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Looking for God II: Catholics Who Leave and Why PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 30 June 2009 06:19
Here's a really interesting side aspect to the newest Pew findings that I didn't blog in the last post for lack of time:

Catholics who become Protestant and those who become "unaffiliated" do so for very different reasons. Which means we can't deal with them as though they were a single group with a single motivation. And they leave Catholicism for one set of reasons and chose to enter their new "religious affiliation" for a related but different set of reasons. (Pew asked both why they left and why they eventually chose the religion they chose.)

To repeat a couple of relevant points from the earlier post, two thirds of American Catholics who do become Protestant, become evangelicals. The majority of those who do become Protestant don't simply leap directly and firmly from the Catholic Church into their local mega non-denom or Presbyterian church. There tends to be a time lag between leaving Catholicism and entering Protestantism and the majority make the journey in a series of two or more steps.

And, of course, some former Catholics will come back. But we don't know how many or why. (The 9% figure for reversion in the post below was for all Americans who have left all religious affiliations and then returned, including the "affiliation" of having been raised "nothing". Some people leave "nothing", choose a faith, and then return to "nothing" at some point.) There is no way to know if 9% of Catholics who leave will come back, if the percentage of Catholic returnees is larger or smaller than the national average, nor do we know the primary reasons why former Catholics choose to return.)

What motivates Catholics who leave and eventually enter a Protestant body?

(For the figures below, Pew asked "yes-no" questions and individuals could choose multiple reasons - as many as had been true for him or her). Here were the most important reasons

raised RC, become Protestant

71%: Spiritual needs weren't met
70%: Found a religion they liked more
43% Unhappy with Church teaching regarding Bible
32$ Dissatisfied with worship experience
29% Married someone of different faith
27% Unhappy w clergy sex scandal

The positive reasons why these former Catholics chose to affiliate with a particular Protestant group or congregation?

81% Enjoyed religious services/style of worship
62% Felt called by God
30% Attracted by specific minister or pastor
28% Married someone of new religion
19% Moved to a new place

It is putting the two together that suggests a pattern.

1) for those who become Protestant, there seems to be some sense of personal spiritual investment and search ("spiritual needs weren't met") and of a personal connection with God ( 61% "felt called by God") . People who don't experience some kind of personal connection to God are unlikely to say that they "felt called by God" to do something.

This is especially striking when we remember that the Pew Religious Landscape Survey of 2008 found that huge numbers of Americans believe in an impersonal God. 29% of self-identified, affiliated Catholics told the Pew researchers that they believed in an "impersonal" God. Only 48% of US Catholics are certain that one can have a personal relationship with God

It is possible, of course, that for some, the language of "God called me" is a reinterpretation of their Catholic past in light of their largely evangelical present. But nevertheless, it is very different language from that used by Catholics who became "unaffiliated" (as we'll see in a moment).

2) Catholics who become Protestant do so because they found a religious alternative that they "liked more" or so 70% of those surveyed told the Pew people. This is a staggeringly different response from that Catholics who become "unaffiliated". Only 10% of Catholics who abandon all religious affiliation said they "found a religion they liked more". For Catholic who become unaffiliated, it is much more about rejection of Catholic beliefs than an inherent attraction to being unconnected to a religious community.

The strongest positive number is the 81% of former Catholics who said they joined their present Protestant church because they enjoyed "the religious services/style of worship". 32% told the Pew researchers that among the reasons they left was the fact that they were "dissatisfied with atmosphere of worship services." (We don't know exactly what they did not like about their experience of Mass and what they like about the services they now attend. It doesn't not help understand their motivations - which is the point of this exercise - to simply project our current concerns and disputes about the liturgy on them.)

Catholics who become Protestant seem to be motivated by a combination of personal spiritual dissatisfaction and having found a religious alternate that they like better. Especially having found a kind of religious service they really like.

Catholics who abandon religious affiliation altogether are another kettle of fish. Here are their numbers:

Why did you leave?

71% Just gradually drifted away
65% Do not believe teachings
56% Unhappy with teachings on Abortion/homosexuality
48% Unhappy with teachings on Birth control
33% Unhappy with teachings on Divorce/Remarriage
27% Clergy sexual abuse scandal
24% Unhappy priests cannot marry

Why did you choose to be "unaffiliated"?

