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Changing Ministries: Easter Week Seminar 1972 by Margaret Smith,</H4> <P ALIGN="CENTER">from 'Women in Ministry: A Sisters' View', National Assembly of Women Religious, Chicago, 1972

Changing Ministries: Easter Week Seminar 1972

by Margaret Smith,

from Women in Ministry: A Sisters' View, National Assembly of Women Religious, Chicago, 1972, pp. 161-174.

Last October, when the Catholic Committee on Urban Ministry (CCUM) met for a four-day workshop at Notre Dame, something new was added to the priestly discussions. Not one, but thirty-seven women participated, 36 of them members of religious congregations. This new development resulted in the “women’s caucus,” for it was quite evident that with regard to emerging ministries, urban or rural, women would have important input to give to the Seventies. Religious women have a style and response unique to women. What they have to say is important enough to be talked about, and what they are saying is different. No sure guidelines or goals emerged at Notre Dame, yet there was general agreement that the dialog should continue.

When the Executive Board of the National Assembly of Women Religious met in Louisville three weeks later, S. Marjorie Tuite and myself reported on CCUM developments. The Board passed a resolution that NAWR reinitiate the discussion with Msgr. John J. Egan, CCUM chairman and director of Notre Dame’s Center for Urban Studies, and that members from other sisters groups be involved in the planning for a followup meeting. NAWR’s Committee on Pastoral and Changing Ministries assumed responsibility for the evolving project.

This committee met at O’Hare airport in Chicago on January 23, 1972. Present were S. Helen Flaherty, LCWR Committee on Ecclesial Women; S. Dorothy Ortner, president of the Sisters Council of St. Louis; Msgr. Egan and his assistant, Miss Peggy Roach; S. Marjorie and myself. We spent the morning on the mechanics of the workshop: how much time? how many participants? who? where? what sort of resource people? etc. During that afternoon we began struggling with content for the April week.

To stimulate discussion of agenda, I’d brought along some suggested areas for exploration. In outline form they were these:

1. Comparative Research on programs that exist in the U.S. today which relate to pastoral charisms. (Planning Committee decided that one week was too short to include this. Idea valuable for longer search process)

2. Content: Existential and Experiential.

a. Pastoral and Developing Ministries, (4) i.e. actual data on experiential approach to ministry; experiential content and scope to date; experiential learnings to date, scriptural and theological dimensions of this ministry.

b. Ministry in the direct light of the Gospel. (3) i.e. the basic methodology for discovering ministry would be a theology distilled from Gospel acts and activities, clearly analyzed,
social ministries ---------------------conscientization
educational ministries ----------------religious ed
pastoral ministries ------------------- new “parishes”

c. Some broad, human areas for designs other than the parish, but not excluding the parish where it is still a relevant form (4)

Prisons, prisoners, prisoners’ families, rehabilitation
Political action: conscientization ....revolution
Poverty and minority groups, including alternate education

d. Sacramental implications: team ministries (5) (1)
Married diaconate Women’s diaconate
Women as Associate Pastors
Women in special ministries

3. Training for New Ministries: professional and sacred (5)

4. Discussion of Priorities:
order of importance
order of time

5. Plan for the April Working Week: Training?

a. Discovery of new ministries: approached in the light of a Gospel Methodology
b. Creation of designs for the Process, in response to discovery, and in collaboration with the People of God being served
c. Place, time, dimensions, professions, skills, personnel involved in “distilling a theology”
d. Reading: preparatory and followup
e. Prayer: personal, shared, liturgical, pentecostal
f. Responsibility: NAWR, CCUM, ND

Together we grappled with the process, which was to be key to whatever emerged. Should we allot specific amount of time to work sessions? at what stages? if so, how much? What would be our priorities? etc. Consensus favored a free-flowing process determined by where the group would be and where it would want to go, something not determinable in advance. Respecting the insights of the yet unknown group and the possibilities of a “radical pastoral style, the vision of Gospel living” emerged as givens from O’Hare.

The four sisters present agreed to contact ten others and to forward the names to S. Marjorie, who would get out the mailing. Diversity of experiences and geographical representation were our goal: we looked for a rich mix. Why? The committee hoped to provide religious women—perhaps for the first time in the U.S.—with an arena where “social activists” and “parish people” could share experiences in the broad context of ministry. From this would emerge a pastoral theology from action reflected on in the light of the Gospel. What was new about our search was that new ministries would arise from the lives of living ministers who would discern together new ministries, new training models which would be womanly in their style.

