So today my early morning writing comes to you from Indianapolis.  I am a participant at the Theological Programs for High School Youth Leadership Conference sponsored by the Lilly Foundation and The Fund for Theological Education.  I have entered a whole new world that I never knew existed.

Yesterday being travel gave everyone a chance to relax into an informal dinner and get to know each other.  Because of an email address snafu, I hadn’t received any details about the conference until just before I left home… so I had no idea what to expect.  Already… what an adventure!  I have much to absorb from all these amazing minds over the next two days.  To all of you who are wondering What next? or Am I a pilgrim or a nomad? or What is innovation in ministry? … stay tuned.  My gut is telling me that shortly my brain will explode with new creative energy.  I am eager to share with you!  (not exploded brain guts…oooo 😦  the creative part…)

Last night’s dinner conversation asked many of the same questions that have been traded in these blogs over the past week… and at one point a friend said “You know, in my parish we’re talking about everything except what we really need to be talking about… the proverbial elephant in the room.  Why aren’t we asking Catholics about the reasons they’re walking away from the church?” Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well last night… my brain is churning and tossing these thoughts over and over searching for a way to see them clearly.

I have no answers today only more wrestling questions of faith and matters of the soul.  As the conference begins in a couple of hours, I want to plumb the wisdom of these ministry professionals and see if we can figure out how to feed this elephant.  Then maybe we can start leading him back to his home.

I want to throw a few questions out for your own wrestling…

What are you spending and being spent for?  What commands and receives your best time, your best energy?
What causes, dreams, goals or institutions are you pouring out your life for?
With whom or what group do you share your most sacred and private hopes for your life and for the lives of those you love?
What are those most sacred hopes, those most compelling goals and purposes in your life?

Chew on these for now… we’ll come back to them in a little while.
Peace and every good for your day.

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About Elaine Menardi

Heading off on a new adventure! I solve problems and make ideas happen.

One response »

  1. Rox says:

    Here is one well stated reason some are walking out of the doors of the church…….”To me, this battle illuminates two rival religious approaches, within the Catholic church and any spiritual tradition. One approach focuses upon dogma, sanctity, rules and the punishment of sinners. The other exalts compassion for the needy and mercy for sinners — and, perhaps, above all, inclusiveness.” read on………

    January 26, 2011
    Tussling Over Jesus
    By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF – THE NEW YORK TIMES

    The National Catholic Reporter newspaper put it best: “Just days before Christians celebrated Christmas, Jesus got evicted.”
    Yet the person giving Jesus the heave-ho in this case was not a Bethlehem innkeeper. Nor was it an overzealous mayor angering conservatives by pulling down Christmas decorations. Rather, it was a prominent bishop, Thomas Olmsted, stripping St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix of its affiliation with the Roman Catholic diocese.
    The hospital’s offense? It had terminated a pregnancy to save the life of the mother. The hospital says the 27-year-old woman, a mother of four children, would almost certainly have died otherwise.
    Bishop Olmsted initially excommunicated a nun, Sister Margaret McBride, who had been on the hospital’s ethics committee and had approved of the decision. That seems to have been a failed attempt to bully the hospital into submission, but it refused to cave and continues to employ Sister Margaret. Now the bishop, in effect, is excommunicating the entire hospital — all because it saved a woman’s life.
    Make no mistake: This clash of values is a bellwether of a profound disagreement that is playing out at many Catholic hospitals around the country. These hospitals are part of the backbone of American health care, amounting to 15 percent of hospital beds.
    Already in Bend, Ore., last year, a bishop ended the church’s official relationship with St. Charles Medical Center for making tubal ligation sterilizations available to women who requested them. And two Catholic hospitals in Texas halted tubal ligations at the insistence of the local bishop in Tyler.
    The National Women’s Law Center has just issued a report quoting doctors at Catholic- affiliated hospitals as saying that sometimes they are forced by church doctrine to provide substandard care to women with miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies in ways that can leave
    the women infertile or even endanger their lives. More clashes are likely as the church hierarchy grows more conservative, and as hospitals and laity grow more impatient with bishops who seem increasingly out of touch.
    Catholic hospitals like St. Joseph’s that are evicted by the church continue to operate largely as before. The main consequence is that Mass can no longer be said in the hospital chapel. Thomas C. Fox, the editor of National Catholic Reporter, noted regretfully that a hospital with deep Catholic roots like St. Joseph’s now cannot celebrate Mass, while airport chapels can. Mr. Fox added: “Olmsted’s moral certitude is lifeless, leaving no place for compassionate Christianity.”
    To me, this battle illuminates two rival religious approaches, within the Catholic church and any spiritual tradition. One approach focuses upon dogma, sanctity, rules and the punishment of sinners. The other exalts compassion for the needy and mercy for sinners — and, perhaps, above all, inclusiveness.
    The thought that keeps nagging at me is this: If you look at Bishop Olmsted and Sister Margaret as the protagonists in this battle, one of them truly seems to me to have emulated the life of Jesus. And it’s not the bishop, who has spent much of his adult life as a Vatican bureaucrat climbing the career ladder. It’s Sister Margaret, who like so many nuns has toiled for decades on behalf of the neediest and sickest among us.
    Then along comes Bishop Olmsted to excommunicate the Christ-like figure in our story. If Jesus were around today, he might sue the bishop for defamation.
    Yet in this battle, it’s fascinating how much support St. Joseph’s Hospital has had and how firmly it has pushed back — in effect, pounding 95 theses on the bishop’s door. The hospital backed up Sister Margaret, and it rejected the bishop’s demand that it never again terminate a pregnancy to save the life of a mother.
    “St. Joseph’s will continue through our words and deeds to carry out the healing ministry of Jesus,” said Linda Hunt, the hospital president. “Our operations, policies, and procedures will not change.” The Catholic Health Association of the United States, a network of Catholic hospitals around the country, stood squarely behind St. Joseph’s.
    Anne Rice, the author and a commentator on Catholicism, sees a potential turning point. “St. Joseph’s refusal to knuckle under to the bishop is huge,” she told me, adding: “Maybe rank-and-file Catholics are finally talking back to a hierarchy that long ago deserted them.”
    With the Vatican seemingly as deaf and remote as it was in 1517, some Catholics at the grass roots are pushing to recover their faith. Jamie L. Manson, the same columnist for National Catholic Reporter who proclaimed that Jesus had been “evicted,” also argued powerfully that many ordinary Catholics have reached a breaking point and that St. Joseph’s heralds a new vision of Catholicism: “Though they will be denied the opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist, the Eucharist will rise out of St. Joseph’s every time the sick are healed, the frightened are comforted, the lonely are visited, the weak are fed, and vigil is kept over the dying.”
    Hallelujah.

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