An evolving missiology: The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary

Sr Heather Weedon FMM has published her 2017 PhD thesis on “The Evolving Missiology of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary” on the Academia website.

In her thesis, Heather notes the similarity between the discernment method followed by founder, Hélène de Chappotin, and the jocist see-judge-act method.

“When discerning any situation, Helene studied the issue, then prayed about it, asking advice from her spiritual director or others whose opinions she valued, before making any final decision,” Heather writes. “This method was continued by her Sisters and followed Cardinal Cardijn’s method.”

Indeed, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary have had a long relationship with the Cardijn movements with Cardijn himself acknowledging his own indebtedness to an earlier superior general of the order.

Heather notes:

Upon the death of the Superior General of the Sisters, Mother St Michel, in 1931, Cardijn wrote that he “…owed a lot to her for the founding of the JOC.” A number of Sisters who had been members of this movement were inspired to join the Institute through their involvement with the YCW. The YCW method of reflection is widely used today at meetings (eg., General Chapters, discernment programs) by the Sisters.

In Australia and Papua New Guinea, FMM sisters “used the (Cardijn) method of see-judge-act in their schools as a system of gospel study in the Young Christian Students Association.”

Heather also notes that “a number of Sisters who had been members of this movement were inspired to join the Institute through their involvement with the YCW.”

And the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary continue to make use of the Cardijn method in the discernment processes of the congregation:

Taking up the invitation of Pope Francis above, the Sisters have chosen to rethink their structures, beginning with the community life of the Sisters. They are doing this through a series of meetings throughout the world. Provincials from one Province have been coordinators of meetings in a Province other than their own. Thus, they have the opportunity to
hear from Sisters of another culture, nation, and context. In this way, the Sisters are continuing their manner of discernment using the See-Judge-Act of the Young Christian Workers [YCW].

READ MORE

Heather Weedon, https://www.academia.edu/83219988/The_Evolving_Missiology_of_the_Franciscan_Missionaries_of_MaryThe Evolving Missiology of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (Yarra Theological Union/University of Divinity/Academia)

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Franciscan Missionaries of Mary

Plenary Council prioritises lay apostolate formation

The Australian Plenary Council, which concluded last week, has prioritised formation for the apostolate of the laity in its Decree on “Formation and Leadership for Mission and Ministry.”

“Responding to the call for a renewal of formation,” reads §7 of the introduction to Decree 6,, “the Plenary Council endorses principles and strategies that develop models of formation to encourage and strengthen the apostolate of the laity in the world. “

It continues with a strong endorsement of the see-judge-act method for this formation:

This apostolate offers a particular prophetic sign by seeking the common good and by concrete actions that protect and promote human dignity, peace and justice. Attentive to the ‘signs of the times’, movements of the lay apostolate, in their various forms, offer the baptised a way to reflect on the concrete experiences of their lives in the light of the Gospel and engage as missionary disciples in the world.

As a means for formation, the apostolate of the laity is grounded in scriptural reflection, reception of the ecclesial wisdom of our tradition, and prayerful communal discernment. This formation shapes Christian engagement with the broader Australian community through listening and dialogue, and supports actions for the transformation of society through daily commitment and public witness.

“Therefore, to meet the formation needs of the present and future,” §9 adds, “the Plenary Council commits the Church in Australia to developing and committing to a culture of life-long faith formation that will ensure:

a. the diversity of the Catholic community is explicitly recognised;

b. intercultural competency is encouraged, especially in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and spiritualities;

c. the equal dignity of women and men is affirmed and demonstrated;

d. the renewal of faith formation within and for families in the context of the critical role that marriage, parenting, and care-giving plays as a school of formation, is prioritised and strengthened;

e. the apostolate of the laity, along with new ecclesial realities, acting as “leaven in the world,” (Lumen Gentium n. 31) is promoted, encouraged and supported;

f. the hopes, spirituality, giftedness, energy, and modes of communication and connection of young people are identified, incorporated, encouraged and celebrated;

g. ongoing support and strategies for those who minister to young people;

h. the rich variety of spiritual and devotional traditions of the Church are appreciated and celebrated; and

i. synodal practices such as encounter, accompaniment, listening, dialogue, discernment, and collaboration are fostered and deepened.

“By commiting the Australian Church to promoting the apostolate of the laity as a ‘leaven in the world,’ the Plenary has renewed the Vatican II emphasis on lay apostolate formation,” ACI secretary, Stefan Gigacz commented.

“This offers a clear direction to the work of the whole Australian Church,” he added. “It is also a major encouragement to ACI in its own work of promoting the spirituality and methods of Joseph Cardijn, who did so much to bring the lay apostolate to the forefront.”

The decrees of the Plenary Council will now be sent to Rome for ratification. Once this is completed, they will become binding on the Australian Church.

