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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. 

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. 


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