2017 September 18 – Strategy Team meeting

Here is a detailed report of this week’s meeting. I included more detail in hopes that it will foster more discussion among us via email during this week. It is obvious that our discussions sometimes go in circles. Let’s do all that we can to clarify what we want to happen with the Year of the Laity and beyond. To all team members and Advsisors, we welcome your thoughts to this discussion.


Report on the Strategy Team call September 18, 2017

Present on the call: Clyde (U.S.), Ed (Netherlands), Valerie (UK), Christina (New Zealand), Ashiknaz (Pakistan), Socorro (Mexico), Barbara (U.S.), and Rene (U.S.)

We began by discussing the suggestions that had come in from Advisors and Team members about specific actions to take during the Year of the Laity.

Christina:  Regarding our making the Year of the Laity an ecumenical endeavor, we are looking to reform our church which essentially means taking on all the issues of the Reformation. The Reformation is about “restoring” our unity with other Christians and acknowledging our being “one body of Christ.”

Valerie: In responding to how we implement this, we need to ask ourselves: Where do we want to be at the end of the Year of the Laity? What are the outcomes. The bishops’ intention appears to be to encourage the good little laity to go out and bring others in to fill the pews and listen to the clergy. We need to look at Cannon Law where there is already an effective means of communication outlined. There is an up and down mechanism in place; there is an implementation of parish councils and diocesan counsels. While many bishops seem to want one thing, our purpose in promoting the Year of the Laity is the reform of the Church itself.

Rene: We’ve always recognized that our intentions and the bishops are not the same.

Clyde: Kochurani is right when she spoke of our having a strategic plan. What are the obstacles to achieving the plan?  There are some bishops who are friendly to our cause and others who are antagonistic. We need to develop a true strategy.

Rene: That’s what we’re here to do right now. We’re effective in creating our vision and objectives. Attached is our CCRI Strategic Action Plan for 2017. We’ve also had such a plan every year for 2016, 2015, an 2014.  We also have a list of all the suggestions that have come in from the Strategy Team and the Advisors for specific steps to focus on during the Year of the Laity:

    1. Make the Year of the Laity an ecumenical endeavor with Protestants and Catholics working together (Jo Boch)
    2. Involve the laity in the selection of bishops – especially where there are vacancies (Ed Schreurs)
    3. Invite progressive bishops to join with us in promoting the Year of the Laity (Rene)
    4. Set up a structural mechanism for reporting the injustices in the Church (Clyde)
    5. provide a place via Zoom for small gatherings of the laity to come together so they feel connected (Clyde)
    6. Have an ongoing media campaign in local papers inviting the laity to join the Year of the Laity movement (Rene)
    7. Recommendations from the laity for well-qualified progressive women leaders and theologians in the Church to head decision-making positions and dicasteries of the Vatican curia (see attachment from Peter Johnstone)

Where we fall short is in coming up with a means of implementing these. Our supporters love to sign petitions and letters. But we hit obstacles when we ask anything more.

Clyde: We need to develop a broader picture that could qualify as a strategic plan. We need to be attentive to the realities on the ground. They vary from region to region. If we think about strategy in the broad sense and come up with some framework for looking at this, it would be helpful. Once we have a strategic outlook, then things start coming into place. We’re just not there yet.

Barbara: One thing we might do is to begin looking at possible alliances. For example, we have Pax Christi here in southern California. We need to have some coalition beyond ourselves.  We need to locate people in specific deaneries to have a representative who is willing to step out and have dialogue with their people. This could be parish life directors for example.

Christina: Our role is not to lead a campaign or any kind of action. It is beyond our resources. The power of our group is connecting people with other people globally where action is already happening.  On our website, we have listed a huge range of organizations involved in reform in one way or another. Most people are not aware of what is happening globally. Just as Barbara has spoken with a parish leader in her community, I have spoken to someone on the board of Tui Moto, a magazine that has won awards for its journalism over the past 20 years. I suggested to them that they might progress beyond just New Zealand and become more globally focused.

Rene: We have a Google grouping of the contact person for many reform groups including CTA and VOTF sub-chapters. What if, instead of trying to get them to come on board with us, we offer to promote their cause and events as part of the Year of the Laity?

Barbara: A successful program involved with Catholic Relief Services has a daily calendar suggesting one thing people could do every day. We could do something like this on our website.

