Tips for Local Dialogue Organizers
A Word About Dialogue: Remember, to dialogue means that both parties
are willing to be open to the truth being expressed or believed
by the other. This doesn't mean walking away from your own truth
but to try to really hear the issue from other person's perspective.
Believe that they re well intentioned and honestly searching for
truth. To quote Bishop Frank Murphy: "[dialogue] is a method
toward the pursuit of truth. It entails the asceticism of deep listening,
of openness and fresh-heartedness... if we are truly in dialogue,
we have to be willing to accept, a times, a both/and answer, not
just an either/or one." (FutureChurch address 10/29/95)
Gather People Together
Discuss your diocese's priest-shortage projections with friends and concerned Catholic people. Don't be discouraged if you have only a few people to start. A small number of people who are willing to work consistently can work wonders!
Analyze your diocese/locale
Identify the progressive people, parish councils or groups in your area and approach them first about working with the issue. If you area doesn't have parish councils, or if they seem unapproachable, consider asking local Catholic groups (prayer circles, small faith communities, Sierra club, etc.) to study the issue and take action (resolution, delegation to your bishop, petitions, etc.).
Ask parishes and diocesan groups to
study the issues and take a stand
1. Approach a parish leader, parish council member, and/or the pastoral leadership (hopefully people you know and who know you). Show them copies of The Priest Shortage at a Glance brochure and an examples of how one faith community responded - the resolution passed by Cleveland's Resurrection Parish (enclosed in this packet). Ask them to study the issue and consider how to respond. Even if the group doesn't pass a resolution, it's important that everyone be educated about the issue and make their concerns known to the appropriate leaders.
2. Once the progressive parishes or
groups have been approached, and hopefully acted, allow them (with
your help and support) to "carry the ball" for other parishes
or groups in the area. Resurrection Parish in Cleveland sent letters
to all the parishes in the diocese asking them to study the issue
and pass their own resolution. In Cleveland there are now 28 parish
councils who have passed a resolution.
Visit Your Bishop and Auxiliary Bishops
1. Gather a group of lay and pastoral leaders and ask for an appointment to dialogue with your local bishop. Inquire about how people's need for Eucharist will be met when there are so few priests. Discuss why you believe we should open ordination to the married and to women. Remember that you have a canonical right (even obligation!) to make your views known (see enclosure: Sensus Fidelium).
2. Encourage other individuals and groups to go in delegations to see your local Bishop(s).
(Note: If you believe the present climate on women's ordination will keep you from getting to first base with your ecclesial leadership, see footnote A).
Educate the Catholic Community at
Write letters to the editor, and/or op ed pieces for your local papers (diocesan and secular). You may also consider appearing on local talk radio and TV. In many areas, just to let people know that the shortage exists and is worsening, will be a great service! Local petitions are also a great way to develop your mailing list as well as make a statement.
Sponsor Public Forums and/or Speakers
If possible, it is best to delay having a public event/speaker/program until you have already developed an area-wide network of support. Once you are established, sponsor public presentations featuring speakers from nearby Catholic colleges and universities, as well as nationally known speakers. Topics might include: Eucharist, history of celibacy, the case for women's equality in ministry and Church decision-making, conscience formation, Sensus Fidelium etc. FutureChurch and Call to Action can provide some suggestions about speakers.
Form Your Own Local Church Reform
If you decide to form a local group, you may or may not want to include "Call to Action" or "FutureChurch" in your name, though there are advantages to linking with larger organizations. The important issue to us is that the average "pew Catholic" is informed about the dramatic changes that will be occurring over the next ten years, so that many people as possible will be in a position to participate in the decisions that affect them directly. Feel free to name yourselves... it's your group and your Church!
Let Us Know
Let the Call to Action / FutureChurch National Dialogue Project know what develops. Contact project director Christine Schenk at 15800 Montrose Ave., Cleveland OH 44111 (216/228-0869) e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. We will include news of your area in our publications and provide consultation on an as-needed basis. For additional copies of the Call for national Dialogue Resource packet, contact FutureChurch 15800 Montrose Avenue Cleveland, Ohio 44111.
Footnote A: Consider using the approach of the late Bishop Michael H. Kenny. Writing in America on July 30, 1994, Bishop Kenny Said: "If, in fact, women can never be ordained and the subject itself is no longer open to review, should the church continue limiting all final and ultimate authority to the ordained and therefore to males only? How can the church present itself to the world as the most just of all societies when its major decisions will continue to rest with men alone? Decisions about married life, social justice, religious life... and, yes, ordination."
You may also wish to follow the examples of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious who represent over 90% of the nuns. In November 1995 they stated, "Since the church now states the the question of ordination of women has been 'definitively' answered, perhaps we need to ask: How can the church more fully share its decision-making power with non-ordained members? It is the experience of women religious, who have labored long and faithfully in this church, that ultimate authority is tied to ordination. Paradoxically, numerous Vatican documents and statements affirm equality of human persons. In order to live up to this value, we call the church at every level, universal, national and local to explore and open avenues of significant participation for women." (1/28/95)