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The Challenge of Communion

Challenge of Communion 2010

The Catholic Church in the United States strives to attain the unity in communion that is confessed in the Creed: “One, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” At the same time, it experiences the diversity of its membership and debate on crucial issues that affect both its life as a community and its apostolic mission. At times this debate has become polarizing and threatens the unity in communion the Church seeks.

The Catholic Common Ground Initiative, now located in the Cardinal Bernardin Center at Catholic Theological Union, and the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology at DePaul University, are committed to finding ways of shaping the debate so that Church can be “a school of communion” as the late Pope John Paul II wished it to become. This conference, “The U.S. Catholic Church: The Challenge of Communion,” is intended to foster ways of seeking common ground within the Church today by addressing both the challenges and the opportunities for bringing voices within the Church into faithful and respectful dialogue.

This conference will address a series of critical issues with which the Church is contending today: passing on the faith to youth, the ethnic diversity of US Catholicism and in particular the challenge of cultural integrity faced by recent immigrants, racism, Catholic identity, and liturgy. It will engage these issues by bringing different points of view into dialogue and engaging the participants in the conference in this process, as a way of building up communion in the Church. 

  • Schedule & Session Descriptions
  • Sponsoring Organizations

Schedule & Session Descriptions

November 4, 2010

Engaging in the Dialogue

Welcome and Introduction of plenary speakers – Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, C.M.

Plenary Address: The Challenge of Communion in the U.S. Church 

William Cavanaugh, De Paul University Doris Gottemoeller, RSM, Catholic Healthcare Partners

Track 1: Communion and Fragmentation among Youth and Young Adults

With the emergence of each new “generation” there is always the possibility of a gap between the new and the older generation. The nature of the gap can differ across ethnic, racial and other social, cultural and political stratifications. In light of this diversity, what is held in common by younger Catholics when it comes to their expectations of the Church? How can dialogue between the older generations and younger generations build up the communion of the church?

Presenters: Claire Noonan, Dominican University Hosffman Ospino, Boston College
Facilitator: Mark Laboe, De Paul University
Reporter: Jayne Pickett, Catholic Theological Union

Track 2: Communion and Cultural Integrity in U.S. Catholicism

Encuentro 2000 and the May 2010 Convocation on Catholic Cultural Diversity celebrated a vision of church that embraces an increasingly culturally diverse Church. Indeed, African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, and Native Americans may soon be the numerical majority of the Church’s membership, even as they remain “minorities” in U.S. society. 

How are the identities of these groups being shaped in the Church, especially for the younger generations in those communities? What are the challenges to passing on the faith? And what are the opportunities for creating a truly cosmopolitan and “catholic” community of the Church?

Presenters:  Rev. Linh Hoang, OFM, Siena College Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado, University of Miami
Facilitator: Anna Maria Pineda, RSM, Santa Clara University
Reporter: Gemma Cruz, De Paul University

Track 3: Challenge of Communion and Racism

The question of race remains a challenge for the Catholic Church in the U.S. even as some make claims for “a post-racial America.” This session will begin to explore how to foster a dialogue about Catholic communion that does not shirk the issue of race. 

What symbols, narratives, and liturgical practices will help us to bring an end to the sin of racism? How do we think about the relationship between race and ethnicity? How does the experience of Catholic communion allow for a more welcoming attitude in the parish or diocese?

Presenters: Diana Hayes, Georgetown University Alan Ray, Elmhurst College
Facilitator: Don Pope-Davis, University of Notre Dame
Reporter: Vanessa White, Catholic Theological Union

Track 4: Catholic Identity and Challenges of Communion

“Catholic identity” is a point of contention for many in the Church, especially regarding interpretation of moral and social teachings, and liturgical and devotional practices. What constitutes Catholic identity and how should the Chruch stand in its relation to the dominant culture in this country? What would a contemporary apologetics look like in the U.S., in which we give account for the hope that is within us? (1Peter 3:15) What are the opportunities for the New Evangelization?

Presenters: Rev. Robert Schreiter, CPPS, Catholic Theological Union Peter Casarella, De Paul University
Facilitator: Karen Scott, De Paul University ??
Reporter: Msgr. Richard Hynes, Archdiocese of Chicago ??

Track 5: Challenge of Communion and Liturgy

The Second Vatican Council expected that the reform of the liturgy would strengthen the bonds of unity within the church. Unfortunately, at times, differing perspectives on the theology of the liturgy as well as liturgical practice have been an occasion for disunity. What are the key issues where we see this disunity? How can the differences be overcome? What can be held in common?

Presenters: Catherine Vincie, RSHM, Aquinas Institute David Fagerberg, University of Notre Dame
Facilitator: Sheila McLaughlin, Catholic Theological Union
Reporter: Richard McCarron, Catholic Theological Union

November 5, 2010

Breaking New Ground: Finding Fresh Perspectives to Build Communion and Create Unity

Morning Prayer and Welcome- Rev. Donald Senior, CP

Plenary Session - Summary Statements from reporters from each of the 5 tracks 

The reporters from the five tracks will synthesize the results of the two break out discussions on their topic from the previous day. In particular they will identify where the two discussions converged in identifying the challenges to communion as well as the elements that can build communion.