SOURCES

Formation and Leadership for Mission and Ministry (Australian Plenary Council)

2022: Australian Plenary Council: Formation (Australian Cardijn Institute)

Plenary misses Francis’ wider vision

Some 278 Catholic bishops, clergy, religious personnel and lay people will meet as members of an unprecedented Plenary Council during 4-9 July to finalise the resolutions of their first assembly last year. However the May working document ‘Framework for Motions’, despite much worthy content, especially on Indigenous affairs, relies on a narrow notion of mission overly focused on inner-church issues at the expense of the wider social engagement that Francis emphasises, writes Fr Bruce Duncan CSsR in Eureka Street.

(It is) puzzling how the Framework for Motions overlooks the specifically secular mission of lay women and men in their daily work, occupations, communities and families. Merely a single paragraph calls for deepening the ‘lay apostolate in the world based on attentiveness to the “signs of the times”, scriptural reflection, prayerful communal discernment and a commitment to engagement with the broader Australian community through listening and dialogue’ (#80). But it does not explain why this secular involvement is so crucially significant, especially for Pope Francis.

‘Francis has explicitly recast this see-judge-act method into the process of synodality and discernment, calling the whole Church to learn this way of listening carefully to others, especially the excluded or marginalised.’

Let me explain. The paragraph refers to the famous see-judge-act process developed by a Belgian priest, Canon Joseph Cardijn, nearly a century ago for use by young working women and men in factories and workplaces. Cardijn formed groups to discuss their life and work issues (‘see’), to reflect together using a Gospel passage for spiritual guidance (‘judge’) and then to take action to change situations (‘act’).

It was a circular process of empowerment for people to take charge of their lives and challenge unjust practices. It became known as the Young Christian Workers Movement and spread internationally, even to Australia, especially in Melbourne and Adelaide. Based on people’s personal experiences, it linked faith cogently with their real life issues, giving them strength and courage to make often difficult decisions but acting always on their own responsibility. This method often empowered people for the rest of their lives and careers.

Francis has explicitly recast this see-judge-act method into the process of synodality and discernment, calling the whole Church to learn this way of listening carefully to others, especially the excluded or marginalised.

Francis urges a ‘cultural revolution’ in the church, to undertake ‘the slow work of changing structures, through participation in public dialogue, where decisions are made that affect the lives of the most vulnerable.’ He said that the social apostolate is to empower people ‘“to promote processes [italics added] and to encourage hope”, to help communities grow, to be aware of their rights, to apply their talents, and create their own futures’. He dreams of a ‘Church that does not stand aloof from life, but immerses herself in today’s problems and needs, bandaging wounds and healing broken hearts with the balm of God.’

His notion of mission is thus not confined to inner-church matters. At the opening of the 2021-1923 Synod on Synodality on 9 October 2021, he said that the Vatican Council understood mission as including ‘apostolic commitment to the world of today’, but warned that this was opposed to ‘proselytism’. In an address to Catechists on 27 September 2013, he insisted: ‘What attracts is our witness… Words come…. But witness comes first: people should see the Gospel, read the Gospel, in our lives.’

FULL ARTICLE

Bruce Duncan, Plenary Council fails to embrace Pope Francis’s wider social vision (Eureka Street)

See, judge and act in today’s world

To mark the 25th anniversary of his death, a memorial Mass for Fr Hugh O’Sullivan was celebrated at The Monastery on May 29. FR DEAN MARIN reflects on Fr Hugh’s work with the YCW, and the importance of the movement and the ministry of its founder, Cardinal Joseph Cardijn.

Even before his ordination as a priest for the Archdiocese of Adelaide in 1964, Fr Hugh O’Sullivan, or Hughie as he was affectionately known to many throughout Adelaide and Australia, had come to know of Fr Joseph Cardijn the founder of the Young Christian Workers (YCW) movement.

In all his parishes – Hectorville, Brighton, Mount Gambier, Salisbury, Para Hills and finally Hallett Cove – Fr Hugh formed small groups of young workers in the YCW, steeped in the formation method of ‘See, Judge and Act’. He became Adelaide chaplain to the YCW, then national chaplain and eventually chaplain to the Asia-Pacific Region.

Fr Hugh was committed to the faith and the Church and with a passion for young workers and empowering them to be agents of change in the world. His down-to-earth acceptance of everyone he encountered will be remembered by so many in the Archdiocese.

Fr Hugh died on May 18 1997 and we are inspired by this great priest as we remember him.

It is also important to reflect upon the ministry of Fr Joseph Cardijn, who in 1967 was made a Cardinal by Pope Paul VI, and in particular his influence on the Second Vatican Council.

In an article by Stefan Gigacz, secretary of the Australian Cardijn Institute, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Cardijn’s death, he writes how Pope John XXIII’s 1961 encyclical, Mater et Magistra, recommended the use of the See, Judge and Act method that has since become a hallmark of Church documents on Catholic Social Teaching.

‘Cardijn drafted more than 25 formal detailed notes for the preparatory and conciliar commissions advocating his vision of the specifically lay apostolate of lay people, transforming their lives, their milieux and eventually the world,’ Gigacz wrote.

‘Much of his vision of lay apostolate was indeed finally incorporated both in the chapter on the laity in Vatican II doctrinal constitution: Lumen Gentium and in the Decree on the Lay Apostolate…Jocists bishops and periti played a particular prominent role in the drafting of Gaudium et Spes (Constitution of the Church in the Modern World).’

