Baptism

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“Evolution” by Holly Norton, Mellow Jelly Art.

This is a post by Lydia Wylie-Kellermann: a mother, writer, and activist in Detroit, MI. She works for Word and World: A People’s School currently organizing a Land and Water School happening in Detroit this summer.

My mom loved baptism. She had a fierce desire for theology and liturgy that was infectious. But when I was born that commitment was tested. She looked at this beautiful, fragile human being in her arms and realized the dangers she would place me in by baptizing me. Baptism was not as simple as entering a community or knowing the love of God, but about putting me on the road to the cross.

And then came the question of baptism. Water, words, community. Offering our child back to God. We would stand with Abraham at the sacrifice. We would give her to a God who models the cross. We would invite her to listen for a voice calling in the night, to vigil, to put herself at risk, to leave family and friends, to speak clearly a truth for which one can be executed. We would thereby invite her into the risks we have already elected and, by God’s grace, still will elect to take with our own lives. In the act of baptism we would wash away the possibility that our concern for her might justify a diminishing of our own obedience to our Lord’s perverse ethic of vulnerability and gain through loss.   –Jeanie Wylie-Kellermann, On the Edge 1986

I have clung to her writing on baptism. In the moments when I have felt scared and my knees shake, these words keep me steady.

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Transgender and Catholic: Nick Stevens

1bscOViayn-jumboThe following was originally posted by the NYTimes on Transgender Today.  Nick Stevens a member of the Call to Action 20/30 Community.

Transgender and Catholic. These two words often aren’t used in the same sentence (at least in a positive way), but these words best describe who I am.

Yes, I’m a Roman Catholic in an increasingly secular world. But I’m also a Catholic in a transgender community who has often experienced religion as a mask for bigotry or even violence.

So when I came out as a transgender male at my small Catholic college in St. Louis I feared my peers would not respond well. Whether it was reactions of hesitation or outright exclusion, I knew things would change. Continue reading

Caught Between Doctrines – What a Lucky Kid

thinking allowedLast week, the pastor at my church was talking about a youth member who attends Catholic school during the week and comes to UCC faith formation on Sundays. He mentioned that, “She’s learning a lot about Catholic doctrine, so she comes to confirmation study with questions about Catholic theology, and we try to make sense of it in the context of what we’re learning here.”

I leaned over to my husband and whispered, “What a lucky kid.”

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The Solidarity of the Cross

The young man had committed no crime, but they came to arrest him anyways.  They came afraid, under cover of darkness with weapons drawn, though he had made no threats and shown no indication of violence.  They insulted him and beat him as he awaited trial.  No evidence was brought against him that supported his conviction, and yet he was convicted.  They abused him, tortured him, and executed him.

Jesus, too, was a victim of police brutality.

I have found myself reflecting on the story of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion a great deal this week, as once again the headlines are consumed with stories of racism, violence, and injustice.  In particular, I find myself thinking of the weeping women.  I am a white woman; I am a witness to the brutality of racism rather than its victim, and the more I learn, the more I weep.  Jesus told the women who wept for him,

“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:28-31)

Green wood is young wood, new wood.  Dry wood is old, matured wood.  If Jesus was met with crucifixion 2000 years ago, what happens today? Today our societal sin is more insidious.  We no longer make a public spectacle of our brutality, as the Romans did with crucifixions.  Instead, we try to hide it.  In fact, we have spent so many generations becoming experts at hiding it that some no longer believe it exists.  In order to see the ways we crucify our brethren today, those of us raised in privilege must unlearn so much.  For every victim of obvious brutality, like Freddie Gray, there are thousands of victims of more invisible injustices, too numerous to list.  And even still, our sin has gained so much of the familiarity that comes with age that even the obvious brutality is often denied.

And so I weep.  I weep for the suffering I see before me, yes, as the women wept for Jesus.  I weep, too, for myself and my peers: I weep for my own complicity in the system of oppression on which our nation is founded.  I weep for the enormity of the task of change.  I weep for those who are blind to this suffering.  I weep for whatever blindness in myself I have yet to discover.  And I weep for our children: I weep for my inability to shield my young son from the messages of oppression that are diffused in our culture and media.  I weep for the injustice that my own child is protected by his skin from the struggles others’ children will face.  I weep that we cannot give our children a world free of oppression.  And, like Jesus’ followers, who believed in the Resurrection but did not yet know they would witness it, I weep because I do not know if I will ever see our society redeemed.