Valerie:  It’s possible for us to do this. What caused a big jump in our website was the NCR article that came out about CCRI promoting a Year of the Laity. If we’re going to get people involved in this year, we need to decide what CCRI is about. What are our objectives. We need something concrete. Through good press releases, we could ask every parish to to form a parish council. Another press release could call on every diocese to call a diocesan pastoral council. It is not the bishops’ yes men who should be part of these councils. The people in the pews should be connecting with their representatives on those councils. People around the world would resonate with this structure. We’re only asking for what is in Canon Law. Maybe we should begin the Year of the Laity at Easter.

Ed: The Year of the Laity beginning on the feast of Christ the King is inspired by a theology that is not of the Gospel. It is based on a hierarchical church with Christ as the King. Then comes the pope, bishops, priests, and finally laity. If we accept this, we have to accept this pyramid. Rather, we should begin the year of the Laity at Pentecost, not Christ the King.

Rene: It would be challenging for us to have a new start date for the Year of the Laity. We picked up on the Brazilian bishops plan and proposed to take it global because this gave the concept more power. Also, Easter and Pentecost are passed.  The Feast of Christ the King is still ahead. We’d be bucking the system.

Barbara: Maybe we could start it on Christ the King feast but make a push at Easter as the birth of the Church Make it a build up to a crescendo.

Ed: Yes, I do think we need to adhere with the plan as the Brazilian bishops have proposed..

Rene: Maybe we just keep evolving. As we ask people to get involved, in addition to the major reforms like forming councils, let’s find small items like recommending a bishop where there is a vacancy, or involve a friend who is with another denomination in an ecumenical outreach. Clyde, how can we implement your plan of have a mechanism for reporting injustices in the Church.

Clyde: The injustices can be identified with specific examples. The structure came from the 2011 ACC gathering where it was intended to be a periodic gathering. We could do something similar on the website. Gather affirmations and comments. From a base page, we have specific areas of injustices with a prime list of how to correct this. It could grow on its own accord.

Barbara: It might work better on a Facebook platform.

Valerie: The idea of The People Speak out website was that people would share their experiences. But it isn’t working yet. In using social media, we have to be cautious of mentioning specific injustices with names attached. We need to be circumspect. CCRI has to decide what it is about. If people are to get involved, they need to know exactly what they are joining.

Ashiknaz is going to write his bishop and request he promote a parish council be formed in all parishes. Pakistan has already announced for a Year of the Eucharist.

Rene: Our focus for several weeks has been to bring global awareness to local actions. For example, Peter Johnstone has suggested that we have laity recommend women leaders and lay theologians be appointed to places of decision-making in the Church. Could we have a place on our website or www.ThePeopleSpeakOut.org where people place these names? Instead of signing petitions, we offer a place on the website for people to make suggestions for women leaders, progressive bishops, nominations for bishops to fill vacancies, and the like.

Valerie: It’s not a good idea. People need to use already established means of doing this.

Rene: The established means for recommending bishops is through the nuncios and now, Cardinal Farrell’s office, the diacastery for the laity. Could we not be an intermediary? I know people readily sign things. I want to take them one baby step forward.

Clyde: we need to have the vision to attract them to do this.

Rene: Is not the vision that we are the Church and the laity need to speak up and take ownership of their Church? Every year we create and publish our Strategic Plan. (Again, see our 2017 plan attached)

Christina: Maybe we need to come back to the idea of having regional or national forums. One of the outcomes of those forums is that people would send representatives to Aparecida to share what came from all these gatherings.

Rene: If we promote these regional gatherings, we could do it through Zoom. It’s not necessary for people to fly somewhere.

Clyde reported on the meeting at Georgetown University. Lily Ryan, a student at this conference said: Students are together while attending the University and have a community. She goes home to her parish, there is nothing there. They lose connection. She said students lose their involvement in the Church because bishops are so intransigent on issues of women, gender, homosexuality. This completely discounts all the good work the Church does in terms of social justice.

Ashiknaz is planning to organize a youth gathering in Pakistan on October 22. Clyde will work with him to bring together the Georgetown group with the Mexicali group via Zoom. This is also part of the actions during the Year of the Laity.

Rene’s request is that we not let this discussion die until next week’s call. We need to foster this discussion with those on the call and those not on the call via email during this week. Let’s really make this happen.

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