If the process design was successful at Easter and reported at Minneapolis, this would provide new data for summer pastoral institutes in June-July-August. It could be shared with the LCWR on-going study into the ecclesial woman today. It would give concrete meaning to “Woman in a Ministry of Possibilities.”

The Process of Revelation in History: the Jesus-Word

Charles Peguy once wrote that although God had completed his written revelation of Himself in the Apocalypse, He continues to manifest Himself through history to the end of time. Two of the most important Vatican II doctrines make it easier to understand Peguy’s idea now than in his own time, when Modernism was being condemned, i.e. the doctrine of the Pilgrim Church and the doctrine of the Development of Doctrine. History never turns back: the process leads irrevocably on to new theological perceptions.

Among women today these insights seem to flow from genuine evangelical commitment and involvement in pastoral and newly developing ministries. New understanding results from the processes involved, and an evident “unfolding of a new statement in pastoral and evangelical theology as it seems to undergird the new ministries, which many religious are already undertaking, is occurring.”

The Church has never had any other source for its theology than the Gospel lived as it was by Jesus out of the historical process of the Old Testament, a theology distilled from his acts and words: “Jesus began to do and to teach.” What seems to be happening in our day, when women are moving into new ministries, is a new expression of theology distilled from the deeds and the words of our own gospel-lives in the world of 1972.

On February 28, 1972, over the signatures of the five planners from the O’Hare meeting an invitation was sent out to “Women in New and Developing Ministries” in various parts of the U.S. to initiate a search of the Jesus-Word among women. Significant parts of this letter are quoted.

This invitation will not surprise those whom we have been able to contact person to person. To those for whom it is the first word, HEAR the news with faith.

From Monday p.m., April 3, to Friday noon, April 7, you are invited in the work of an “Easter group” to work on new ministries for religious women. (For specific information, please see separate sheet) NAWR’s national committee on Developing Pastoral Ministries will sponsor this and will assume responsibility for its presentation as a model at the national NAWR convention in Minneapolis on Friday, April 28, if feasible.

Together, during Easter week, we’ll try to discern a process that seems to be happening, namely: “the unfolding of a pastoral and evangelical theology which undergirds new ministries” many women religious are already undertaking. From this wedding of charismatic action and theology we’ll try to design and plan for new arenas and types of training needed.

A maximum participation of fifty (50) has been set, as well as the policy that anyone who accepts and attends will do so uninterruptedly from beginning to end. We’d be grateful, therefore, if you could respond as soon as conveniently possible.

You are invited because of your discernment and/or involvement either as a leader or as a seeker or as an action person capable of speaking the “Jesus-Word” that you have learned and which will throw 1ight on your experience for others.

Resource people will be invited, hopefully in scripture, theology, anthropology, psychology (or psychiatry), history, process dynamics, etc., lest we defeat our purpose through lack of expertise. But the creative work of the week will be ours.

...Where this will lead us would be presumptuous to say. But already an expansion of the “Easter Week Model” into a six weeks’ process has been planned at a mid-West university. ..

The attached Fact Sheet invited participants to stimulate the process by bringing along a one-page resume of an “authentically new ministry already experienced as underway,” with copies for others present. It added: “Implementation, etc. of the ministry need not be in the completion stage nor perfectly successful.”

The possibilities of such a design Model were apparent to many. Before the Easter group met, NAWR had received a personal donation from Mr. Peter Robertson of the Raskob Foundation and another from a benefactor in Kansas which served to match a three-to-one grant from the Stone Foundation. The Church and the world, women and men, were uniting resources to discover more meaningful relations through which religious women can serve the whole human family in their uniqueness as value communicators.

When April 3rd arrived there were thirty-five women religious at the north-side Cenacle in Chicago, together with a group of consultants in the fields of theology, process dynamics, sociology, urbanology, spirituality who moved in and out. The women came from the Pacific Northwest, California, Texas, the South, Midwest and East, the largest single contigent from Kansas. Represented were the Leadership Conference, archdiocesan and diocesan structures, directors of apostolate for their religious congregations, pastoral institutes and local community organizers; there were minority spokesmen, nurses, social workers, religious coordinators and parish workers, graduate students, process people, high school principals and staff. As the consultants read it, “It was a rich mix.”

On Monday evening participants received copies of the revised, expanded working paper from O’Hare, the “yellow sheet.” Twelve had brought along models, but only one was discussed in any depth during the course of the week. Two areas of “flow and interflow” were identified, i.e. development of the process and of the content. Since process is the key to the model for emerging ministries involved here, this revision is being included:

1. Process Flow and Interflow of the Week

1. Discovery of new ministries approached in the light of the Gospel theology and methodology.
2. In collaboration with the People of God unto whom and with whom we minister, creation of designs of response to these discoveries.
3. Training for New Ministries.
4. Personnel involved in distilling a theology, methodology of responses to change and growth: place, time, dimension, professions, skills.
5. Reading: preparatory, followup, ongoing.
6. Prayer: personal, shared, liturgical, pentecostal.
7. Responsibility: Easter Group, NAWR, CCUM, ND, other.