Marriage for all and #morethanmarriage

In honor of the Supreme Court hearing the cases for Marriage Equality, here is my beloved and I sharing about how for us, family means for all moments I love you.  Our family is no less and no better than anyones, our family is equal.  We are #morethanmarriage and will continue to fight until all are equal truly mean all are equal…not just in terms of marriage or family structure but in all facets of our humanity and life experiences.

delfin bautista is a member of the CTA Vision Council and the board of directors for Trans Bodies Trans Selves; delfin is also a member of Dignity’s Young Adult Caucus and is co-chair for Dignity’s Trans Caucus.  delfin currently serves as the Director of the LGBT Center at Ohio University.  delfin “preaches” on their own blog “Mi Lucha, Mi Pulpito” and  is a contributor to the Young Adult Catholic Blog and to Believe Out Loud.

Sensus Fidelium and the question of women’s leadership

The scene is familiar, one that has been recreated many times in parish social halls across the country: One wall is lined with a long table laden with cookies, cut vegetables and dip, cheese and crackers. The walls are decorated with banners from past parish missions and a crucifix adorned with a woven palm branch. The faint smell of oil from last Friday’s Lenten fish fry hangs in the air.

Parishioners from a three-parish cluster come in, are welcomed and encouraged to sign in at card tables by the door. They smile as they recognize the faces of friends across the hall. There are the requisite hugs and handshakes; people asked after each other’s family members, commented about sports, local politics, and the cold winter weather.

The pastoral associate called us to order, offered a brief opening prayer, and introduced the speaker, a representative of the diocesan office, who is to speak about Pope Francis and the New Evangelization. After a power point presentation highlighting themes from the apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel” about being missionary disciples and some anecdotes about applying Francis’ words, we were given time for discussion at our tables. Each table was to discuss “what the church needs to leave behind” and “what the church needs to carry forward” and then share insights with the large group.

At our table the ten of us looked at each other expectantly. A metal chair squeaked when the woman beside me shifted her weight. Her husband beside her flipped through his copy of “The Joy of the Gospel.” The woman next to him took a bite of her cookie. We heard the murmur of conversations from neighboring tables.

“We’re going to need to give a report back soon,” someone said, frowning slightly.

“So,” I said, jumping into facilitator mode and pulling out a notebook and pen, “let’s start with the first question: what does the church need to leave behind?”

There was a thoughtful pause.

“Well,” ventured one woman, “what about the position of women in the church?”

Our formerly quiet and unengaged group of ten became instantly animated around this question and I jotted down notes as quickly as I could so as not to lose any threads of the conversation. Several people at the table remembered the post-Vatican II energy when it seemed to them women’s ordination to the diaconate and priesthood was a distinct possibility. One man spoke about examples from the New Testament of women in leadership roles in the early church. Someone else pointed out Pope Francis’ words in Evangelii Gaudium about a “more incisive female presence” in the church. I mentioned a recent article by Mary Ann Walsh, RSM in America magazine which gave concrete examples of ways women could assume more leadership in the church even without engaging the question of the ordination of women.

“So,” I said, “based on all I’ve heard, here’s a statement: ‘in order to move forward, the church needs to leave behind the exclusion of women from particular leadership and decision-making roles.’ Do we have consensus?”

“Yes,” came the resounding agreement.

The speaker re-convened us, thanked us for our work, and started with the tables in the back of the hall. The ideas shared ranged from big-picture and abstract to nuts-and-bolts practical. One table spokesperson spoke about the need to use personal invitations and not just rely on bulletin announcements to engage parishioners. Another recommended greater collaboration in several ministries among the clustered parishes. As ideas were shared, those gathered listened and occasionally nodded in agreement.

The speaker pointed to our table. I repeated our consensus statement: “in order to move forward, the church needs to leave behind the exclusion of women from particular leadership and decision-making roles.”