Common Ground Opportunities – Rev. Michael Place 

A synthesis of the opportunities for building communion that emerged in the discussion group will be presented. This synthesis will provide the context for further reflection.

Dialogue about Opportunities for Communion 

Participants will break into discussion groups to consider what we can do to build up communion in​ the church on the five topics that we have discussed. 

Sponsoring Organizations

Catholic Theological Union

“Catholic Theological Union bears powerful witness to a special kind of ecumenism, the ability of religious orders to compose differences, to cooperate in common work and to live in harmony, despite variations in background and training. This has not been done on this scale and in this way in the history of the American Church.” 
– Paul Bechtold, CP, Founding President, CTU, September 1978

The year 1968 was turbulent. The United State​s witnessed the assassinations of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, as well as the escalation of the war in Viet Nam. The 1968 Democratic Convention hosted by Chicago turned into a riot scene and much of the city was set aflame as citizens looked on wondering with great fear what the future would hold. It was in the midst of these uncertain and frightening times that Catholic Theological Union was born. After the close of the Second Vatican Council, three religious orders decided to take a chance. Filled with hope and the desire to participate in the renewal of the Church, these orders took a risky move and closed their individual seminaries. They decided to work together, to share their resources – libraries, professors, staff, and finances – to create a seminary that would be based on a model of collaboration. To enable their future priests to learn in an ever-changing and diverse world, they moved from their rural settings to an urban center – Hyde Park. To heighten the academic training of these seminarians, they moved near a major university (University of Chicago). And to ensure that a spirit of ecumenism would be a part of the students’ formation, they became neighbor to other seminaries. Such an experiment had never before been undertaken, but they believed they could create a new way of training men for the priesthood. It would not take long, only a few years, for CTU to open its doors to lay students. Almost since its founding, lay men and women, religious sisters and brothers, and seminarians have studied alongside one another, preparing to serve God’s people. CTU has grown to be the largest Roman Catholic graduate school of theology and ministry in the United States. Students from all over the world, of every age and vocation, study together. They learn about the Catholic faith as well as how to dialogue with other Abrahamic faith traditions – Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim. With a distinguished and world-renowned faculty, CTU is a place where students are challenged, mentored, and prepared for whatever they are called to do next with their lives. Today, there are 32 religious orders who send students to CTU. In any given academic year, there are a few hundred lay students from the United States and many countries throughout the world preparing at CTU. With more than 3,500 graduates serving in the United States and in 65 countries worldwide, CTU has brought, and will continue to bring, God’s hope and love where it is most needed.

The Bernardin Center for Theology and Ministry

Keeping the Vision Alive... 
“Will you join me in becoming a living sign of Christ’s loving presence so that all who are lonely or hurt, abused or abandoned, vulnerable or alienated might experience His love? 
Together we can do this.” 
–Joseph Cardinal Bernardin

The vision of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin is the same as that of the Second Vatican Council—a vision of a church renewed, a church that mirrors the compassion of Jesus. In 1997, with the Cardinal's endorsement, Catholic Theological Union established the Bernardin Center to build upon his work and vision. The Center focuses on a range of public programs about issues that were hallmarks of his vision. An integral part of CTU, the Bernardin Center advances Cardinal Bernardin’s vision through an array of initiatives focused on his signature issues of reconciliation and peacemaking, interreligious dialogue, the consistent ethic of life, leadership development for the church, and Catholic Common Ground. Among the Center’s distinctive initiatives are:

  • The Bernardin Scholarship Program prepares promising students for a life of ministry and leadership.
  • Catholic-Jewish and Catholic-Muslim studies offer education and opportunities for interreligious dialogue among the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faith communities.
  • The Peacebuilders Initiative prepares high school students for lives of service.
  • Catholics On Call invites young adults to explore the theology of vocation
  • Endowed faculty chairs: the Vatican II Chair in Theology, the Erica and Harry John Family Chair in Ethics, and the Crown Ryan Chair in Jewish Studies.
Catholic Common Ground Initiative

In 1996, the Catholic Common Ground Initiative was founded in an effort to lessen polarities and divisions that weaken the communion of the Church. At the origin of the Initiative, the National Pastoral Life Center released a charter statement, “Called to Be Catholic,” proposing guidelines for dialogue within the Church. The Initiative begun thirteen years ago by Cardinal Bernardin continues today. The Catholic Common Ground Initiative is committed not only to facilitating dialogue but also to exemplifying a process of communication that values varying perspectives and works to foster faith and understanding. Through lectures, conferences, and programs in Catholic parishes, schools, and organizations, the Catholic Common Ground Initiative continues to promote dialogue within the Church on a variety of theological and social issues, including the changing roles of women, human sexuality, healthcare reform, and immigration—challenges facing not just the American Catholic Church but the United States as a whole. In the Spring of 2009, the Initiative created a new strategic plan, “A Living Witness." The Initiative moved to the Bernardin Center at Catholic Theological Union in November 2009. Mission statement The Catholic Common Ground Initiative, inspired by the call to be one in Christ, invites Catholics with differing views about critical issues in the Church to engage in prayerful dialogue for the sake of building up the communion of the Church.