The Constitution of the Church in the Modern World begins: ‘The joy and the hope, the grief and the anguish of the men of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and the hope, the grief and the anguish of the followers of Christ as well.’

We start totally grounded in the reality and experiences of people’s lives in the here and now in society and in the world. Isn’t this equivalent to the ‘See’ section? Further on it says: ‘At all times the Church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel.’ Here’s the call again to appreciate the reality of the features of any given time, the ‘See’ section.

However, we don’t just stay there, we move on from here to interpreting them ‘in the light of the Gospel’. Isn’t this equivalent to the ‘Judge’ section? We consciously bring to bear the vision of the Gospel of Jesus, for us as Catholics coming from the Scriptures and our tradition, to discern the call of God and prepare us for action.

There’s another way at looking at Cardijn’s vision to learn so much for us as Church today. In his pamphlet ‘The Young Worker Faces Life’ he spoke of three truths as another way of understanding the See, Judge and Act method. The truth of experience, the truth of faith and the truth of method.

In the Archdiocese of Adelaide, we can’t overestimate the influence of Cardijn’s vision on our church life and the many lay leaders formed through it. Both Archbishop Gleeson and then Archbishop Faulkner promoted the Cardijn movements of the Young Christian Workers, Young Christian Students, and the Christian Life Movement. Back in the ‘80s the Diocesan Pastoral Renewal was underpinned by Cardijn’s vision. Later the vision of Basic Ecclesial Communities used the See, Judge and Act method in small neighbourhood groups, just naming it differently as ‘our story’, ‘God’s story’ and ‘the ongoing story’.

We need Cardijn’s vision and his See, Judge and Act method in the Church today. Firstly, it helps us to truly understand Vatican II and its pastoral and transformational focus for the world, as well as the role of each person in this mission.

Secondly, rightly understood and practised it will bring a unity of common purpose for all passionate about the faith and its place in the world.

There are tensions in our Church life today in Australia. The processes of consultation, listening, dialogue and discerning in preparation for the Plenary Council, our own Diocesan Assembly and now for the worldwide Synod in 2023 have highlighted differences amongst us in responses to the challenges facing the Church. How can we be united in facing these challenges? Use the See, Judge and Act process.

We need to begin with the real situations of people’s lives today. We need to listen, dialogue and grow in understanding of others. We accept and value human experience. We don’t start from what people should be doing or how they should be living. We can’t start from the way things were in the past and just turn the clock backwards. We value and accept the ‘see’ and ‘the truth of experience’.

But we don’t just stay there. This is where we start, not where we finish. And we don’t just automatically expect that the Church should change to mirror current ways of life.

Vatican II can be easily misinterpreted in this way. We need the ‘judge’ and ‘the truth of faith’, the Gospels, the whole of the Word of God and the living tradition of our Catholic faith with which to discern and judge the current realities. This tradition will always highlight the deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ and our unity as his Body on earth and our need for prayer and worship, the Eucharist and the Sacraments.

In our haste for solutions, in our need for immediate action, in our desire to be in touch with the times, we can downplay the ‘judge’ section and move on with our own ideas for action. We need to resist this temptation. And we all need formation and growth in understanding the Scriptures and our Catholic Teachings.

St Pope John XXIII’s opening remarks for the Second Vatican Council, taken from Vatican II in Plain English: The Council by Bill Huebsch, include: ‘The greatest concern of this council is this, that the sacred and central truths of our Christian faith should be guarded and taught more effectively…we will not depart from the truth as it is passed on to us by the early Fathers and Mothers of the Church. But we will also be attentive to these times, to the new conditions and new forms of life present in the modern world which have opened new arenas of work for Catholics.’

Then there’s ‘act’ which completes ‘the truth of method’. The Word of God affirms us of God’s acceptance, compassion and love, but also challenges us to change. We are challenged to act to bring about change within ourselves, family, community, society and world. Indeed, we act as part of God’s plan in Christ for the renewal of all creation. Cardijn always encouraged young workers not to act alone but with others, and so we act together united with the one common vision.

With the tensions in the Church today we have a recognised and acknowledged approach and pathway around which to be united and move forward together.

This pathway begins with and respects the real-life experiences of the people of our times; it relies upon and remains faithful to Scriptures and the teachings of our Catholic faith and moves forward with action, building God’s Kingdom on earth until it is fulfilled in heaven.

Used within movements and groups in the Church initially, it now needs to be used in all aspects of our Church life and my advice would be: come to know the Scriptures and the teachings of our faith and never overlook the judge section.

Fr Dean Marin is Vicar General and Director of Vocations of the Archdiocese

Synodality and Cardijn’s ‘electrifying’ see-judge-act

Cardijn’s “electrifying” see-judge-act method lies at the heart of the synodality process, writes newly appointed Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego.