42% Do not believe in God/most religious teachings
33% Not found the right religion

As the Pew people noted, Catholics who leave for "nothing" are much more motivated by a long list of Church teachings which they do not believe. But the most important reason is "drift". They just don't seem to care as much or be as invested in faith issues altogether as their fellow Catholics who left to become Protestant.

Notice however, that 33% are still open to the possibility of finding "the right religion".

There's a lot more on this critical topic in the Pew survey but I must push off and do some errands. In the meantime, check out Pew's nifty summary of their findings here.

Your thoughts?
Looking for God PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 29 June 2009 23:06
Welcome Whispers readers. I'm delighted that the good news about Atlanta is getting out!

As I've been doing last minute preparation for our upcoming Making Disciples seminar here in beautiful Colorado Springs, I've been crunching the numbers of the new Pew study: Faith in Flux which came out in May.
The results have been fascinating and encouraging. If we have a mission rather than maintenance mindset.

The long and short of it is that huge numbers of Americans, perhaps 20 - 25% of the adult population, are in a state of conscious or unconscious spiritual transition and openness. They are spiritual seekers now or will be in the near future.

The downside: relying almost entirely upon the religious identity established by childhood catechesis doesn't work when the prevailing cultural winds are driving those raised in any kind of faith at all - or no faith - to re-evaluate their religious commitments during young adulthood. We live in a spiritual culture that rewards those who actively evangelize and penalizes those who assume that religious identity is steady state and that childhood enculturation is enough.

I need to make it clear that the criteria for the Pew study is not practice or sacramental status or whether or not one is formally listed as a member of the religious congregation - but how those answering regard themselves. When a person is considered "unaffiliated" in the Pew studies, it means that they no longer regard themselves as part of any organized religious body.

The basics:

1) 10.1% of American adults are former Catholics. 2.6% of Americans are "converts" to Catholicism. Nearly four times as many leave the Church as enter it.

2) 32% of those raised Catholic no longer regard themselves as Catholic. (Remember this is not about how many are baptized or attend Mass but how many regard themselves as Catholic).

3) The vast majority of Catholics who leave the faith do one of two things: become Protestant or "unaffiliated."
15% of cradle Catholics have become Protestant. Two thirds of those who become Protestant become evangelicals. 3% of cradle Catholics join a non- Christian faith. 14% of cradle Catholics become "unaffiliated".

4) The 2008 US Religious Landscape Survey probably under-estimated the amount and frequency of religious change among American adults. They had given a figure of 44% of US adults who were no longer part of the faith in which they were raised. For Faith in Flux, the Pew researchers recontacted many of the people they had interviewed originally to find out more about this remarkable pattern of religious change.

As a result, they realized that about 9% of American adults have left the faith of their childhood and then returned to it at some point. That means that approximately 53% of American adults have changed their religious affiliation at least once. Even when taking the margin of error into account, "as few as 47% and as many as 59% of U.S. adults have changed religious affiliation at least once." (Faith in Flux)

5) Many Americans change faith more than once. In fact, the majority of people who change their faith do so in a series of steps, not through a single decision. They are on a journey.

For instance, 62% of cradle Catholics wno now consider themselves "unaffiliated" have made two or more religious changes. 26% have changed religions three or more times.

54% of former Catholics who are now Protestants have changed religion two or more times. 21% have changed faiths three or more times.

And 53% of those who were raised in no faith at all but have chosen one as an adult have also changed religious affiliation two or more times. 21% of what might be called cradle "unaffiliated" have also changed religions three or more times.

6) Religious change begins early. 79% of those cradle Catholics who now consider themselves "unaffiliated" left the Church by age 23. 97% have done so by age 35. However, things are a bit different for Catholics who become Protestant. The majority also leave early although not in the same numbers (66% of Catholics who will eventually become Protestant leave by age 23).

But there is a fascinating gap between the time many Catholics leave the Church and the time they actually become Protestant. While 66% have left the Church by age 23, only 39% have become Protestant by age 23. 41% have converted to Protestantism by age 35. Another 20% do so after age 35.