DePaul University

Recognized for Academic Excellence DePaul offers a high caliber, challenging learning environment that is respected by employers, community leaders and other universities. Many of our more than 275 graduate and undergraduate programs of study have earned national acclaim, and has received both institutional and specialized accreditation. Most importantly, more than 93 percent of employers report they are pleased with the caliber of DePaul graduates.

Hands-on Learning, Practical Knowledge 
DePaul's location in Chicago provides countless opportunities for class projects, research, internships and experiential learning programs that bring theory to life. Students synthesize knowledge across multiple courses to solve problems, preparing them to succeed after graduation.

A Passion for Service and Social Justice 
Our nationally ranked service-learning program integrates the service concept into our curriculum and inspires many students to make a lifelong commitment to service and social justice. They complement the university's own dedication to serving first-generation and underserved student populations and to addressing social issues through more than 45 specialized centers and institutes.

Capitalizing on Chicago Connections 
DePaul's long-term partnerships throughout Chicago lead to extensive educational and career opportunities for students in the corporate, civic and cultural arenas. Our faculty, active in research and consulting, bring real-world experience into the classroom every day. Our students benefit from the networks of their professors, as well as the more than 86,000 alumni who live in the metropolitan area.

Focused on Teaching, Focused on Students 
Teaching comes first at DePaul — more than 98 percent of all classes are taught by faculty members, not teaching assistants. Students are considered partners in research and community action, and are often credited by name in publications and presentations.

Open Doors Deepen Relationships 
Because the average class has fewer than 40 students, our faculty members know their students' names, concerns and goals. Professors are accessible and approachable in class, through regular office hours and via e-mail.

A Global Society within the Classroom 
Driven by a respect for the inherent dignity of all people, DePaul welcomes students and employees from all ethnicities, religions and backgrounds. By routinely incorporating multiple viewpoints into academic and student life, we have become a model of diversity on campus. For six consecutive years, The Princeton Review has ranked DePaul in the top 20 most diverse student populations in their "Diverse Student Population" category. We are proud to be among the top 100 universities in the nation for conferring degrees on students of color.

Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology

Through the creation of the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology, DePaul University has established itself as a leading center for research and reflection on the church’s demographic shift to Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa, the so-called Global South.

“A primary goal of the center is to be at the forefront of the discussion about the relationship between the global Catholic Church and the forces of globalization,” says Peter Casarella, director of the center and a professor of Catholic Studies. “It’s an exciting time to have launched the center because by the year 2050, nearly 70 percent of the world’s Catholics will be from the Global South.”

The center got the discussion going in a big way in its inaugural year by convening an international conference on Catholic social theology that featured the pastoral leaders of Latin America, Canada and the United States, as well as the Rev. Gustavo Gutierrez, a University of Notre Dame theologian and founding father of liberation theology. The three-day conference in the fall was held at both DePaul and Chicago’s Catholic Theological Union.

In the winter, the center hosted a colloquium of 15 international scholars from such cities as New Delhi, India; Nairobi, Kenya; and Buenos Aires, Argentina, on the topic of how the Catholic Church can become a model of unity and diversity in an increasingly globalized culture. In the spring, it held its first public lecture delivered by the center’s inaugural senior research fellow, the Rev. Emmanuel Katongole, associate professor at the Duke University Divinity School and co-director of Duke’s Center for Reconciliation. “DePaul’s approach is fresh and it is new. I don’t know of any other center that is having this kind of conversation about global Catholicism,” says Fr. Katongole, a Catholic priest from Uganda who spent four months in residence at DePaul. “For some people, Catholicism’s shift to the Global South is frightening; something to be denied. DePaul, on the other hand, is saying: ‘Wow! What a great moment for Catholicism. We want to be leading that conversation.”​

Conference Speakers

Peter Casarella 
Professor, Catholic Studies Program Director, Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology 
DePaul University

Gemma Tulud Cruz 
Professor of Catholic Studies and Senior Research Fellow, CWCIT 
DePaul University

David W. Fagerberg 
Associate professor, Department of Theology 
University of Notre Dame

Michelle A. Gonzales 
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies 
University of Miami

Doris Gottemoeller, R.S.M. 
Senior Vice President for Mission and Values Integration 
Catholic Healthcare Partners

Diane Hayes 
Professor of Systematic Theology 
Georgetown University

Linh Hoang 
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies 
Siena College

Mark Laboe 
Associate Vice President for University Ministry 
DePaul University

Sheila McLaughlin 
Director of the Joseph Bernardin Center for Theology and Ministry 
Catholic Theological Union

Claire Noonan 
Director of the St. Catherine of Siena Center 
Dominican University

Hosffman Ospino 
Assistant Professor of Hispanic Ministry and Religious Education 
Faculty Director of Graduate Programs in Hispanic Ministry 
Boston College – School of Theology and Ministry

S. Alan Ray 
President and Professor of Religion and Society 
Elmhurst College

Robert Schreiter, C.PP.S. 
Bernardin Center Vatican II Professor of Theology 
Catholic Theological Union