Can synodality become a deeper element of Catholic life in the United States? Our current process may prove this to be so. One of the central sentiments expressed in our diocesan synodal consultations has been that the people of God have at times not been meaningfully heard and responded to in the institutional life of the church, and they fear that the synodal process might be another in a series of moments when hopes are raised only to be frustrated. But the current synod process offers a glimpse of a church yet to come. Hundreds of thousands of Catholics have engaged with the church on their joys, their sorrows and their hopes for what the church can be today and tomorrow.

Across the United States, dioceses, parishes and religious communities have undertaken intensive processes of consultation and dialogue in order to help prepare for the global synod on synodality that will take place in Rome in October 2023. Soon, each local church will forward to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops a formal report on their consultation, which will contribute to the work of the global church.

Fortunately, the theology and practice of synodality that have already emerged from the Second Vatican Council and the writings and actions of Pope Francis provide an architecture for us to continue substantive synodal formation during the next two years. This architecture consists of three elements: the see-judge-act methodology that lies at the heart of the synodal process, the characteristics of a synodal church that Pope Francis has articulated, and the overwhelming imperative for constant and effective evangelization that has been a hallmark of the pontificates of St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis.

In the years following the First World War, Joseph Cardijn became a worker priest in Brussels, seeking to organize working men and women in pursuit of justice. While doing so, he came to understand that true work on behalf of justice and solidarity required a process of genuinely coming to know the real world situations that workers confronted, of judging these realities in the light of the Gospel and then of choosing to act concretely to transform the world they faced. “See-judge-act,” the dynamic of engagement that Cardijn brought to the world, became an electrifying construct for confronting injustice—revealing its contradictions to Catholic faith and generating bold and sustained action.

St John XXIII brought this penetrating insight and framework to the world in his encyclical “Mater et Magistra.” The church of Latin America adopted this framework as a primary method of engaging with the realities of human life and the renewal of the church. And the encuentro process that deeply enriched the church in the United States during the last decade placed “see-judge-act” at its very center. An understanding of the three steps of this basic framework in the context of our current synodal moment in the United States is helpful in appreciating its potential for advancing synodal formation during the next two years.

FULL ARTICLE

Bishop McElroy: Pope Francis and Vatican II give us a road map for the synodal process (America Magazine)

See-judge-act bishop now a cardinal

Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego as one of 21 new cardinals. Bishop McElroy, who visited Australia in June 2017, has made a name for himself for a pastoral approach very close to that of Pope Francis.

In February 2017 address to the US Regional Meeting of Popular Movements he offered a powerful endorsement of Cardijn’s see-judge-act method.

“For the past century, from the worker movements of Catholic action in France, Belgium and Italy to Pope John XXXIII’s call to re-structure the economies of the world in ‘Mater et Magistra,’ to the piercing missionary message of the Latin American Church,” Cardinal-elect McElroy said, “the words ‘see,’ ‘judge’ and ‘act’ have provided a powerful pathway for those who seek to renew the temporal order, in the light of the Gospel and justice.”

He continued:

As the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace described this pathway, it lies in “seeing clearly the situation, judging with principles that foster the integral development of people and acting in a way which implements these principles in the light of everyone’s unique situation.”

There is no greater charter for this gathering taking place here in Modesto in these days than the simple but rich architecture of these three words: “see,” “judge” and “act.” Yet these words — which carry with them such a powerful history of social transformation around the world in service to the dignity of the human person — must be renewed and re-examined at every age and seen against the background of those social, economic and political forces in each historical moment.

In the United States we stand at a pivotal moment as a people and a nation, in which bitter divisions cleave our country and pollute our national dialogue.

In our reflections in these days, here, we must identify the ways in which our very ability to see, judge and act on behalf of justice is being endangered by cultural currents which leave us isolated, embittered and angry. We must make the issues of jobs, housing, immigration, economic disparities and the environment, foundations for common efforts rather than of division. We must see prophetic words and prophetic actions which produce unity and cohesion and we must do so in the spirit of hope which is realistic. For as Pope Francis stated to the meeting in Bolivia: “You are sowers of change,” and sowers never lose hope.

San Diego Diocese has a long history it the jocist movements. For many years, it hosted a Cardijn Centre founded by YCW and YCS chaplain, Fr Leo Davis. It was also the home diocese for Fr Victor Salandini, who became known as the “tortilla priest” for his work with Latino farm workers.

READ MORE

Bishop W. Robert McElroy (Wikipedia)

Bishop McElroy: Pope Francis and Vatican II give us a road map for the synodal process (America Magazine)

Transcript of speech by San Diego Catholic Bishop Robert McElroy to community organizers (San Diego Tribune)

Pope Francis names Bishop McElroy a Cardinal (San Diego Diocese)

Pope announces 21 new Cardinals from around the world (Vatican News)

Leo Davis (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Victor Salandini (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Signs of the Times: From Alphonse Gratry to Vatican II

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the death of French priest, Alphonse Gratry (1805-1872), philosopher and theologian, whose work inspired Cardijn and many other social activists of the late 19th century.

In our next ACI webinar at 11.30am AEDT on Friday 18 March 2022 (Thursday evening 17 March US time 5.30pm West, 8.30pm East), American philosopher, Madonna Clare Adams, and ACI secretary, Stefan Gigacz, reflect on Gratry’s life and work.