2. Content Flow: existential and experiential—based upon a prayerful and professional look at model brought by the participant.

1. Pastoral and developing ministries: a look at examples brought by the participants
a. actual data information—experiential angles
b. scope of data—experiential content (potential)
c. learnings to date—experiential message
d. scriptural and theological implications

2. Same, in direct light of Gospel: basic methodology as discerned, i.e. theology distilled from Gospel acts and activities, etc , some analysis
a. social ministries - CONSCIENTIZATION includ. political and health
b. education ministries - RELIGIOUS ED
c. pastoral ministries - "New PARISHES
d. ecumenical ministries

3.Some broad areas of design
a. marriage, family life
b. prisons, prisoners, prisoners’ families, rehab
c. political action: peace, basic social change, conscientization -- revolution
d. minority and poverty groups, inc. alternate ed.
e. alcoholism and drugs: rehab, prevention
f. arts

4. Theology of mission—Gospel criteria? Pastoral and Sacramental implications—lead to true team ministries and ecumenical teams,
a. teams
b. married diaconate
c. women’s diaconate
d. women as Associate Pastors
e. women in special ministries
f. men in special ministries-separate from women? faith, interreligious congregations, inter-organizations.


3. Discussion of Priorities:

1. Order of Importance—not always a coincidental sequence here: discernment
2. Order of time
3. Choice of Models—included areas of discovery. NB: Efforts to work with existing parish structures falls within this discernment of priorities.

4. Implications:

a. in terms of the Pilgrim Church and Development of Doctrine teachings of discernment process
b. other “Easter weeks”
c. facilitating and/or enabling groups—models

1. organizations: NAWR, CCUM, ND, Stone Foundation model
2. colleges/universities
3. dioceses: religious congregations: ecumenical groups
4. others

During the days that followed the thirty-five divided into three work groups: Ministry within Church Structure, Theology of Ministry, Political Action. What developed was a heightened awareness of a gospel logic in the life-flow of ministry. On the experiential level, in collaboration with the People of God with whom and unto whom we minister, we sensed how there is constant discovery of the need for new ministries. The creation of designs for response then follows, speaking to the whole realm of attitudinal change, through process and/or service. Only when these designs are clear can the training needs be understood, whether professional or pastoral, and at this point only should identification and recruitment of personnel begin. Then the “flow” moves on. Personnel are invited to enter into the new training programs to prepare for and serve in newly discovered areas and depths of ministry, meeting the expressed needs of the People of God whom they serve in order to liberate. Thus this new expression of pastoral theology supposes, likewise, a new methodology.

Ministry: Force which Liberates

Ministry is, consequently, “that force which effects the building up of communities where the Gospel value of liberation is realized.”* (* Unless otherwise indicated, quotations are from Easter Week Reports.) Its goal is the liberation of people from oppressions (religious, social, economic, cultural, political, psychological, and physical), liberation for self-determination in these same areas. Such ministry presumes an effort to remove the restraining forces to these goals, whether in laws or in the structures which prevent people from participating in making decisions which effect their lives, ill-distribution of goods, primacy of things and property over persons, coercion through communications media, “manipulation of an economy based on a consumer ethic, and competition,” as well as the deadly pressure of task-orientation in our society as we know it. It follows that new ministries require a constant and newly creative response, in the way of strategies and plans, to move these restraining forces.”

“...input of women may be more important to peace and justice than ever before in the history of the world—not to ‘overthrow’ but to bring to the political, social, cultural, religious scene the fulness of a complementarity.”

Mysteriously, too, experience tells us that we are meeting Jesus Christ where we would not have expected it. “We are beginning to understand experientially that ”the Lord is limitless...New styles of community living sensitize us, make us more aware, prepare us for the ‘desert’ which is no longer people-less but people-saturated within the context of our ministry. And we become subject to the agony of ministry as we become sensitized to the message of Jesus that seems ‘as-yet’ unshared...Thus ministry is more than work: It is full awareness of an operative presence of Jesus Christ."