7) There is a very large population of what can be called "hidden seekers", people on a spiritual journey who make life-changing transitions that fly under our normal ecclesial radar. This would include:

a. The majority of Americans raised without any faith at all will choose a faith as an adult. Cradle "unaffiliated" Americans who choose a religion as an adult make up 4% of our total population.

b. One third of those who have left a childhood faith are, in fact, open to joining another faith. They told Pew researchers that “they have not found the right religion yet.” This group would include 17.66% of American adults.

c) 71% of Catholics who leave and eventually become Protestant said they left because their spiritual needs weren't being met. During the gap between the time they leave and the time they commit to a Protestant faith, many are searching and spiritually open.

d) The Pew Faith in Flux study found that most people who are about to leave their childhood faith do not have a strong faith for one or two years before they actually leave. As Fr. Mike pointed out to me, that means that there is a host of vaguely dissatisfied Catholics and other religiously affiliated people who have not yet left the faith of their childhood but are ripe for evangelization. If we evangelize those still in the pews how, many of them will not became a statistic.

The upshot? Millions and millions of Americans are open to spiritual change right now. And million more will become so during the next year. Consciously or unconsciously, they are looking for good news. They are looking for God.
Comrades Stumbling Along PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 25 June 2009 07:16

Bobby Vidal, our team leader in LA, sent me a notice about a new book coming out about the friendship between Dorothy Day and Catherine Doherty: Comrades Stumbling Along: The Friendship of Catherine de Hueck Doherty and Dorothy Day as Revealed Through Their Letters

What a perfect title. Comrades Stumbling Along. Bobby knows that I'm a huge fan of both women, pioneers and giants of the lay apostolate in the 20th century. I tell Dorothy & Catherine stories at every Called & Gifted I teach.

Americans tend to be much more familiar with Dorothy Day. Catherine and her husband Eddie, founded Madonna House as part of what was then known as "Catholic Action" in 1947. Here's a brief history of Catherine's ministry and Madonna House.

Although Catherine Doherty was very active in New York in the 40's, she was a Russian émigré and Canadian citizen, and is much better known up north. In the US, I have resorted to calling her "the Dorothy Day of Canada" to get the point across quickly. (Please gentle Canadian readers, it was a strategy of last resort. Her story is so rich and fascinating, you can't do it justice in a few minutes and that's all I have to work with most of the time. If you feel like throwing things at me, please throw money. The Institute could always use the help.)

Catherine had more lives than a cat. She nearly died in the Russian revolution before escaping to a new life of grueling poverty in Canada, survived a horrific and abusive first marriage, was a witness to the horrors of the Spanish civil war and was in Warsaw when the Nazis marched in. She was raised Russian Orthodox, became Catholic as a young woman, and spent much of her life fostering relationships between western and eastern Christianity.

Catherine was a fearless pioneer of racial justice in Harlem in the 1940's. (A telling story: in the 40's a white Catholic group in Georgia rose up, beat Catherine, and tore her clothing to shreds after one of her presentations on racial justice. She was rescued by the black janitor.) She was a mystic, a big woman with a big personality and evoked very strong reactions - positive and negative in other people. Both she and Dorothy, although completely orthodox and faithful, were so far out on the left hand edge of the Catholic world before the Second Vatican Council, that you could barely see them.

Although they were profoundly different in personality, Catherine and Dorothy Day were friends and comrades and especially close during the 1940's when their respective apostolates were only 5 miles apart in New York City. As Catherine put it later:

"When I moved to Harlem, Dorothy Day and I became even closer. There were only about five miles between her house and my Harlem house. So occasionally when we both had enough money, let’s say about a dollar, we would go to Child’s where you could get three coffee refills (for the price of one cup), and we used to enjoy each cup and just talk.

Talk about God. Talk about the apostolate. Talk about all the things that were dear to our hearts.

"But we were both very lonely because, believe it or not, there were just the two of us in all of Canada and America, and we did feel lonely and no question about it.

"Periodically we would have a good cry in our coffee cups. We really cried, I mean honest, big tears. We would sit there, and the waitress would look at us. Dorothy and I would hold hands, and we would cry. We had had it! But we would always rally. And I think rallying is a sign of perseverance."
- (Restoration, February 1981)

Last weekend in Kansas City, Matt Karr, who is responsible for evangelization and catechesis in the Archdiocese, made an important observation. He said that our failure to evangelize our own and to foster true Christian community - a community centered around the following of Christ - are Catholicism's two biggest pastoral gaps. I think Matt hit the nail on the head and the story of Day and Doherty illustrates the power of discipleship to transcend the natural basis for friendship.