As principal of Stanislas College in Paris, in 1840, he hired the young Frédéric Ozanam, founder of the Society of St Vincent de Paul. During the Revolutions of 1848, he wrote a pioneering manual of social action.

From the 1850s, he began publishing his major works in the fields of philosophy and theology. His theory of induction helped provide the foundation for Cardijn’s see-judge-act method.

During the First Vatican Council in 1870, he led the battle against the very broad definition of papal infallibility that many Council Fathers had sought.

He died of cancer on 7 February 1872, aged only 66.

OUR SPEAKERS

MADONNA CLARE ADAMS

Madonna Clare Adams holds an STM from Yale Divinity School and a doctorate in Philosophy from Catholic University of America in Ancient and History of Philosophy. She directed a NY State Liberty Partnership Program for at-risk high school students, and was Director for the Center for Applied Ethics at Pace University, NY.

She has articles in the Dictionary on Catholic Spirituality, and has written on Plato’s political thought and modern democratic theory; the philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori in relation to Plato’s education for citizenship, Aristotle’s philosophy of nature, and Marx’s concept of work; and Medieval Philosophers and the Environment.

A student of Dr. Mary L. O’Hara, CSJ, she assisted in the publication of her translation of Gratry’s Philosophy: A Translation of Julián Marías’ La Filosofia del Padre Gratry (Adelaide: ATF Press Publishing, 2020) the first major work on Gratry in English. Retired from Caldwell University and living in Whittier, CA.

STEFAN GIGACZ

Originally from Melbourne, Stefan Gigacz worked for a short time as a personal injuries lawyer. While at university, he became involved in a local parish YCW group. In 1978, he became a fulltime worker for the movement, working in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney and later for the International YCW.

Later, he completed master’s degrees in canon law and legal theory. From 1997-2000, he coordinated an international project to document the history of the YCW before taking up a position as a project officer with the French Catholic development agency, CCFD-Terre Solidaire. From 2006-2008, he worked as a pastoral worker in a Melbourne Catholic parish. Since then, he has worked as an editor and journalist for a series of Catholic online publications.

From 2012-2018, he worked on a PhD thesis on the role of Joseph Cardijn at the Second Vatican Council, now published under the title “The Leaven in the Council: Joseph Cardijn and the Jocist Network at Vatican II.” He now resides in Perth, Western Australia, where he devotes his time to the development of the Australian Cardijn Institute.

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Alphonse Gratry (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

REGISTER

Signs of the Times: From Alphonse Gratry to Vatican II, Friday 18 March 2022, 11.30am AEDT

AUSTRALIAN TIME FLYER

US TIMES FLYER

Pope Francis reflects on review of life and see-judge-act

Pope Francis met with leaders of the French Specialised Catholic Action movements on 13 January 2022, delivering an important speech in which he reaffirmed the value of the Cardijn see-judge-act and review of life methodology.

Here is his speech:

I greet you all with affection and I thank Archbishop Fonlupt for his kind words. It is a joy for me to receive you on the occasion of your pilgrimage to Rome. Through you, I would also like to greet all the members of the Catholic Action teams in France, and I ask you to assure them of my prayers and my closeness.

It is an old habit for your movements to come and meet the Pope. As early as 1929, my predecessor Pius XI received representatives of Catholic Action and hailed “the renewal and continuation of what was in the first days of Christianity, for the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, (… ) in the cooperation of the laity with the Apostles” in the movement (Audience of June 12, 1929). You have rightly chosen the theme: “Apostles today” for your pilgrimage. I would like to reflect with you on our call to effectively become apostles today, on the basis of the insight given to you by one of the great figures of Catholic Action, Father Cardijn, namely the “review of life”.

When the disciples walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus (cf. Lk: 2418-35), they began by remembering the events they had experienced; then they discerned the presence of God in those events; finally, they acted by setting out again to announce the Resurrection of Christ in Jerusalem. See, judge, act: you know these three words well! Let’s take them together.

See. This first stage is essential. It consists in stopping to look at the events that make up our life, which constitute our history as well as our family, cultural and Christian roots. The pedagogy of Catholic Action always begins with a moment of memory, in the strongest sense of the term: an anamnesis, that is to say the fact of understanding with hindsight the meaning of what one is and what was experienced, and to perceive how God was present at every moment.

The fineness and delicacy of the action of the Lord in our lives sometimes prevents us from understanding it at the time, and it takes this distance to grasp its coherence. In the encyclical Fratelli tutti, which your teams have studied, I begin with an inventory of the sometimes worrying situation in our world. It may seem a bit pessimistic, but it is necessary to move forward: “One never progresses without memory, one does not evolve without a complete and luminous memory” (Fratelli tutti, n. 249).

The second step is to judge or, one might say, to discern. This is the moment when we allow ourselves to be questioned and challenged. The key to this stage is recourse to Holy Scripture. It is a matter of allowing our lives to be challenged by the Word of God which, as the Epistle to the Hebrews says, is “living, energetic and sharper than a two-edged sword (…); it judges the intentions and thoughts of the heart” (4:12).

