of women in general and of religious women in particular. The manner of this proposed latest scrutiny of the leadership of women religious is an insult to the many dedicated and hard-working women who express most in our society the compassion and love of Jesus Christ.

Have we forgotten so soon that it was to the faithful women of Good Friday Jesus appeared first on Easter Sunday and whom He asked, first, to proclaim the Good news? And the men did not believe them. Has nothing changed? Have we learned nothing from today’s reading from Acts of the Apostles? Peter says, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.” And the people, we are told, “were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles.” Who of us dares limit the power and movement of the Holy Spirit today?

Are we listening to St. John tell us, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God. Are we listening to Jesus say, “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” That is the Christian orthodoxy first: to show love to one another. It is a chain of love beginning from the Father: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” It may seem like a hierarchic love from above, but Jesus turns it into a circle. He says, “I call you friends.” In friendship we become a circle of love with God and with one another. And, at the center of this circle of friendship is the Eucharist, the presence of Jesus, strengthening us to do what we cannot do of ourselves: “Love one another as I have loved you.”

I know that, on behalf of women religious, people are keeping silent vigil from 5-6pm every Tuesday in May at various churches, but I found myself wondering: what would it be like if, on a particular Sunday, 40,000 Catholics, in each of our major cities across the nation, were to process to their cathedrals, singing hymns of love and placing flowers on the cathedral steps? How can we show our Church leaders that they need not be afraid? Yet, at the same time, how can we show them that we will not be victims of coercion, neither will we stop the mission which Jesus has given us through the Church when He said: “Love one another as I have loved you?”

So, my Brothers and Sisters,

“Go tell, go tell all – – – – the little children.
Tell all their mothers and fathers, too – –
Now’s our last chance to share
What been given to me and you.”

And that is the gift of love!

Acts: 10.25-26, 34-35, 44-48; I John 4.7-10; John 15.9-17

If you dream of a church defined by what it stands for rather than what it stands against, join us at Voice of the Faithful’s 10th Year Conference, Sept. 14-15, 2012, Boston, Massachusetts.

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