As Fr. Bob Wild of Madonna House (author and editor of Comrades Stumbling Along) described the relationship of Dorothy Day and Catherine Doherty:

Dorothy Day titled her autobiography The Long Loneliness, and at the heart of Catherine’s spirituality was her desire to assuage the loneliness of Christ. I think one of their strong bonds was their loneliness, caused by their being pioneers in an area of Catholic life that was little understood or appreciated, even in the Church.

They met in the loneliness of Christ.


As I (Fr. Wild) delve more deeply into their relationship, it strikes me that if Catherine and Dorothy hadn’t been so united in Christ in the lay apostolate and in zeal for the kingdom of God, most probably their differences of character and approach to life would not have drawn them together in any kind of friendship.

Their friendship is a profound example of how Christ can draw and bind together people of very diverse temperaments and backgrounds, and unite them by the power of his Holy Spirit.

In one undated letter Dorothy wrote to Catherine, "It is good to urge each other on to virtue, but remember, we are comrades stumbling along, not saints drifting along in ecstasies."

Hot Spots PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 24 June 2009 07:44
Enough butter cup twirling already . . . (Mark Shea has accused me on more than one occasion of being a classic English romantic.)

I was meditating during my most recent trip on the various Catholic "hot spots" that I have become aware of around the country over the years. We have worked in 40% of US dioceses now and there are great things happening all over the country. But some areas seemed to have developed a cluster of initiatives that are working synergistically together to transform the general spiritual atmosphere of the place.

One of the healthiest dioceses I've ever worked in where the diocesan staff are openly disciples (yes, I am implying that this is not always the case.). Orthodox, wonderfully creative and not driven by fear. This may be one consequence of living in the Bible belt where it is normal for Christian faith to manifest in public and where Catholics don't feel as besieged by the culture. The renewal in Atlanta started about 15 years ago and one of the major catalysts seems to have been Eucharistic Adoration.

Update: Here's something I wrote in 2003 on Mark's blog when I was fresh from working in Atlanta:

"I just returned from 10 days in Atlanta and want to spread the good news. Of the 51 dioceses that I have worked in so far, Atlanta has to be the healthiest. A spiritual renewal has transformed the dioceses over the past 10 years but it has yet to attract national attention. Archbishop Donoghue, who is, I was told, very low key, has been effectively re-shaping the diocese with the collaboration of some high-powered clergy and laity without any of the public outcry and fireworks that we have to come to expect. Episcopal leadership, it seems, doesn't have to be in your face like Bruskewitz or as high profile as Chaput to be effective.

The Archbishop's first move was to establish Perpetual Adoration in the cathedral which has spread to 8 or 9 other parishes while Adoration on a more limited scale is now held in over 40 other parishes. An annual Eucharistic congress was begun on the Feast of Corpus Christi which attracted 20,000 Catholics last year and filled the Convention Center. I understand that they have invited Cardinal Ratzinger to speak at the next Congress. Religious orders who refused to teach with the Church have been removed from the diocese without any fanfare. Pastors who resisted were quietly exiled to small rural parishes or sent away to study for a very long time.

Atlanta has 48 major and minor seminarians and a large and very active Serra Club. The pastors I met are both orthodox and pastorally effective. (Archbishop Timothy Dolan was leading a priests retreat for the diocese while I was there, so priests were scarce.) The lay movements such as Regnum Christi and the charismatic renewal are very active. Parishes are huge and full of life. Local Catholics would enthusiastically recommend 3 or 4 dynamic local parishes in the same breath - something that I have never encountered before in any diocese. They aren't traditionalists - I didn't encounter any complaints about the liturgy or significant hankering for the Latin liturgy although some Latin was incorporated into the liturgy in simple, unostentatious ways. They are just reverent, whole-hearted, Novus Ordo-JPII Catholics.

The lay staff that I got to know at both the parish and diocesan level were most impressive. They are orthodox, smart, high-powered, and well-formed. They love their archbishop, were thrilled about the renewal of the diocese, and have played a major role in fostering that renewal with the support of the archbishop. For instance, there are three full-time lay staff at the cathedral dedicated entirely to adult evangelization and formation - a first in my experience! This team knows their stuff and is both pro-active and creative. One example: They refused to do Renew or Alpha because of legitimate concerns over content but have created and are currently piloting an alternate, fully Catholic Alpha-style outreach to the unchurched. For all the leaders I met, Jesus Christ is the center.