A hard look at the history of oppression versus Christian transformation leads to contemplation of the core of Jesus’ crucifixion: the only hope lies in faith in the death that leads to life. Such thoughts in turn led to the following statement of values from one working group:

1. Change should never bring about destruction of another, no matter who.
2. Change that does not change values is worthless...the world must operate on Christian values, i.e. human values as discoverable fully in the incarnate person of Jesus.
3. Test of Christian value: Change must recreate the oppressor as well as the oppressed.
4. Value of person; consequence: respect for all (admittance of diversity such as is also reflected in the faith community).
5. Value of growth of person: ministry actualizes what is in man, clearing away whatever may be the obstacles to this growth on a human or societal level. (One consequence: the oppressor, if he is a restraining force, must perhaps also be “removed”; the question of “how?” and with what regard for his very person and with belief in his capacity for growth also.)

Another group spoke to ministry as a “processing of enabling persons to become more fully human by proclaiming life, building community, being servant and celebrating life.” This “political action group” came to grips with the question of political activity as an appropriate ministry for women religious with a primary responsibility for the political education of our members.

We believe that it is our right and responsibility to determine what is ministry—a major question that must be explored seriously by religious women in their own groups and together... In the real sense, every person with whom we come in contact is our constituency. The notion of network alliance of many people in our own communities, in our own states, and the bulk of the Catholic and Catholic educated population as especially related to us.

Experience kept telling us that ministries of service, of healing, of bringing new life must be new-dimensional. These ministries do not need big buildings; they do not need complex administrative structures of large financial investments. Structure, following function, should remain minimal in these instances. And if the dimension is new, then the minimal structure is in a new dimension, i.e. a dimension of person-to-personness or communications.

Out of such reflection came the idea of a network alliance . Its action thrust would not be in programs or projects or plans but in growth through process. We were beginning to say that this new-dimensional view of ministry is capable of the creative use of power; that political action can be positive and productive, not necessarily oriented toward war and destruction. This led to the conclusion that through communications and process, women ministering in full complementarity with men, “may be more important to peace and justice than ever before in the history of the world” for the building of a new heaven and a new earth.

Ministry as Convergence: Jesus, Justice, Liberation

By the end of the week a general impression expressed was “the political people came out talking of the ‘meaning of Christ’ and parish ministers were on fire with Justice and Liberation.” What will become of this fuel of the living Gospel, In the lives of the participants lies ahead of us all. The great thing is that what was hoped for “happened”: we looked at the basic style of Jesus, we tried to share with one another what we had learned of the Gospel and from 20th century Gospel-deeds we have been doing.

Our words, however stammering in the academic sense, indicate designs for new ministries which respond more directly to needs, hopes and suggestions expressed by those we serve. Only in this way can we begin to cope with the problems of training, because we simply do not have formation and training programs for things we have not done before.

This discovery process for ministry, taking place within the Church, brings about a beautiful explosion within that structure. The new thing happens inside: new light and life, launched within, lights up the whole sky. Which reminds me of an image one of the consultants made in discussing what was the difference between a search process for men and for women. Men, he said, would have come with references to all the theological sources to support whatever view of ministry they held. “Because you left yourselves open to the Spirit,” he said, “your day-to-day discoveries reminded me of a display of fireworks. An idea would explode, shoot upward, then fall, showering light in every direction.”

What do the planners think of this model experiment? As yet there has not been time for an effective evaluation. What follows is personal and, therefore, risky. Yet I offer it for those who may be contemplating a like experiment in the near future.

My hope for Easter Week was that a competent group of women ministers would make a first statement regarding a pastoral theology discernable on the Gospel level, i.e. discoverable in the interrelationships between servant and served. This was achieved in many, personal ways:

You find yourself becoming aware of the fact that ministry is so terribly simple: All one must do is take the responsibility for being Christian.

The new dimension we achieved was total understanding of the Incarnation, i.e. bringing—being Jesus to people of our times. Put another way, there was heightened awareness of what Jesus means when he says, “I came to bring life more abundantly.”

The Church has given men the life of Jesus in the sacraments. For centuries priests have assured this service. Now women must search out what they can add to the dimensions of this life. To communicate this life requires a new methodology appropriate to woman’s keen experiential sense of life: the word must be spoken, written and experienced concurrently out of which will come new training designs. We hope to develop this during the six-week process at Cleveland this summer.

What changes would I suggest for another time? I can think of four:

1. Whoever plans the experience should choose the resource persons to make sure that process and goals are integrated.
2. Resource persons and planners should meet and discuss goals prior to the experience.
3. The level (levels) of participants should be clarified in advance so as not to inbuild unnecessary techniques. Women are often catapulted into the experiential dimension by their style of life. The dynamic should be to raise their consciousness of where they are.
4. Time should be assured to allow the groups to specify designs for new ministries that are emerging and from this data to speak to new types of training.

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