to NRC at Chicago Meeting
VOTF President Mary Pat Fox
On June 3rd I addressed the National Representative Council in Chicago. Below
is an excerpt from that talk that I would like to share with all of you.
I firmly believe that in order for our Church to be a healthy sustainable
Church the laity must re-examine our role and take on greater responsibility
in the governance and guidance of the Church. Our Church must be a loving community
where we can find spiritual, emotional, and intellectual nourishment. We want
this for ourselves and we want this for future generations. But how do we get
Last November our local affiliate in New York City had Sr. Kathleen Harrington
speak to us about the transformation that the women religious went through
as a result of Vatican II. Pope John XXIII instructed the women religious orders
to re-examine their charisms – their role in the Church. Some had started
out teaching the poor but the poor were no longer in their schools and they
found that if their charism was really to aid the poor that they needed to
look at other areas such as social work. This is what we, the laity, are doing
today – re-examining our role and forging a new one. We are no longer
uneducated members that sit in the pews ready to pray, pay and obey or to look
to the clergy for validation. We are called, with the guidance of the Holy
Spirit, to build a healthy and sustainable Church that does provide us with
that nourishment we need so much. We have educated ourselves and matured as
Christians and as Catholics so that we can look to ourselves for validation.
Sister told us the keys to their successful transition were:
- Grounding in the Spirit
- Education and
We work hard every day to be grounded in the Spirit and we read and study
to educate ourselves on our new roles. Interestingly enough “Convivenza” which
means real coordination and integration – communion of community was
a key goal of Pope John XXIII in calling the second Vatican Council: “To
create a community that was the World. He strove to create a church that cares
rather than controls, a church that nourishes the Christian life rather than
just regulating it.”1 The goal is not to substitute an old set of rules
with new rules that everyone follows with the same rigor. Change is about breaking
rules and opening our thinking to new ways and new possibilities.
I believe that Pope John XXIII started what we are called to continue. His
vision rose from faith, not ideology. Ideologies tend to be closed and absolute.
We see wars all over the world started in the name of a religion and based
on a difference of ideologies. Ideologies are those absolute rules I just mentioned.
There isn’t room for judgment, forgiveness or inspiration. We must use
our faith to build this community, the communion needed to transform our Church.
1.Rev. Bob Bonnot, Ph.D. Pope John XXIII Model and Mentor for Leaders, 2003