Written by Michael Fones
Monday, 16 April 2007 12:12
We're back . . . from Madison, Wisconsin.
I didn't realize that Fr. Mike was keeping you up late regalling you with his thoughts. Love the Hell: No, We Won't Go meditation and title.
I didn't get the chance to blog or attend most of the sessions because I was talking, talking, talking. It was my first chance to present the Pre-Discipleship Stages of Spiritual Development as well as do two introductory talks on discernment and charisms.
Sometimes it is like that at conferences. What you say hits a nerve and everybody wants to talk. A presenter is usually wondering how something brand new is going to hit people, especially if it is a group that you have never worked with before. The exciting thing is not only when people tell you how much they appreciate it but when they begin to quote you or ask really detailed questions. The thrill of "By Jove, they got it!" runs through you with the secondary peace of knowing that you aren't in for a massive re-write following close behind.
I got to meet a lot of interesting denizens of the Apostolic Underground* (http://blog.siena.org/2007/04/apostolic-underground.html). There was the gang from National Evangelization Team (NET - http://www.netusa.org/homepage.aspx), a young man representing the Glenmary Missionaries (http://www.glenmary.org/) who work in and support Catholic parishes in the rural south, and Emmaus Journey (www.emmausjourney.org), the ministry of Rich Cleveland, a Catholic Navigator (www.navigators.org), who attends my parish. A number of campus ministers from around the eastern half of the country as well as a few long-time friends like Bernie Vogel and Sue Lahocky. And I was excited to meet some readers of ID there as well!
I had long wanted to meet Fr. Dwight Longenecker "Standing on My Head" (http://gkupsidedown.blogspot.com/) and was delighted to find him at the EC Institute and we had a nice long chat. He and his wife are hoping to attend the Called & Gifted workshop (http://www.siena.org/Workshops.htm) at St. Mary's in Greenville, South Carolina next weekend.
And of course, I had many diverse and long conversations with the Evangelical Catholic (http://www.evangelicalcatholic.org/) team who are young, smart, creative, and vibrant apostles. I hadn't understood how ad hoc the whole EC thing was, arising out of a small circle of Catholic friends on the Madison campus seven years ago. They have just hired their first staff member, are bringing on a husband-wife leadership team (who both hold newly minted MAs from Notre Dame) this summer, and have been asked by their Bishop to spread the EC vision of making disciples to parishes in their diocese.
They fit the Apostolic Underground (AU) model: small, passionate, risk-taking, evangelistic, orthodox, entrepreneurial, creative, lay-lead, and hand-to-mouth. Somehow, God will provide.
The theme of the weekend: parishes and dioceses are turning to small AU groups for help. I heard this not only from the EC people but also from the NET leaders. A chronic shortage of priests, youth ministers, resources of all kinds means that small, under funded or missionary parishes and dioceses are drawing upon the resources and energy of small apostolic groups. For instance, NET has its first "long-term" parish team which will spend two years in a specific parish focusing on youth ministry and outreach rather than a single week.
And all these groups wanted to know how to successfully transfer their gifts and expertise to the parish scene. Hence, all the talk, talk, talk.
But the most moving personal moment for me was meeting and spending a little time with Cardinal Avery Dulles. He is elderly and very frail now and walks with a four pronged cane, but still very sharp and possessing a lovely sense of humor. Very unpretentious - he simply introduced himself at breakfast as "Hello, I'm Avery Dulles". I got to sit at his small table at dinner and again at breakfast but the most memorable moment did not involve any words.
I visited the large, beautiful chapel before breakfast to spend a few minutes in adoration and found three other people there. Two students and Avery Dulles. He was alone, without his young priest assistant, who had been constantly at his side, steadying him throughout Mass and helping him ascend the podium. No longer able to kneel, he sat praying in a corner, his cane beside him.
The hidden source of all that wisdom.