If you visit Atlanta with visions of Scarlett O'Hara and the ante-bellum South in your head, forget it. Atlanta is swarming with transplants from the northeast (I only met one native-born Georgian while I was there)who talk like they are from New Jersey and drive like bats out of hell and Sherman eliminated most of the plantations. But if you'd like to see what authentic Catholic renewal looks like at the parish and diocesan level, make a pilgrimage to northern Georgia. The South is rising again!"

Detroit/Ann Arbor area:
While the city of Detroit is practically a third world city, southern Michigan is humming with serious, creative Catholics. The starting point here seems to have been the enormous charismatic covenant communities that began in the late 60's. Despite a well publicized break-up in the 80's, many former members of the communities still live in the area. Ave Maria radio, Renewal Ministries, Domino's Pizza, and Sacred Heart seminary are among the premier Catholic Institutions in the area. To give you an idea, one local Ann Arbor parish I visited has two houses of vocational discernment (one for men, one for women) - and it isn't the Newman center.)

Corpus Christi, Texas:
I've written about CC at glowing length here. Here the renewal began about 8 - 9 years ago with the emergence of a series of gifted evangelizers who have been given support and the freedom to be creative by their bishop. Several of the approaches that have had a huge impact are home-grown. This is a heavily Hispanic city but in a very bi-cultural way since many citizens are 3rd and 4th generation Latin immigrants so the divide between Anglos and Spanish speakers is greatly softened. Charismatically flavored evangelizing processes from Puerto Rico and Mexico are part of the mix.

Boise, Idaho:
Renewal began in Boise about 14 years ago when a particular evangelization process (called "the Evangelization Retreat") reached a couple major parishes in the city from a parish in California. Two years later, one of the parishes, Sacred Heart, came looking for help with discernment as the first question that newly awakened Catholics started to ask was "What does God want of me?" So the Called & Gifted process has played a significant role in Boise.

Denver area:
Here the catalyst was the 1993 World Youth Day. In the years since, Archbishop Chaput has invited a number of lay movements and other leaders to the city which has built upon the foundation laid 16 years previously.

(One of the things that I am just beginning to grasp is just how much of a Christian hot spot the Colorado Front Range area is. It isn't just Colorado Springs but the Denver area and the foothills and eastern side of the mountains are also brimming with fascinating Christian initiatives.

For those interested in some serious number crunching on why Catholics leave in the first place and some fascinating insights into the millions of "hidden" spiritual seekers in America, read Looking for God.

Any other areas in the US or elsewhere that you would consider to be a Catholic "hotspot"?

Morning in the Garden PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 24 June 2009 07:00

Catmint overhanging the wall

The fruit of last year's mega-planting: California Poppies on the left won't open up till the sun hits them.

Blue Columbine - the state flower
What does it take.... PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 23 June 2009 18:33
Written by the other Sherry apply for a passport for a 2-week-old baby? After you have the birth certificate and social security number in hand, that is?

First, you need two 2x2 regulation passport pictures of baby. This takes:

Three trips to the local big-box store:

  1. One to try (and fail) to get a passport photo taken there; sorry, with babies you're better off with a white sheet and a digital camera at home....

  2. [Go home, take at least 50 different pictures, trying to get baby to open eyes, look straight ahead, and keep hands down. Eventually swaddle baby in blanket to keep hands out of picture. THINK you've finally got one that will work....]

  3. One to try getting a regulation 2"x2", white background, eyes open, looking into camera, both ears showing, one inch from chin to top of head, centered print from one of the several candidates you THOUGHT would work but turn out to be too large for the ID-picture-printing software at the photo kiosk to handle....

  4. [Go home again, feed everybody lunch, get the camera out again, take yet more pictures, this time from a few inches farther away. One hand holds camera, other hand tries to hold baby's head straight from behind. Who knew photography and contortionism had so much in common? Take many more pictures. Review them; AHA! This one ought to work!]

  5. One more to print out the one that finally worked - even though a bit of Mom's hand is visible, it passes muster:

Now, fill out the required forms, bring along baby's birth certificate, Mom, Dad, both their drivers' licenses, and baby to the local title office (which doubles as a passport office), sign the form in the presence of the requisite official, write sufficiently large check for expedited processing, get everything sealed into an overnight mail envelope....

Drive to post office, get requisite postage on overnight mail envelope, and entrust it to the postal service, which promises it will be delivered by noon tomorrow....

