Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
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Diocesan Pastoral Council meeting begins preparations for diocesan convocation in 2005
the Inland Register
(From the Oct. 2, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)
Tentative steps toward a diocesan convocation for 2005 were taken last month when the Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) met Sept. 12-13 at Immaculate Heart Retreat Center.
The DPC is a body of consultation consisting of a broad cross-section which strives to be representative of Catholics in Eastern Washington. The group meets four times each year with meetings focused on a general topic.
The DPC members met to begin identifying and discussing areas in which the Church in Eastern Washington needs to grow so as to reflect more completely the prayer of Christ: “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17:20).
As part of their preparation process, the DPC membership reflected on “Spirituality of Communion,” with the impact of that spirituality on families, parishes, and the diocese as a whole.
Members gathered in smaller groups to gather and share ideas about the topic. Most DPC members are laity; many of the reflections offered to Bishop Skylstad reflected members’ concern over family life.
In particular, members pointed out that visions of family life must be realistic, based on family life as it is lived in the present – a complex reality that frequently differs dramatically from an idealized sense of “what once was.”
Besides various society pressures on family life and structure, geography plays a part: family life in rural areas differs markedly from family life in urban settings.
In whatever aspect, for communion to develop, there must be dialog, said DPC members. Intrinsic to that dialog is the ability to listen: to listen to God, to listen to one another. Listening is crucial to dialog in families as well as in Church. That listening must take place between parishioners, but also between laity and clergy, parishioners and pastoral leadership.
Obstructing authentic dialog are such factors as fear and the “poison” of resentment over past injuries. Dialog can lead to reconciliation and the positive growth which results from that process.
Humility was identified as a positive factor for – even the beginning of – authentic dialog. That humility begins with a relationship with God.
One effort identified nationally was the Common Ground Initiative. Small groups could utilize the principles of Common Ground and make reports at the convocation in 2005.
Further reflection was provided by a letter written by Msgr. Philip Murnion. Msgr. Murnion wrote his letter to the bishops of the United States just before his death earlier this year (“Msgr. Murnion, founder of National Pastoral Life Center, dead at age 65,” IR 9/11/03).
In that letter, Msgr. Murnion pleaded for a “Spirituality of Communion” in the Catholic Church.
He wrote, “It is tempting in such difficult times of anger and even attack to throw up the bastions and to retreat to the company of those deemed supportive or, at least, nonthreatening. May I suggest, instead, that it is rather time for bold initiatives. I do not presume to know all the dimensions of such undertakings. But of this I am convinced: They must emerge from the deepest discernment of God’s will and the widest consultation of God’s people….”
“(C)onsultation, listening and dialogue only enhance true authority because they issue from a lived trust and they serve to increase trust. It is imperative that we work together to restore the trust that has been eroded. If I were to sum up my final plea to you, it would be: ‘Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue!’”
DPC members shared numerous observations, particularly in regard to the “Spirituality of Communion” and family life.
Faith life, after all, begins at home. After recognition of the reality of family dynamics in 2003, there must be welcoming, joyous parish communities where families can participate and live their Faith. Where do practical reality and optimistic ideal meet? How do families reach out to evangelize the surrounding secular culture?
The larger parish community also has its struggles, particularly in regard to leadership and participation. If reconciliation is seen as a key to building community, the loss of communal penance services is harmful. More education about the sacrament might help enhance its positive experience.
The dynamics of family life and parish life are complex – and in all likelihood, always have been. There is a temptation to romanticize community and ignore its more problematic aspects. Smaller parishes can still feel like family; larger parishes can still feel impersonal. No matter the setting, relationship is vital.
Relationships, large and small, family and parish, person-to-person, are still surrounded by imperfection. While recognizing this fact, we also must learn to recognize the good news that surrounds that imperfection.
And patience is still virtue.