Synodality and Oblates in the USA, Part Three

I.  Sacred Heart, Oakland, CA, by Jack Lau and Bill Mason, June 3, 2022

Fr. Jack Lau, OMI
Fr. Jack Lau, OMI

In October, the Diocese entered into the process of discernment regarding ministry. The entire diocese was given 75 questions for parishioners to respond to.  So we sent them out and had an above average number of folks fill it out.  We also come out as environmentally green and are in the upper 80% in that category in the city and diocese.  (Yes, numbers can be used in many ways). But it looks real good for us.  And we got information about our parish – that is important.

Fr. Bill Mason, OMI

Then we had the synod process. We responded to the questions that were in the bulletin for three weeks and then two sessions.  Here too we heard about the needs of the community.

From there we sent out the forms to the diocese and also had the same report in the bulletin for all to see.

We are now (this Pentecost) again putting up the sign this is what we asked for:  “Who will sign up”!!!  This is timely after the pandemic also and a way to reboot the parish. 

As you note in your article (Synodality and Oblates in the USA, Part One), the presence of clericalism.  Even though we would like to say it doesn’t exist in the Oblates, it does.  And then connected to that is “entitlement,” which is part of the next generation.

Thanks so very much.  FYI:  in our bulletin every week is a Inter-religious Calendar and “Oblate Days of Memory.”

2:  St. Mary’s, Georgetown and Rowley, MA, by Harry Winter, June 27, 2022

About 35 parishioners from both towns met from 12:10 to 1:30 pm at the Georgetown Church on May 15. Two issues stand out for me. First, one of the older women who has three young adult daughters in the choir told of how one of her daughters volunteered when she was a young teen attending Faith Formation, that she is lesbian.  The teacher immediately told her to leave the class and parish.  Several other women joined in to relate stories of discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender persons (LGBT).

Since the material handed out by the parish council included “Who are the marginalized people in our communities, and how can they be better heard” (1b), the group, with one exception, desired that St. Mary’s Church be more open to people seeking gender clarification.

After the meeting, I handed two of the most outspoken women, the US. Catholic Bishops Conference pamphlets “Always Our Children” (1997) and “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination” (2006).  I hope to meet with these women soon.

Sr. Jeannine Gramick, S.L.

Of course all this brought back to me the ministry of Sr. Jeannine Gramick, S.L., and Fr. John Harvey, O.S.F.S. (1918-2010).  Gramick’s association with New Ways Ministry and Dignity and Harvey’s with Courage and Encourage represent difference approaches.  But the two worked together and agreed that Catholics who are gay need our welcome and love.

It was most valuable to have both of them speak with our scholastics at Oblate College, Washington, DC, from 1970-95.

In 2021, Pope Francis sent four letters to New Ways Ministry, commending their work and calling Gramick “a valiant woman,” who has suffered much for her concern.  And the American bishops at first rejected Harvey’s efforts to help gay priests.

Oblates remember Tom Hayes, OMI’s ministry to gays on the west coast.  May we also support our Oblate parishes and residences which furnish places for Catholic LGBT persons to meet as they seek to become stronger Catholics.

John Harvey, O.S.F.S.

The second issue is the presence of one young adult.  Young adults have been missing from St. Mary’s since before covid.  This young adult had graduated from evangelical Protestant  Gordon-Conwell College, South Hamilton, MA, where she rediscovered her Catholic faith. She urged us to contact our drop-out young adults.  After the meeting, I was able to learn her name and encourage her to seek out groups like FOCUS that might come to our parish and help us do this.

It is interesting that the sixth question given to us to consider included “Is there a dialogue with other faith communities who are not Catholic?” As we hope to explore in a future article, there are more Eastern Christians in this section of MA than Protestants.  Evangelical Protestants probably outnumber main line Protestants.

Among the individual comments was a woman who said that this is the first time in a church setting that she was ever asked her viewpoint.  Many agreed with her.

Fr. Mike O’Hara, OMI, the pastor, came in at the end of the session and thanked all who attended.  He then asked if I had anything to say.  Partly to lighten up the meeting, I told of the parish where after parish councils were urged by the Second Vatican Council, one parish put this on their telephone recording: “We’re sorry, but the pastor is unavailable.  He is at our parish council meeting.”  In the back ground, the message had people shouting, glass breaking, and all kinds of noise.

I complimented the parish leaders for a session which was the opposite. With laughter, we adjourned.