Now, wait to find out what "expedited processing" really means.

Didn't get much else done today, but at least I finished the one thing I really needed to get done. Thanks be to God for that, and for Grandma and Grandpa who made it possible to make trips 1, 2, and 3!
Telling PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 22 June 2009 19:37
A telling anecdote from last weekend:

One of the attendees - a serious Catholic with a sophisticated knowledge of and devotion to the Church's social teaching - told me of having a passionate young evangelical over to dinner a couple weeks earlier.

This evangelical was leading an intentional Christian community in the city and was intensely interested in Catholic teaching and spiritual practices. He was reading Thomas Aquinas, very knowledgeable about the Church's social teaching, etc.

As the evangelical man told his new-found Catholic friend: "You are the first Catholic I've ever met who actually believes what the Church teaches."

Jury Duty PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 22 June 2009 07:11
I've got jury duty today. Hopefully it will be one day only and I'll be blogging tomorrow.

Was excused and home again. So blogging will begin shortly - after I get the groceries put away.
Sumer is Incumen In PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 21 June 2009 10:57
Home again. On the first day of summer after weeks of rain. Which means the wildflowers are everywhere. Even the wild area of the little park behind our house is full of finds. (click on the pictures to enlarge)

Hiding in a sea of grass whose wonderful tassels blow perpetually

brilliant blue spiderwort is everywhere - one of my favorites

One of the joys of spring round here (and here in the Rockies, June is still spring as far as wildflowers are concerned) - Indian paintbrush

I have never seen so many prickly pear cactus in bloom. Does this mean we will also get real prickly pears?

The beautiful if very poisonous Colorado locoweed

Sunny wild daisies

And when you raise your head, this view of the Garden of the Gods (the red stone ridges) below Pike's Peak. The view of the Peak changes constantly as you move about town but this view from our park gives a very clear sense of how far Pike's Peak towers above our most famous city park.

By the way, the Garden of the Gods is enormous. 15 miles of trails. Those ridges are at least 100 feet high - very impressive when you are standing beside them looming up against the brilliant blue Colorado sky. Climbers repel up and down them. Best climbing rocks in the city.

A reader asked "how high are those mountains? Hmmm - let me do the math. The Garden of the Gods is higher than the city and lower than our house. So that might put it about 6,300 feet high.

While Pike's Peak tops out at 14,110 feet so that would mean that the mountain is 7,800 feet higher than the park below.

Just for fun: a conversation I overheard two weeks ago early Sunday morning in the Garden of the Gods:

Visiting friend" "When you said 'we're to going to a park" I was expecting a swing set, a couple of slides" . . .

Puzzled local: "But this is Colorado . . ."

So how can you help but sing?

A Sketch of the Basic Gospel PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 18 June 2009 09:16
A few weeks ago, I asked readers to give some ideas as to what they thought the fundamental Gospel message was. I received some very thoughtful - and helpful - answers. Here's the outline I've come up with, after reading a variety of sources, most especially the scriptures. One of the surprising things I discovered is that God's love isn't mentioned. Of course, the whole life, death and resurrection of Jesus reveals God's love, but it isn't specifically mentioned in the preaching of the apostles to non-Christians (i.e., Jews and pagans). This surprised me, because while Jews might have presumed God's love for them, the Chosen People, pagans would not have expected God (or the gods) to love them. Far from it! Their sacrifices were often meant to appease gods who were as volatile and unpredictable as their worshippers.

So, without further ado, here's the summary

1. All have sinned ?
2. God sent his Son who assumed our humanity/remains God ?
3. Jesus reveals the Father ?
4. We rejected Him ?
5. Jesus embraced cross in obedience for our salvation ?
6. Jesus’ death = redemption (payment of debt) ?
7. Jesus reconciles us to the Father ?
8. Jesus is raised from the dead by the Father ?
9. Jesus restored to us what was lost / merited a new life for us ?
10. Jesus ascended to the Father and together they sent their Holy Spirit ?
11. Jesus will return again in judgment ?
12. new life may be accessed through faith in Jesus Christ, repentance of sin and Baptism into Christ’s life.

I have to board a plane. I'll try to give some of the scripture references later, as I have opportunities.

