Members and friends of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform’s work/study groups are invited to the second joint meeting of these groups at Elsie’s Restaurant (729 Marshall St. NE. Minneapolis) on Wednesday, October 7, 2009 (7:00 - 9:00 p.m.).
Since April 18 of this year, Catholics of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis have been gathering in work/study groups so as to grow in knowledge about topics that are of concern to them — Catholic identity, Catholic spirituality, social justice, human sexuality, clericalism/mandatory celibacy, bishop selection, faith formation of children, authority and governance, ecclesiology, communication among polarized people, and patriarchy. In a September 7 letter to Archbishop John C. Nienstedt, the three co-chairs of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) - Paula Ruddy, Bernie Rodel, and Michael Bayly - said that the purpose of the work/study groups is for Catholics to deepen their faith and spirituality as well as their knowledge.
“We’re very much aware of the great numbers of people who are abandoning the Catholic faith,” the co-chairs wrote. “Many of these people have abandoned the Church because of matters of conscience. This situation is of serious concern for many of us.”
The three co-chairs note that the Catholic laity and clergy who comprise CCCR are people who are intensely aware of the problems of conscience in the life of the Church that the work/study groups have identified and are facilitating dialogue around. “That is why we want to work together –including with our church leaders – in analyzing the problems and instituting practices that will alleviate them,” they wrote in their letter to Archbishop Nienstedt. “We consider the problems to be both structural and cultural. The discussion has to go deeper than a focus on single issues.”
The CCCR co-chairs are well aware that there are some who dismiss and malign as anti-life, anti-family, and anti-authority anyone who seeks reform within the church. This is unfortunate, they believe, as they “do not want to contribute to the angry polarization in the Church that mirrors the political ‘culture wars’ in our country.”
To this end, the leadership of the CCCR has been attempting to engage local church leadership in dialogue. So far their efforts - including the co-chairs’ September 7 letter to Archbishop Nienstedt - have been unsuccessful. Undeterred, the group continues in its own discussions and planning. The bulk of this activity occurs within what the Coalition has termed “work/study groups.” Currently there are ten such groups meeting regularly across the Twin Cities. Each group is focused on a specific topic, and approximately 75 people are involved in one or more groups.
“We started with topics as people wanted to address them,” note the co-chairs. “We hope to give some shape and order to the process and develop a program for the conference we are planning in September 2010. We’re calling the conference a Synod of the Baptized and entitling this one ‘Claiming Our Place at the Table.’ From this conference, we hope to spread the discussion of our problems of conscience and some suggestions for practices that will bring about cultural change throughout the archdiocese. We believe that this discussion is for the good of the local church.”
The members of CCCR’s ten work/study groups met jointly for the first time in July. The October 7 joint gathering will feature a presentation by Dr Glenda Eoyang and Dr. Lois Yellowthunder. This presentation will focus on facilitating organizational change, and will be based on Eoyang and Yellowthunder’s ideas and insights on complexity theory and applied to the organization of our own archdiocese. Their presentation aims to assist participates in 1) understanding the church as a “self-organizing system;” 2) recognizing the creative options for action within this system; 3) becoming familiar with language that empowers; 4) identifying rules for effective action; and 5) acknowledging the hopes, dreams, and expectations that continue to move forward the work of CCCR and the work/study groups in particular.
For more information about October 7’s second joint meeting of CCCR’s work/study groups, call Paula Ruddy at 612-379-1043.