No sooner had the words been spoken than the room burst into sustained, hearty, and enthusiastic applause. One guy a few tables away even let out a cheer, pumping his fist in the air. I looked around the parish hall at the about 100 Catholics – mostly lay, but several deacons and priests – continued to clap.

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When the applause finally subsided, the speaker smiled graciously, made no comment about my statement or the community’s response, and simply invited the next group to share. I sat down and someone at a neighboring table tapped me on the shoulder, grinned and gave me a thumbs up.

Please note that this took place in a rural, economically depressed part of Western Pennsylvania and not in some left-leaning urban area. This wasn’t a group of progressive, lefty millennials or hyper-educated academics. The parish hall that night was filled with women and men who are steel workers, teachers, nurses, small business owners, retirees who are committed to their parish family and Catholic faith. I wager most of the 100 people in attendance wouldn’t self-identify as feminists or activists for church reform. It was a room full of average American 21st century Catholics, responding out of their own experience.

As I reflected on that evening’s events, I began to look at them through the lens of sensus fidelium (sense of the faithful) which Pope Francis defines in Evangelii Gaudium #119 as the “instinct of faith which helps them {the People of God} to discern what is truly of God”. It’s a tricky concept, described as an “intuition” about “the right way forward” for the church. It would be an abuse of the idea to say that it turns the church into a democracy which conflates majority opinion and doctrinal teaching. On the other hand, it is problematic to claim that sensus fidelium should never be invoked to contest or challenge the teachings of the Magesterium.

According to the document Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church by the International Theological Commission, “not only do they {the laity} have the right to be heard, but their reaction to what is proposed as belonging to the faith of the Apostles must be taken very seriously, because it is by the Church as a whole that the apostolic faith is borne in the power of the Spirit.”

The document goes on to speak of “new ways for the journey…as they are sensed by the people.” I was graced to witness and articulate something which was “sensed by the people” in the social hall that night. In our little corner of Western Pennsylvania, 100 Catholics spontaneously, unanimously, and enthusiastically spoke about the need for inclusion of women in leadership and decision-making roles in the church.

What are the “new ways for the journey” to which we are being called as the Pilgrim People of God around questions of women’s leadership?

About the author: Rhonda Miska (rhonda.youngadultcatholics@gmail.com) is a former Jesuit Volunteer (Nicaragua, 2002-2004) and a graduate of the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. Originally from Wisconsin, her past ministries include accompaniment of the Spanish-speaking immigrant community, Muslim-Christian dialogue, social justice education, direct outreach to people who are homeless, congregation-based community organizing, and coordination of a community with adults with intellectual disabilities. She is currently a Partner in Mission with the Sisters of the Humility of Mary at the Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center in Villa Maria, Pennsylvania.

Ite, missa est

Where my career on the Young Adult Catholics blog began. Big Star Restaurant, Wicker Park, Chicago. Via bigstarchicago.com.

Where my career on the Young Adult Catholics blog began. Big Star Restaurant, Wicker Park, Chicago. Via bigstarchicago.com.

“You do know the young adult group has a blog,” my friend told me.

It was an 85-degree evening in August 2010. We sat in front of a gas station in Chicago’s Wicker Park that had become a restaurant, which is the sort of thing that happens in Wicker Park. We were eating artisan tacos and drinking Goose Island, which is the sort of thing you do in Wicker Park.

A month before, I’d taken a trip to Boston. There, I’d audited a graduate course taught by liberation theology pioneer Gustavo Gutierrez. I was at a point in my life when I was stuck. Upon returning home, I felt I’d been given a huge shove to do something with my life right now, and to do it for God’s justice.

By the end of July, I had connected with Call To Action. I started volunteering there. I proceeded to announce it on Facebook. That’s where my friend saw it. She messaged that we should talk.

She had once worked for CTA. Now she was telling me about their young adult ministry, CTA 20/30. Which, she said, had a blog.

“You need to get a column on that blog,” she emphasized, apropos of nothing. We weren’t talking about writing, or my being a writer, at all. Her instruction came from thin air.  Continue reading