Of course, the question remains for us: how do we proclaim this in a way that will be compelling for our wealthy, postmodern American society. It was hard for St. Paul, too. "Since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation (kerygma), to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…" 1 Cor 1:21-23

Not to mention the fact that St. Paul claimed that his preaching was accompanied by obvious manifestations of God's power that probably got the attention of his listeners... "My speech and my proclamation (kerygma) were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God." 1 Cor 2:in 4-5

Where is the power of God displayed in our lives? Certainly through the charisms, but many of these have subtle, not miraculous, compared to the pretty amazing cures that seemed to accompany - or precede the preaching of the apostles.
This Weekend PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 17 June 2009 17:19
Fr. Mike and I are off to Kansas City, KS early tomorrow morning - to offer part two of an experimental version of Making Disciples. Then i get to return home while he journeys on to North Dakota to offer a mission to some of the Sisters of Mary of the Presentation who had him as a student in elementary school.

Local boy makes very good.

(It can be humiliating to work so closely with someone who has always done the right thing. Can the man be human? Someone who is always tidy and presentable, who is genuinely good and funny and bright and athletic and kind and infinitely likable. The kind of child whom teachers remember and think of warmly for decades. The sort that we lesser mortals gaze upon with awe but can't resent because he is just so gosh-darn likable.

As Fr. Benedict Groeschel once observed when Mother Teresa fell asleep during one of his homilies, "it was humiliating alright, but probably not humbling." Alas. So true.)

This weekend, Mark Cesnik of Tucson (Thanks Anna!) who is one of our many great teachers, will be training a group of parishioners in the Memphis area to facilitate the discernment of others.

I'll be back late Saturday night and look forward to more consistent blogging as my schedule is due to slow down!
The Sydney SCENE PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 16 June 2009 10:26
Sydney is preparing to celebrate the one year anniversary of World Youth Day by holding SCENE (Sydney Congress Embracing the New Evangelization) July 19 - 26, 2009.

SCENE is modeled on the International Congresses of the New Evangelisation which have been held in European cities in recent years, Vienna (2003), Paris (2004), Lisbon (2005), Brussels (2006) and Budapest (2007). These were organised by the local Church in collaboration with international communities and speakers.

The international speakers have a definitely American flavor: For instance, The Fransican Friars of the Renewal are bringing the Catholic Underground to Sydney.

It looks like an exciting effort and definitely worth attending if you are going to be in Sydney that week.
Fugitive Safe Surrender PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 16 June 2009 04:45
Last week, 1,281 Fugitives turned themselves into to local law enforcement at a local black church in Harrisburg. And then almost all of them went home. Safe. It was the 14th city since 2005 for a very innovative program: Fugitive Safe Surrender.

Fugitive Safe Surrender is the brainchild of a Christian US Marshal in northern Ohio.

Marshall Peter J. Elliott was brooding over the death of a Cleveland police officer who was killed by a fugitive. He realized that desperate people do desperate things. How could he take the desperation out of facing an outstanding warrant? Then in 2005, an idea occurred to Elliott during a work-out. He'd always felt safe at church (which he attends every week). What if non-violent offenders could surrender in a safe environment - in a church? And Fugitive Safe Surrender was born.

For four days, a local church is turned into a full-fledged court, complete with judges, public defenders, prosecutors and identification equipment such as fingerprinting.

"Most say they turn themselves in because they are tired of running," said Dan Flannery, a criminal justice professor and director of the Institute for the Study and Prevention of Violence at Kent State University. "They're tired of being worried every time a police car pulls up behind them."

Mr. Flannery has been studying Fugitive Safe Surrender and keeping the statistics on the program. Of the people who show up, two-thirds are accompanied by family or a friend, and 85 percent say it's important or very important that they could turn themselves into a church. Mr. Flannery said they are afraid of what would happen if they surrendered at a police station.

When the fugitives reach the door of the church, about 20 percent of them say "I think I'm going to be arrested and go to jail."

In reality, he said, about 6 percent of the fugitives are jailed. The rest are processed, meet with a defense attorney and are seen by a judge. Many receive a new court date.

Many people are in for probation violations, some want to get jobs or go back to school, but they can't because of an outstanding warrant. People who have surrendered ranged in age from 18 to 78, with warrants that are up to a dozen years old. One fascinating stat: 25 % of those who surrender are found to have no current warrants out for their arrest.

When Fugitive Safe Surrender was held in Detroit in July, 2008, 6,500 people surrendered in a city with over 30,000 outstanding warrants.