In Fratelli tutti, I chose the parable of the Good Samaritan to question our relationship to the world, to others, and in particular to the poorest. In the encounter between, on the one hand, the events of the world and of our life, and on the other hand, the Word of God, we can discern the Lord’s calls to us.

Through their history, our Catholic Action movements have developed genuine synodal practices, especially in team life which forms the basis of your experience. Our Church has also embarked entirely on a synodal journey, and I am counting on your contribution. Let us remember precisely that synodality is not a simple discussion. It is not an “adjective”. One should never turn the substantiality of life into an adjective.

Synodality is not even the search for majority consensus, that is what a parliament does, as is done in politics. It is not a plan, a program to put in place. No, it is a style to adopt in which the first protagonist is the Holy Spirit who expresses himself first and foremost in the Word of God, read, meditated on and shared together.

Let’s take the concrete image of the cross: it has a vertical arm and a horizontal arm. The horizontal arm is our life, our history, our humanity. The vertical arm is the Lord who comes to visit us through his Word and his Spirit, to give meaning to what we live. To be fixed on the cross of Jesus, as Saint Paul says (cf. Gal 2, 19), is to really accept to put my life under his gaze, to accept this encounter between my poor humanity and his transforming divinity. Please always leave an important place for the Word of God in the life of your teams. Also give a place to prayer, to interiority, to adoration.

We come to our third step: act. The Gospel teaches us that the action, which is in the very name of your movement, should always come from God’s initiative. Saint Mark reports that after the resurrection “the Lord worked with [the Apostles] and confirmed the Word by the signs which accompanied it” (16, 20). Thus, “action belongs to the Lord: it is he who has exclusive rights to it, walking “incognito” in the history we inhabit” (Speech of April 30, 2021 to the members of Italian Catholic Action).

Our role therefore consists in supporting and encouraging the action of God in hearts, by adapting to the reality which is constantly evolving. The people – and I am thinking more particularly of young people – whom your movements reach are not the same as a few years ago. Today, especially in Europe, those who frequent Christian movements are more sceptical of institutions, they seek less binding and more ephemeral relationships.

They are more sensitive to affectivity, and therefore more vulnerable, more fragile than their elders, less rooted in faith, but just as much in search of meaning, truth, and no less generous. It is your mission, as Catholic Action, to join them as they are, to enable them to grow in the love of Christ and neighbour, and to lead them to more concrete commitment so that they become the protagonists of their own lives and the life of the Church, so that the world will be able to change.

Thank you, dear friends, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your generous service, which the Church needs more than ever, at this time when I so much hope that everyone will find or rediscover the joy of knowing the friendship of Christ and of announcing the Gospel. Asking you to include me in your prayers, I entrust you, those in charge, as well as all the members of your teams, to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, and I give you the Blessing.

READ MORE

Pope Francis: Be effective Apostles rooted in the Word of God (Vatican News)

Pope Francis, Speech to leaders of Catholic Action movements in France (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Mission, ministries and co-responsibility

Thanks to NZ Catholic and Bishop Peter Cullinane, emeritus bishop of Palmerston North, Aotearoa-New Zealand for permission to reproduce this important article.

The front line of the Church’s work is the Christian people whose lives are leaven in the dough of all the ordinary circumstances of ordinary life. The purpose of ministries within the Church is to provide nurture and formation for that mission. It is the mission that matters.

Part I Ministries

For some years, we have all been aware of a growing gap between the number of parishes and the number of priests available to serve in them. This reality serves as a wake-up call, but it is not the basis for greater lay involvement. That involvement has its roots in Baptism and the very nature of the Church. Through Baptism, we are all united to the priestly and prophetic mission of Christ. This is the basis for our shared responsibility for what the Church is and what it does:

“Co-responsibility requires a change in mentality, particularly with regard to the role of the laity in the Church, who should be considered not as ‘collaborators’ with the clergy, but as persons truly ‘co-responsible’ for the being and the activity of the Church . . . ” (Pope Benedict XVI, 10 August 2012).

This is more than just a matter of management, or meeting an emergency. It, too, is rooted in Baptism and the nature of the Church. So why does this require a “change in mentality” if it already belongs to the nature of the Church? History gives the answer. During the first four centuries of the Church, lay people had roles in the liturgy, preached, had a say in the election of bishops and nomination of priests; contributed to the framing of Church laws and customs, prepared matters for, and participated in, Church councils, administered Church properties, etc.

Then, after the conversion of the emperor Constantine and the mass conversions that followed, responsibility shifted one-sidedly into the hands of the clergy. And following the barbarian invasions, responsibility for public order also fell to them. Over following centuries, society came to see priesthood as a profession, with social privilege. During earlier centuries, it had been a point of honour for ministers of the Church to live and look like everyone else.

Perception changed also within the Church. This is perhaps symbolised by the altar being pushed back to the apse of the church, where liturgy became mainly a clerical affair, with diminishing involvement of the laity. Scholarship and better understanding of the early Church would eventually return the liturgy to the whole body of the faithful, and restore roles of pastoral care and administration to lay women and men.

