As the controversy over President Barack Obama administration's January directive to religious institutions to pay…
Where we are, and where we’re going
With so much going on, it is almost necessary to stop and take stock of where we are to determine where we should be going. That’s what a panel of influential Catholics did as part of a recent webcast, “Navigating the New Catholic Landscape,” hosted by OSV’s Dr. Joseph White.
The all-star panel, which featured Gloria Purvis, Dr. Hosffman Ospino, Dr. Jem Sullivan, Marcel LeJeune and Sister Josephine Garrett, was refreshing in its openness and honesty about where the Church is and the work it will take to overcome current challenges.
“We’re struggling, this is obvious,” said Sister Josephine. And no wonder, as Catholics in this country are facing a pandemic, navigating political conflict, dealing with a major national reckoning on race — all against the backdrop of polarization, disaffiliation, scandal and abuse. All of that doesn’t take into account, either, the toll that all of these issues are taking on mental health. Sister Josephine, who is a sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth and a licensed counselor, urged the Church to identify “meaningful ways to connect” with one another amid isolation and division and to “look for solutions that have a depth that match our dignity and our likeness.” She also recommended a simple question as we attempt to navigate conflict: “Am I doing that in a kingdom-building way or a kingdom-destructive way?”
Most of all, she said, we need the Gospel of Jesus Christ to get through whatever challenges we face. This refrain was echoed over and over again by panelists, who underscored that the most effective way to navigate our current landscape and reignite the Faith is to first recommit ourselves to the Gospel. “It starts with sanctity,” said LeJeune, president and founder of Catholic Missionary Disciples. “It starts with saying ‘yes’ to Jesus Christ.” This is especially true when it comes to those in positions of leadership, he said, asking the honest question: “Can we live this life in an authentic way?”
Sullivan, a professor of catechetics at The Catholic University of America, said that while there’s no “playbook” for how to navigate this perfect storm, it begs a “return to the basics, the core of the Gospel, to the one source who stands at the center of why the Church exists, why we are in ministry, and why we persevere in the Christian way of life — and that is the person of Jesus Christ.”
She advocated, too, for more effective building up of community in parishes — and not just to ensure a healthy Sunday collection. The question is: “How can our ministry and our parishes invite people to return to a relationship, to a community, to friendship with God within the web of relationships … that is the Church?”
This community — this bond of the human family — is essential when it comes to addressing issues of race, as Purvis stressed. “We are a human family,” she said. “We have a common bond of our humanity, and that’s how God made us and intended us to be. Anything that tears at those bonds, we need to look at it and try to resolve it.” Those conversations, she said, will take introspection, honest dialogue and even spiritual combat. “You want to go in saying, ‘I want to be converted. I want to repent of any sinfulness in my life that I discover or that I am holding on to.”
Ospino agreed, calling for a “new honesty” at this challenging time. We should “spend as much as we can of our lives recognizing our pathologies and our biases,” he said. “In Christian terms, that means embracing the way of love, the way of fraternity.”
I am grateful for the insights and wisdom of these panelists, and their words will be the source of much reflection in coming weeks and months.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editorial director for periodicals at OSV. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.