College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences > Centers & Institutes > Center for World Catholicism & Intercultural Theology > World Catholicism Week > Past World Catholicism Weeks > The Challenge of Communion
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
“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 States 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.
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
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
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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.”
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