10/4/12 | 915 views
Listening and Leading
In the weeks leading to the Synod of Bishops on New Evangelization at the Vatican beginning this Sunday, Oct. 7, Cardinal Dolan received input for the three-week meeting from the members of several groups around the archdiocese, including the Priests’ Council, the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and the Major Superiors of Religious Congregations.
In fact on the morning he is to leave for Rome, Friday, Oct. 5, Cardinal Dolan, who was elected by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to serve as a member at the synod, will first celebrate Mass and meet with archdiocesan employees at the New York Catholic Center.
I am looking forward to being present that day, as I was on Sept. 19 at Dominican Convent of Our Lady of the Rosary in Sparkill where the cardinal met with more than 60 superiors from congregations of women religious. The Office of the Vicar for Religious organized the meeting.
In his opening remarks, Cardinal Dolan told the sisters who sat in small groups at tables that he wanted “to listen to their take on the Instrumentum Laboris,” the Synod’s 81-page working document that had been sent out to them ahead of time.
A panel of four sisters, Sister Gabrielle Corbally, R.S.H.M.; Sister Ann Braudis, M.M.; Sister Mary Grace Walsh, A.S.C.J.; and Sister Patricia McCarthy, C.N.D., were each assigned to speak about one of the four chapters of the working document.
Sister Mary Grace, who is deputy superintendent of schools in the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., spoke about Chapter III, Transmitting the Faith. She talked of the need “to ask ourselves how we can continue to evangelize those who are called to be evangelizers.” The parish, she said, should also be given “a central position” in the New Evangelization, not only as a place for religious liturgies but also as a gathering place for believers.
As an editor, I have to admit that my favorite reflection was given by Sister Patricia, provincial leader of the Congregation de Notre Dame, who was assigned to Chapter IV, Revivifying Pastoral Activity.
She candidly told her fellow sisters that she would have archived the first 75 pages of the working document. Instead, she said, she would have focused on the text’s final few pages, “and proclaim them from every church, pulpit and hotdog stand.”
Quoting the words of Pope John Paul II from the document, she said, “Those who have come into genuine contact with Christ cannot keep him for themselves, they must proclaim him.”
After the presentations by the panelists, a dozen sisters gave their own reflections on the document and on what they had heard that day.
Cardinal Dolan told the sisters, “My vocation this morning was to listen. I have not been disappointed.” He said what he had heard, both in the panelists’ presentations and in the comments period, “will form part of my persona at the synod.”
Sister Gabrielle Corbally, who is a religion teacher and librarian at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, told me afterward that she felt the major superiors and panelists who participated “came prepared, they came to share, very lovingly, I think.”
In the presentations from the panelists and in follow-up comments from many of the major superiors, Sister Gabrielle said there was recognition “we were giving back to someone with the power and intelligence to use what he sees fits.”
“It was really nice to be asked,” she said.
Another participant, Sister Maria Therese, O. Carm., the vocation director of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm, said she considers the problems that separate Catholics from full or even any participation in the life of their parishes, it left her pondering this question: “How are we evangelizing them and bringing them back into a personal relationship with Christ and his Church?” she said.
That question is one that will undoubtedly receive a lot of consideration at the upcoming synod.
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