Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Final Generation

On March 31, 2019 I attended a presentation by Sr. Mary Hughes, OP at Diocese of San Jose Chancery Office.  The following posts are from that presentation and my ponderings afterwards.  

Sister Mary spoke about the mission of religious at this time in our Church and asked how we understand our role as intercultural and intergenerational congregations?  She prefaced her presentation by talking about the resistance to discussing the fact that so many LCWR congregations are in their “final generation.”  

She pointed out that in addition to the turmoil many congregations are finding themselves in at this moment, hardly a day passes that we don’t hear a word of major catastrophes happening near and far.  She listed several of these and then informed us that several congregations have been impacted by destruction caused by fire, floods, high winds, and ice storms in the past year.  

Living through extremes means having to accept a new reality, to make significant changes and rely on strangers for help.  Attempts at scientific analysis of the cause of these disasters fall short of helping us to understand what is happening.  We are not in control.  We cannot prevent what is happening from happening again.  She asked us to consider whether these catastrophic events in nature are reflected in what is happening in religious life in this moment.   

Monday, April 1, 2019

Going Going Gone

Multiple forces impede us from doing things the way we have always done.  The historic reality teaches us that religious life has already undergone a few major changes, from the way of the hermit, to the way of the monastic, to the way of the itinerant and the apostolic.  Reinvention is happening now.  We see this in changes in church attendance as well as in changes in vocations.  Many congregations are finding that the work they were consecrated to do no longer is there for them. Others have taken over the work and Sisters are no longer needed to do it.  At the same time the political climate and moral climate, if we can call it that, is diminishing our sense of civil discourse. Violence is everywhere, most especially in our entertainment.  Hate crimes are increasing.  The divorce rate is up 40-50%. 

CARA reports there are more than 30 million former Catholic adults; 50% of those raised in the Catholic faith leave the Church later in life; of those about 11% will one day return.  Some say they are “culturally Catholic” but not practicing.  Some call them “lapsed Catholics” while a small group call themselves “collapsed Catholics.”  They left the Church together in disgust.  Reasons vary.  The book (Going, Going, Gone: The Dynamics of Disaffiliation in Young Catholics, Saint Mary’s Press, 2017) suggests that for most former Catholics disaffection with the Church began at the age of seven.  How do we reimagine ourselves in the midst of these realities?  We can’t just will it all to be better.  We have to accept the reality, live in and through the changes that must happen if we are to survive, and like those recovering from natural disasters, we have to learn to rely on the help of strangers.  The Nuns and Nones project that Sr. Gloria is working in is an attempt to reach out to young people who want no membership the Church of their parents. Although they have no religious affiliation, they are craving spiritual nourishment. They share our passion for the current ministerial needs of our times. 

March 31, 2019 a presentation by Sr. Mary Hughes, OP at Diocese of San Jose Chancery Office. 

Beacon on the Hill

In the Diocese of San Jose there are 30 women’s congregations with 249 members.  Some belong to LCWR, some belong to CMSWR, some belong to neither either because their Motherhouse it outside the U.S. or because they are not enamored of enough of either group to want affiliation.  There are 14 men’s congregations with 222 members.  They all belong to the CMSM.  The membership in both women’s and men’s congregations is among the most culturally diverse in the country.  Members come from Vietnam, Korea, the Philippines, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Argentina and several other Latin American countries in smaller numbers.  All are struggling with areas of vulnerability, particularly false expectations about membership numbers.  Religious life was always meant to be small, not the huge numbers that occurred in the post- World War II years. 

As it says in our Dominican Praise for Tuesday mornings in Lent, “It was not because you were such a numerous people that God’s heart was drawn to you and that God chose you – indeed, you were the smallest of all the peoples.  It was because God loved you and was faithful to the oath sworn to your ancestors that God brought you out with a strong hand and redeemed you.”  Small does not mean not vital. Internationality is the key to survival.  If a congregation has gone for 30 or 40 years with no one entering, they have no one to bridge the gap between existing membership and new prospects inquiring about religious life.  Those who have extended membership to women and men from other countries have created a bridge for the future.  In Pope Francis’s letter to Religious he never once said he hoped for higher numbers of men and women in religious life.  He asked us to be experts in communion and to be the beacon on the hill. 

March 31, 2019 a presentation by Sr. Mary Hughes, OP at Diocese of San Jose Chancery Office.