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The Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC) is a consultative body to the Archbishop of Chicago and is broadly representative of our local Church.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summary of the Cardinal’s Fourth Question 2014

Cardinal Francis George met with the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC) on June 7, 2014 regarding the fourth Cardinal’s Question of the Year: “Tell the Cardinal about other issues and concerns that you are hearing in your parishes, deaneries and other communities.”

The APC, which represents Catholics throughout the Archdiocese, provides a forum of feedback for the Cardinal.  Its 60-some delegates, active in the parishes, are appointed from each of the vicariates throughout Cook and Lake Counties.

Following meetings before the June 7 meeting, each of the four APC committees submitted reports.  One issue mentioned by three of the committees was the role of women in the Church, including questions about the recognition of the work women do in the Church and about the potential ordination of women deacons and/or priests. 

Another common issue pertained to priests, including the need for more vocations and the lack of accountability of some pastors to archdiocese rules, such as the requirement to have a parish council. Such pastors were mentioned frequently in the delegate discussion on June 7.  Several members complained that pastors, and in at least one case, a bishop said parish councils were not necessary.  In addition, in a recurring theme, members mentioned the apathy of some pastors toward the lay deanery groups.

Several comments had to do with the popularity of televangelist Joel Osteen because of the passion, relevance and practicality with which he speaks.  On the one hand, there was a wish expressed for a Catholic version of him (although Bishop Fulton J. Sheen pioneered this approach half a century ago).  On the other, it was noted that Osteen’s preaching lacked the social justice component, although there was disagreement on this point.  Fr. Robert Barron is a good example of the Catholic equivalent to Joel Osteen, except he does not have a weekly TV show for his message.  The point being made is that the Catholic message needs more exposure to be as appealing as a Joel Osteen is to a wide variety of people.  Perhaps Fr. Barron can be enlisted to do more TV.

In a follow-up on the discussion in the third meeting of the APC regarding the Church’s use of social media, one member pointed out that young people today don’t just use communications tools but exist like fish in a sea of communications:  “Communications is where kids live,” he said.  “They are continually affirmed by the technological linkages. They need their fix for affirmation”.

Members expressed a desire and a need for a more dynamic Archdiocesan website that would make it easier to find posted information.  They also noted a wide variance in parish websites - from those that are extremely helpful and frequently updated to those that have not been changed in 20 years.

In his comments, Cardinal George said three times, “The mission of the Church is to convert the world.”  This is a task, he said, that under Vatican II teachings, is primarily the job of the laity (who are Baptized into the common priesthood).  We have to accept the role of discipleship – doing the Father’s will.

The Cardinal remarked that the Church is not like a business in which the CEO gives an order and the employees obey.  “The Church was not born with an institution; it was born with relationships,” he said.   “The Sacraments are all about relationships, not about the individual recipients. The Sacraments don’t just change the individual; the individual’s participation in the Sacraments changes the Church.  When a dying person is given the Last Rites, the entire Church is changed.  When a baby is baptized, the entire Church is changed.  When a couple is married or a priest is ordained, the entire Church is changed”.

The trend in the 1970s and 1980s toward ‘priests becoming more professionalized’ resulted, in part, in their losing some contact with the people of the parish.  To counteract that trend, he said he planned in an upcoming meeting with the priests of the archdiocese to urge them to “walk the streets.”  This initiative, the result of a discussion he had with Father Michael Pfleger, is also aimed at countering crime and violence.

“The clergy and laity are expected to be accountable, transparent and pro-active. If priests or bishops are saying that parish councils are unnecessary,” he said, “they are in error”.  Even so, not every parish has one, although Cardinal George said it was his understanding that at least 80 percent of the parishes do.

The idea that “communications is where kids live” gave the Cardinal a new insight into the youth culture of today.  “In such a sea of communications,” he said, “it is difficult to step back to meditate about the faith and let the Holy Spirit do his work.  Growth in spirituality takes time; it doesn’t happen in 10-second blasts.”

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Friday, July 25, 2014 11:16 AM

Dear Richard,
The APC is a consultative body which assists Cardinal George in his pastoral task. It exists, in part, to enable parishioners from across the Archdiocese to share their perspective with Cardinal George. Thank you for sharing your views regarding this summary of responses to the Cardinal's Fourth Question of 2014. We encourage you to remain active in your parish and, if you are so inclined, explore with your pastor the possibility of participating in APC discussions in your parish or deanery.

Archdiocesan Pastoral Council

Monday, July 21, 2014 4:36 PM

In reading through this explanation, I think it moves all around the main issue. In Ephesians 4:11-13 those who are called as pastors, prophets, apolstles, teachers and evangelists are called to service for the building up of the church for the work of the ministry. So, yes, the laity are called to evangelize the world. So in a modern interpretation, the clergy should be training us for the work of the ministry. What ministry? Preaching the Gospel and making disciples. Also, our leaders are called to be shepherds, to care for the flock, feed the flock and tend the flock.

Unfortunately, these items are not happening(for the most part) and our pastors are not taught how to shepherd nor are they equipped as teachers , nor are they equipping the saints. Most often they obstruct the efforts of the saints and have an inwardly focused church that feeds on itself and relys on raising funds through many of the actions we are advised to avoid in the gospel.

If you were to take a look at the Joel Osteen church, the TV part is only a small component. They have bible studies, small groups, discipleship classes. Life skills classes to learn to live in the spirit as all Christians are advised to do. They offer a full, and well rounded approach to the community through charities and food pantries and help for people stuck in addiction, poverty, abuse and facing abortion decisions. They are an example of what St Francis called the Church to during his attempts at reform.

I think a priest is put in a no win situation. Every part of the Catholic church has accountabiility in it except the priests in the parish, though they are to obey the bishop, they are given almost autonomous control of their parish, instead of partners with the laity, (of which the clergy is part as the laos) they are at odds with them, set in as administrative controllers of the local parish. The different committees can say what they want, ultimately the pastor does what he wants. There is no guarantee of regular meetings and there is little body ministry, it is one man. How can you expect him to succeed?

Make your pastors accountable to his parish and let the associate priests be accountable to the pastor. Allow them to be shepherds and have the Archdiocese employ business managers to help relieve the burden on the priests. Make the BM accountable for the facilities, bill paying etc and have him matrix into the pastor, finance committee and archdiocese. Let the priest be about building up the saints for the work of the ministry. Advise them to be proponents of the talents of the laity in the church. The priest may not be a teacher but there are many skilled teachers that could catechise (read sunday school, bible study etc) the saints.

I think in general we need to have a more fully functioning body of Christ at the parish level, Vicariate level, Archidiocese level and global level. Look at the example Pope Francis.

I would be happy to prayerfully work with the Archdiocese to research improvements and be the church Christ called us to.

Thanks for listening

Richard L.

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