What a wonderful, creative, compassionate response: As Fr. Michael Sweeney and i emphasized in class, secular competence is essential for the lay Christian who is called to transform the structures of the world. Peter J. Elliott had earned the right, he had the knowledge base, the influence and power to propose something like this and make it fly.

Compassion and Justice. New Lives. No Violence. And the mediating role of the Christian community is not only recognized but central.

Praise God. Thank God for secular apostles like Peter J. Elliott.
Called & Gifted and "The Gap" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 15 June 2009 07:55
Sherry Curp made me aware of something that Rae Stabosz wrote for the Christifedeles listserve after attending the May 29/30 Called & Gifted workshop in Bloomingdale, IL taught by the inspired team of Keith Strohm (newly returned to Chicago and an ID contributor) and Amy & Charlie Hoover of Des Moines, Iowa.

I got Rae's permission to share her impressions and then added a few comments of my own.


I also wanted to tell you about my experience with the Called and Gifted Workshop I took in Bloomingdale, Illinois last month. The workshop is one given by the St. Catherine of Siena Institute, a program out of the Western Dominican Province with headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The institute is "dedicated to equipping parishes for the formation of lay Catholics for their mission in the world." They run the blog, Intentional Disciples, which I have subtitled "The Two Sherries" on my blogroll because Sherry Weddell is a co-founder of the Institute and Sherry Curp is a member and instructor.

I've been watching their calendar in hopes of catching a workshop given further East, and jumped on the chance to attend one that was on the outskirts of Chicago, where Bill's siblings live. We combined a family visit with me attending the workshop, last month. It was, quite simply, wonderful, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

You know how kids can go to Mass and say, "I don't get anything out of it?", and complain that the liturgy isn't exciting enough? But we know that the value is in the depths, not the externals, even though bad externals can distract us from what's really going on.

The Called and Gifted Workshop wasn't "exciting". The externals were ordinary - a parish hall, a laptop projected to show PowerPoint slides at appropriate times, handouts, prayer and song to begin each day. The three instructors were skilled and at ease, but were not putting on a show.

It was the content that I found enlightening. This FAQ about the Spiritual Gifts Discernment Program, of which the Called and Gifted Workshop is a component, may give you a better idea that I could give.

Snip. (i'll get back to this later)

Catholics are used to their most vigorous and committed members being drawn to the priesthood and the religious life. But the teachings of the Church about the laity in the last 150 years have made it clear that the lay vocation has a call to discipleship different from, but every bit as vital as, those who are professed and ordained. The ordained serve primarily the People of God. The People of God serve the world in which they live and work.

The Called and Gifted Workshop has given me keys to understanding, and tools to explore, how God is calling me specifically to carry out my own mission as a lay disciple.. I heartily recommend it to one and all.

They are doing a terrific work. A very Dominican work!

Thanks to Rae for her very kind words!

The paragraph that I snipped is below because I wanted to comment on it:

"How much was lost in the Protestant Revolt/Reformation? My encounters with Catholics who "swam the Tiber" from various Protestant faith communities has made me mourn for what the Church lost when it fragmented, and what it is gaining as some of the fragmented pieces come back together. The Catherine of Siena Institute is heavy with folks who learned discipleship in non-Catholic Christian communities. Coming into the fullness of truth, they have brought both insight and vigor into the meaning and practice of parish life and lay discipleship."

I would certainly agree that "much was lost in the Protestant Revolt/Reformation but Rae isn't accurate when she says "The Catherine of Siena Institute is heavy with folks who learned discipleship in non-Catholic Christian communities."

Since the two members of the CSI team that Rae knows (Sherry C and moi) are converts from evangelicalism, she naturally thinks of the Institute as a initiative mostly carried on by converts. But in fact, the opposite is true.

As I tried to count our teachers scattered about, I realized that they were overwhelmingly cradle Catholics: 3 to 1. And the converts who have taught with us over the years come from many backgrounds, not just evangelicalism but Hinduism, Islam, Mormonism, mainline Protestantism, nothing, etc.

At present, only six of our C & G teachers are from an evangelical background or about 1/7 of our current teaching team.

There is a gap between what participants experience in a Called & Gifted workshop and what they think of as "normal" Catholicism alright. But it is not the gap between Protestantism and Catholicism.

It is the gap between what the Church teaches is the faith and what the average Catholic has experienced of the faith as commonly practiced.
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