Table Discussions: VOTF 2019 Conference

Attendees at the 2019 Conference continued the discussion initiated by the Grassroots Panel presentations during lunch. We asked facilitators at each table to prepare a summary of the comments made in response to the question, “What are you doing or could you do in your faith community to help create a more just Church?” Here are some of the comments gathered. (We did our best with the handwriting!)


Work locally in the community, but which community? Affiliates? Parishes?

How can you avoid the appearance of threatening others?

Don’t ask permission of your priest [to do something]–that might get him in trouble.

Reach out to an old community to revivify them–maybe meet in a library.

Get past [your own] anger. Work on spirituality.


Speak up. Do not remain silent!

Lead RCIA–change one heart at a time. Talk about love of God and Church art work/music. Seek compliance and support of the parish.

“I am in transition. [There is] nothing for spiritual nourishment.”

A collaborative ministry is not supported in current day.

What you can do in a parish depends on the pastor.

The Church is in transition, with collaborative fixing rather than through fighting. Change is in motion right now.

A parish council is only advisory. The priest is in charge canonically.

Lay people have the right of consent under Canon Law on the finance council. Is the diocese in conformity with canon law under governance? Work on a charter for the finance council. Transparency and accountability are key.


Advocated for updated “Protecting God’s Children” training. Created parish-based program in partnership with professionals. Created listening sessions and had victim-survivor speaker.

Writing a new parish plan.

Petition to remove new pastor. Left the collaboration for a “tell the media” rallying cry.

Amazon: married priests


Who represents the child in court? [Answers from one member at table]


Foster networks.

Ask Pastor and Parish Council to discuss, to listen, to act on this issue of a just Church.

Stay involved with VOTF, CORPUS, CTA, FutureChurch.

“We are working to empower our church laity. hold the Catholic Church accountable, and bring about change.”

Get involved in parish work and social action.

“I have NO faith community … I run solo, nearly all online. I have mailed both the last two popes … I wrote every single English bishop I could find, twice! I have emailed over 3,000 people and organizations. I petitioned the USCCB conference, my bishop’s women’s conference, and the Pittsburgh theological convention (I got kicked out) …”


Was previously active in parish but stopped because experienced invisibility as a woman and was ebig “groomed” by the parish priest. Left the parish and serves on the parish council there. Looking for something to bring back to the parish per the pastor’s request.

Priest of Integrity award should be given out again. Perhaps to Fr. James Martin, SJ?

Why does it take negative reports of abuse or cover-ups or financial misappropriation to spur people to action? Need to continue to raise awareness and need to involve lay people in collaboration with clergy for change.

Women deacons: Why not more about that? At this conference? Is this topic and controversial topics like married priests something that can be a topic in listening sessions?

Need to share regional and local events. How can this be centralized on social media, with a web page, and made known?


Every parish must have a Finance Council–that’s Canon Law. Try to join it. Ask for year-end published financial statements if they don’t report them.

[Seek] equality between laity and clergy.

Should be a general understanding that priests are to serve.

Shepherds should “smell like sheep” — need a college education and also work for a while to gain life experience.

Define a “just Church.”

Parish Council should be elected by the parishioners. The meetings should be regularly scheduled, with pre-posted ahendas, and open to all parishioners. Parishioners should be given a time period to talk. The minutes of the Council meetings should be published. The same process should apply to the Parish Finance Council.

Catholics have to mature and know their own history.


No one in a power position gives it up. We are called to be adult Catholics … Inatitutions do not change easily.

Conservatism [may exist but] priests don’t own the parish.

Look for inclusion of laity in the parish work. Focus on adult education, transparency in religious education and adult education.


Too many decisions being made by clergy [alone]. Parishioners need to be on the parish councils and finance councils.

VOTF used to have an advisor on canon law. Do priests have such knowledge of canon law?

[Description of one member’s progressive parish, their support for social action and their adoption of two immigrant families … another is involved in an “assembly of the people” in Michigan where there is a big influence from the Dominican sisters.]

Need to get lay people involved. Get info and send it out to people. Do parishioners even know that we need their help? Tried to define “a more just Church”: justice for survivors/priests; reach out to the poor, disadvantaged, sick.

To make a successful effort to bring change, you often need influential people on the committees. However, some lay people who are influential in the diocese keep away from VOTF and its causes.

Need to work with children, teenagers, young adults for their church.

Something is lacking in words from the pulpit … needs to be based in Scripture … Christ’s words and teaching. How Christ addressed power in the Jewish community.

Perhaps create an educational forum–perhaps there is a scriptural study specialist in the parish. These should be learning sessions, not listening sessions.


Christmas giving tree. Shelters. Young families. Fall fast.

Focus for college students: young people volunteering.

Problem of sharing power. Dissonance between “We are the church” and “people of God” and all deliberative power is in the clerical side of the Church in canon law.

Improve seminary training. Too conservative. Not relational.


Pastor is negative on parish council. Appoints them all.

VOTF became a small faith group, support.

Bill passed in Delaware that eliminated the statute of limitations and had a two-year look-back window.

Clericalism needs to be addressed … challenge our bishop …

Traditional Catholic teaching practices in some Catholic churches result in some Catholics leaving to look for parishes with practices that are less traditional and more Vatican II.

How about young people? Religious education is pathetic.

Parish in Florida where everyone works, pastor visits homes, encourages people to come.


A Just Church — poverty: need more emphasis on serving the poor.

What would be the bext governing body style of the Church? Should we elect parish reps who would advise the bishops, and national representatives to advise the pope?

Parishioners should have the right to approve or disapprove the choice of pastor.

Recommendation: Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, book on “The Time Is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage.”

Holy Trinity in D.C. every Lent invited every nonprofit in the area to dinner for discussion.

Pastors need exposure to inner city poor as part of their training.

Pastors are concerned that they or their parish might suffer reprisals if they don’t fall in line with the bishop.


Establish a social justice committee, helping refugees, immigrnants settle in the community.

Raise awareness in our parishes about the hierarchy’s response/non-response to the abuse crisis.

Hold priests and bishops accountable for the clericalism and consequent psychological abuse of church employees and the lay people they are supposed to serve.


Pray harder! Human effort important but insufficient.

Consider volunteering. Involve women in leadership.

Promote values of accountability, honest transparency.

Open, accurate financial disclosures will make a difference.

Open homilies to lay people. Promote lay leadership in prayer.