Posted by: joeystarke | May 9, 2009

Pathway for Positive Change

As we come to the end of the semester, I have been contemplating more and more on how we can take what we have learned in the classroom and apply it to real life situation.  I touched a little on this when commenting on Nick’s post “America: A Christian Nation?”  I pointed out there that this process is extremely difficult.  We can’t just expect to walk off SLU’s campus and make a dramatic change over night.  In fact, it can be hard for us to make changes at all given the dependency of our religion and country on certain policies and procedures.  We have come up with a lot of great ideas, but how are we suppose to implment them?  More imporatnatly, how are we supposed to get other people to even listen to our ideas and accept them into their daily lives?

I want to use this post to emphasize that the PARISHES are where these exchanges of ideas should take place.  At this point in our lives, we need to move away from the glimmer and shimmer of the student Mass at College Church.  Also, the laity do not participate in our academic pursuits, either because of time or lack of understanding.  We need to move into the “normal” parishes.  There are plenty of opportunities there.  We can present our knowledge by working with the youth group, being a catechist for RCIA classes, teaching Sunday school, participating in a Bible study course, volunteering with parish activities/service projects, joining church organizations (men’s and women’s prayer groups, Knights of Columbus, Daughters of Isabella) and many more.  I encourage you to even seek election to the Parish Council so you can have a direct say in the direction of parish policies.  In addition, we need to look at different sources to publish our work.  Magazines like America and Commonweal are great, but I had never heard of them before I came to SLU.  Non-academics are reading their Diocesan newspapers, the Catholic Digest, and Ligouri magazine, and we can submit work to these publications in order to reach the laity.  I know some of you already do this, and I applaud you.  If you haven’t considered this before, take some time to think about it.

Furthermore, I want to encourage an open dialogue with the clergy.  Now, I realize this can be a one-way street.  At the end of the day, the decisions will be left to the bishops and we’ll have to respect that decision.  However, it does not always help when we rebel.  Take St. Stanislaus for example.  The intentions of the former-Fr. Bozelek and a few of the new parishioners were to bring change into the Church.  They did not, though, do this with dialogue, but by just doing whatever they wanted.  And the result?  They were declared schismatic, their memberships officially removed.  Since they are no longer considered a part of the Roman Catholic Church, there is absolutely NO WAY they can influence or come into dialogue with the Church hierarchy.  I think their cause is lost, simply because the lines of communication were cut off (by both sides).

Here’s the bottom line:

I truly believe that if we get to know our priests that we can work with them to bring about positive change in our parishes.  This will take a lot of time and sacrifice.  Our ideas will undoubtedly be strongly contested, and at times we may have to temporarily let go of some conditions of our theologies.  We just need to remain patient, calm, and diligent.  Remember: The Church takes hundreds of years to make changes.  We may not see the change; we may only be the first push.  If we take actions like St. Stan’s, though, the clergy will take is as disrespect and will probably ignore us.  We take so much time and effort to ensure that we respect and listen to the teachings of so many other people: Muslims, other Christians, those practicing an Asian spiritual pathway, the poor, the marginalized.  Don’t the leaders of our Church deserve the same respect and the same opportunity for dialogue before we completely write them off as incapable?   (I acknowledge that some may not be as open, but that does not mean we should stoup to their level and ignore them).  A lot of this dialogue can take place in the same ways that I mentioned above.

And for those of you still doubting that a lay person can have a significant influence in Chruch teaching…

Sr. Rose Thering was the woman who pushed for a change in relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people.  While growing up, she had always been told that the Jews killed Jesus, and that was it.  She felt this was extremely wrong, and pushed to declare that we are all responsible for Jesus’ death, and we should not blame the Jews (and end the Chruch’s anti-semetic attitude).  She was ignored at first, pushed aside.  Despite this, she kept moving forward until her voice was heard.  Her request would eventually be fulfilled in a Vatican II document, Nostra Aetate.  Sr. Rose was not clergy; she was not part of the hierarchy; she did not dislodge herself from the Church; she did not show disrespect; and she was a woman living in a pre-Vatican II Church.  Yet, she was able to make a significant and lasting change in Catholicism.  This is the model that we need to follow.

God puts desires into our hearts they may never be fulfilled; but these desires will give us the motivation to accomplish God’s works in ways that we cannot even imagine.



  1. I really appreciate this post, Joey, because I do think this semester’s work has been an excellent challenge to some very real inaccuracies in our theologies. It’s hard to feel like our voices do make a difference, especially when there is so much emphasis on being in agreement with the higher-ups in the Church. Some of your suggestions strike me as being particularly helpful, with the underlying theme of being involved. It can be as simple as that. Sitting silently will never bring about change, at any level, but speaking out and engaging in dialogue can make a difference. The Church is made of more than just clergy, it’s made of the community, and engaging with the community is the best way to make sure the Church remains relevant to our lives today. So many people I know look down on faith because they see religions as outdated, useless ritual that belongs to parents or grandparents only. God could never be irrelevant, but if people fail to connect to the community, the Church very well could be. I hope that those of us who take an active interest in theology will be able to share our enthusiasm with others and continue to guide the Church with our own sensus fidelium.

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