Most see our own day as a time of privileged opportunity for renewal. It is challenging because it involves the need for more personal responsibility, and moving away from the forms of tutelage and guardianship that shaped Church practices right up till the time of Pope Pius XII. Others feel safer clinging to that recent past, often misunderstanding the meaning of “Tradition”.

Part II Mission

In Christ, God became immersed in human life; showed us how to live it, destined us to its fullness, and sent the Holy Spirit to draw us into what Christ did for us. That is God’s purpose, and the Church can have no other – “Humanity is the route the Church must take” (Pope John Paul II).

How we do this comes down to how we “do” love. There is a loving that does not go deep enough to transform society. It works at the level of what seems fair and reasonable and deserving. This is what governments are properly concerned with. Society must do better, and the Church’s mission is to be the leaven in society. It deals with a deeper kind of loving – love that is not limited to what seems fair and reasonable and deserved.

As Church, we are uniquely placed to do this because, in the person, life, death and Resurrection of Jesus, we see love that is unconditional, undeserved, and unstinting. When we love as we have been loved, our love becomes a circuit breaker – precisely because it is not calculating and limited to what seems fair and reasonable and deserved. Running through family life, civic life, industrial, commercial and political life, this kind of love “changes everything”. It brings about a way of living – of being human – that is true to what God made us for.

But, note, it starts with seeing God’s love for us – contemplative seeing! Christians have the least excuse for not recognising the intrinsic link between contemplation and working for social justice because, in celebrating Eucharist, they move from contemplating God’s extraordinary love for us to receiving and becoming the body broken for others and the blood (life) poured out for others.

This is how faith makes a decisive difference to all of human life, while fully respecting the rightful autonomy of everything that is properly secular. In the midst of life, God is drawing us towards the fulfilment of our own deepest yearnings, and wonderfully more, involving God’s purpose for the whole of creation.

On that understanding of “the route the Church must take”, we come to know what ministries are needed to nurture us for that mission, and what kind of formation is needed for those ministries.

Part III Formation

To be involved in the processes of making our lives more truly human is a wonderful mission. So what kind of formation is needed for ministries that serve that mission?

Writing about the formation needed for priests, Pope John Paul II said it needs to be “human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral”, and went on to say that continuing formation was a matter of a priest’s faithfulness to his ministry, of love for the people, and in the proper sense a matter of justice, given the people’s rights (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 70).

Commenting on some of the characteristics of human formation, the Congregation for the Clergy explicitly singled out the specific contribution of women, “not only for the seminarians’ personal life, but also with a view to their future pastoral activity” (Ratio Fundamentalis, 95). The congregation’s reference was to Pope John Paul’s emphasis on “what it means to speak of the ‘genius of women’, not only in order to be able to see in this phrase a specific part of God’s plan which needs to be accepted and appreciated, but also in order to let this genius be more fully expressed in the life of society as a whole, as well as in the life of the Church; (Letter to Women, 1995, 10).

In our country, women have been carrying out significant roles at both Holy Cross Seminary and Good Shepherd College for some years. What still needs to be developed, however, are ways of allowing parishioners generally to play a bigger part, both in seminarians’ formation and in the discernment of their vocation. Those who will live with the results of formation, for better or for worse, should have a say in that formation and the selection of candidates.

Programmes for the formation of lay women and men for parish ministries already exist, and I leave it to others to comment on them. My concern here is with a very specific feature needed in Church leadership – both lay and ordained. It is needed all the more because general education in our country has been gradually reduced to learning mainly practical skills. Skills, both human/relational and technological, properly belong within education, but not more so than the deeper aspects of what it means to be human. Even when we know how to do the things necessary for successful living, we still need to know what ultimately gives meaning to it all.

Knowing that one’s life has a purpose can make the difference between surviving, or not surviving, life’s toughest times. The will to live needs a reason to live. The need I am pointing to is the need for leaders who are “in the service of meaning” (Ratcliffe). This is what it means, in practice, to be ministers of God’s Word. Knowing how much we mean to God is the most important thing we can know about ourselves, and is truly life-giving.

Within a culture that has become superficial, reductionist and utilitarian, one of the ways we are in the service of meaning is by knowing how to identify flaws within that culture, especially where important aspects of daily life are devalued by becoming disconnected from what gives them their meaning, or at least their full meaning. Formation will be incomplete unless it is formation “in the service of meaning”.

Part IV     Where to start? 

 I referred to the increasing gap between the number of our parishes and the number of priests. Simply combining parishes, whether for the sake of having a parish priest in every parish, or out of due concern for future financial resourcing, does not resolve the problem because ultimately everything depends on pastoral effectiveness and enlivening.  

 An alternative to combining parishes is available where Church law allows for the pastoral care of parishes to be entrusted to lay people, with a priest appointed to provide general supervision (canon 517/2), usually from another parish. We already experience the insufficiency of suitable priests, which is what justifies recourse to this canon. Of course, where this happens, priests are still required for sacramental ministry. It is possible that some priests might even prefer that kind of role, leaving management of the parish to a team of qualified lay women and men. Lay leadership of parishes requires proper formation – of parish and leaders – and proper remuneration.  

 Yet another starting point for renewal can be found in the experience of small base communities pioneered by the Church in some countries in South America and Asia. Of course, we cannot simply transfer other local churches’ experience to our situation. But we, too, can establish smaller communities within parishes, where leadership can be shared by teams and on a voluntary basis.  

 Such gatherings would be lay-led, and need no official authorisation. They can happen already, and develop in home-spun ways. 

 The Christian Base Communities in South American countries grew out of lay people coming together to pray and reflect on the Scriptures and on their life situations, using the Catholic Action principle: “see, judge, act”.  Their aim was a more just society and more truly human life for everyone – “the route the Church must take”. If this were happening in our own country, we could ask the kind of questions they asked: what are the causes of poverty in our country, and what can we do about those causes? Indeed, this is an appropriate level at which to analyse whatever flaws in our culture leave us less able to deal with the epic issues of our time – those that degrade human life, human dignity, human rights, and the planet itself. 

 Addressing those issues – through the lenses of divine revelation – is itself a way of participating in the mission of the Church. It is a good place to start because it is already do-able; it can be inclusive of those who feel unable to participate in other aspects of the Church’s life; it does not need clerical leadership or control, but makes room for ordained priesthood to present itself as a supporting ministry; it can model shared leadership, and lead to whatever forms of ministry might need to come next.   

 It is also a way of being Church that is “synodal”, (being “on the road together”).  The larger gatherings that we call “synods” presuppose the experience of walking and working together before we are ready for the decisions we gather to make at synods. It also gives scope and opportunity for the participation of many who will not be at the synods. 

Part V    What More?  

 Pope Francis has rightly said: “The Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures all need to be channelled for what best serves the Church’s mission of evangelising the world”; (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, 27).  

To act on that would make big differences. Yet, even these changes are “small change” compared with where the Church has already been, and can yet go. Bigger changes rightly need wider consultation. And synodality is pointless if it isn’t about the road ahead and exploring what might yet be. 

Ministry that is authorised to speak and act in Christ’s name has its origin in Christ’s historical intentions. But its structure and concrete forms were determined by the Church during the apostolic period and after, continuing until late in the second century. What the Church gave shape to after the apostolic period, it can give different shape to now. Being faithful to the Tradition involves more than just receiving what the early Church did; it involves doing what the early Church did: it shaped its ministries to meet the needs of its mission.  

So long as the fullness of ordained responsibility remains intact – as in the college of bishops with and under the bishop of Rome – lesser participations in ordained ministry can be redistributed. The “powers” presently distributed within the three ministries of bishop, presbyter and deacon would live on, but enshrined within a wider variety of ordained ministries. This would open up significant new pastoral opportunities, and incorporate a wider range of charisms into ordained ministry. 

Whatever about that, 50 years ago, the International Theological Commission said  “It is urgent to create much more diversified structures of the Church’s pastoral action as regards both its ministries and its members, if the Church is to be faithful to its missionary and apostolic vocation.”  (The Priestly Ministry, pp 99,100). 

SOURCE AND PHOTO

Bishop Peter Cullinane, Mission, Ministries and co-responsibility (NZ Catholic)

Bishop Peter Cullinane, Mission, ministries and co-responsibility (part two) (NZ Catholic)

The worker mission

Fr Jim Monaghan, parish priest of Port Augusta parish and vicar-general of Port Pirie Diocese as well as a longtime YCW and YCS chaplain, has kindly shared his intervention at the Australian Plenary Council with us.

Through working life, human beings cooperate with their Creator. Yet the reality for so many workers is a total contradiction of this sacred relationship.

Work should give life, friendship, skills, and spiritual fulfilment, and put food on the family table. But the workplace is becoming the province of idols. Money, competition, exploitation, and shameful indignities. The lowest paid workers saved us during C-19, but their conditions remain shabby and inadequate. The wealth of the few contradicts the common good. Some union leaders have been seduced by greed and ambition.

The organisation of work has become an obstacle to the life of faith. 12 hour shifts, 7 day rosters, FIFO jobs have eliminated weekends and affected the cohesion of families. How many fathers are now visitors among their own children? Where does the Lord’s Day fit? The loneliness and stress of work – a breeding ground for addictions.

Working people need missionary leaders from among themselves, to redeem the world of work. What do priests and bishops know of the workings of work? The answer is – nothing. We need men and women inspired by Mary the young worker and Joseph, who know the smell of the sheep. Workers can rediscover their eternal dignity as the daughters and sons of God.

The Review of Life Method of See, Judge and Act, originally formulated by Cardinal Joseph Cardijn and refined through the lives of countless worker leaders, forms leaders for the mission among the workers and their families.

Archbishop Fisher challenged us to Wake Up! Our Church has been asleep, in regard to the world of work. The devil has crept in under the cover of darkness. We need to form leaders with the heart and mind of Jesus so workers can be the Light of the

World.

Fr Jim Monaghan

PHOTOS

Richard Nyberg, USAID / Pixnio

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